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World Series Game 6: Flying High

We should have seen this coming.

The Cardinals were forced to sit in their plane at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for about seven hours on Tuesday because of mechanical problems, waiting to take off for Boston. They didn’t arrive there until 11 p.m. The next day, their Game 6 nose dive began with a big hit by the Flyin’ Hawaiian.

And so, today, the city of Boston is flying high after its worst-to-first Red Sox won the World Series with a convincing 6-1 victory. Shane Victorino, who once appeared on an episode of Hawaii Five-O, and became the first Hawaiian-born positional player named to the All-Star team in 2009, banged a three-run double off the Green Monster in the third inning. It was early, but the Cardinals went quietly the rest of the game. The Cardinals arrived in Boston for Game 1 carrying the Spirit of St. Louis. but left after Game 6 looking liked jet-lagged travelers. The night of frustration for the Cardinals was best summed up by a botched rundown in the fifth with the Red Sox leading 6-0. Cardinals pitcher Kevin Siegrist’s throw to first baseman Matt Adams caught Boston base runner Jacoby Ellsbury leaning too far off first base.  Adams chased Ellsbury to second, and tossed the ball to shortstop Daniel Descalso. Ellsbury broke back to first and Descalso threw back to Adams. Adams then ran Ellsbury back to second and threw to Matt Carpenter. The wily Ellsbury saw his chance and sprinted to first, where Siegrist got the ball too late and missed a swipe tag. Catcher Yadier Molina, who should have been at first base by then, was more of a spectator than participant, arriving too late to help. The play was not a determining factor in the game, since the Red Sox were firmly in control, but it was a symbolic moment in showing that the Cardinals had lost their way.

WORLD SERIES NOTES:

* Baseball statistics can be an interesting method to grade teams, but they often don’t tell the real story. The Cardinals batted .224 for the series, the Red Sox hit .211. The difference in this series was that Boston’s David Ortiz ruined the curve. The MVP was the series-changer, going a remarkable 11 for 16 for a .688 average, and reached base on 19 of 25 plate appearances. In one of the most mind-boggling strategies in recent World Series memory, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny insisted on pitching to the one guy who was destroying them through the first five games. Matheny finally got wise in Game 6 by walking Ortiz four times — three intentionally. Of course, even that didn’t work for the reeling Cardinals, as Ortiz ended up scoring two runs.

* The clubs are now all square in World Series wins. The Cardinals won it four games to three in 1946 and 1967, and the Red Sox swept in 2004. Which now raises the question: which team has the best chance to win the World Series in 2014? While much can be made of the low batting averages for this series, welcome to baseball in this era. Championships are won with dominant pitching — not just starters and closers — but with a non-stop parade of almost unhittable relievers. The Giants discovered the formula, and parlayed it into two World Series titles in three years. They shut down offensive machines in every post-season matchup — the Braves, Phillies and Rangers in 2010; and the Reds, Cardinals and Tigers in 2012. The Cardinals might have the edge in their young, promising bullpen. Both teams seem evenly matched offensively. In fact, if Cardinals sluggers Matt Holliday or David Freese had Ortiz’s series, maybe St. Louis wins. Sensational rookie pitcher Michael Wacha finally met failure in Game 6, but the rest of the National League has been put on notice after his late 2013 magic. Still, you can’t ignore the most signifcant numbers: the Red Sox have won three championships in 10 years. The Red Sox Way can’t be denied.

* The Red Sox brought out their secret weapon for the Game 6 national anthem. Dropkick Murphys, whose signature “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” is the unofficial anthem for Boston teams, performed the song in the Game 6 clincher for the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. The group provided a spirited, upbeat rendition on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to take top honors in my World Series Star Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show. The distinguished panel of judges carefully weighed the six series anthems, and selected Game 5 performer Harry Connick Jr. as the winner of the coveted Lou Rawls Award. The award was named for Mr. Rawls, who delivered the best anthem I’ve ever heard, back in the 1970s.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Boston Strong. A lot of powerful images come up when you hear those words. There’s the shock and tragedy of the carnage from that devastating day at the Boston Marathon, and the fear in the following days as the wounded city wondered whether more attacks were coming. Those days of darkness where brightened by the stories of heroism of emergency professionals, as well as some ordinary citizens, who ran to the bombing site, not away from it, to help the victims immediately after the explosions. Powerful, incredibly touching moments have come just months later as we saw some of the severely injured battling back. The resiliency of Boston in not giving in to the terror has been inspirational for the country. At times like these, I always wonder if we go too far in tying these tragedies to our sports teams. They say 9/11 united the country, and that resumption of baseball in New York was part of the healing process. Yet the country today seems as divided as ever. After the deadly quake in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989 that forced a temporary stoppage of the World Series, it was said that the resumption of the games was important to show how the region was recovering.

I was skeptical that a baseball game had those powers. Once the players step onto the field, there is no time for thinking about what it all means. The game requires too much focus for anyone to be contemplating the big picture of baseball’s role in society. So I might have been skeptical when Boston Strong became such a dominant storyline for the Red Sox season. I don’t know if the Boston Marathon attack made the Red Sox play harder or better. But I liked hearing how the club truly had helped lift the community with the respect it showed for all who were affected. The Red Sox paid public tribute by having “Boston Strong” logos placed on the uniform sleeves, erecting a large emblem on the Green Monster and mowing a “B Strong” in the center-field grass. But the tribute I liked best was reading how Red Sox players had privately and quietly visited the hospitals to talk to the victims without anyone knowing it. When David Ortiz was interviewed on the field after the game he held the trophy high and told the crowd, “This is for you Boston. You guys deserve it. We’ve been a through a lot this year and this is for all of you and all those families who struggled.”

Now millions will gather in Boston to celebrate. It will be a great baseball party. But it will also be a day of symbolism — a day when the citizens of Boston officially and spiritually took back their streets.

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