(3 of 5)
Ultimately, of course, the Sox won the big prize not via voodoo but by assembling a pitching staff deep enough to win a seven-game series. Starters Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe didn't give up an earned run in the last three games, limiting the Cards' "MV3" all-star trio of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, collectively .316 during the season, to .133 in the Series. And the Sox bullpen, which for decades had leaked late-inning leads like a faulty tire valve, finally stopped letting the air out. In Game 3 of the ALCS, the Bronx Bombers brutalized Boston pitching, winning 19-8, to go up three games to none. That's when the magic ride began. The next night, five Sox pitchers shut the Yanks out for the last six innings, giving Boston a chance to tie and then win the game on David Ortiz's walk-off home run in the 12th. A day later, six Sox emerged from the pen to hold the Yanks for the last eight innings. Ortiz again delivered, with a game-winning single in the 14th. Even Boston's long-scarred faithful dared to believe this could actually--no, really!--be the year.
The enduring story will be Schilling's. Boston's ace had to pitch off an ankle tendon sewn in place to keep it from wobbling out of its torn sheath. He pinned down the Yankees in the sixth game, a 4-2 win in the House That Ruth Built. As Schilling worked the Yankee lineup, blood leached from the wound, turning his sock red. Holy metaphor! Then Lowe, who won the clinching game in all three postseason rounds, threw nothing but worm balls as the Sox won 10-3 in the decider. With that kind of momentum, did the Cards stand a chance?
If the odds had finally shifted in Boston's favor, thanks had to go in part to John Henry, the team's principal owner. Henry, a lifelong St. Louis fan, grew up on an Arkansas farm listening to Cardinals radio broadcasts. He developed a gift for numbers, computing batting averages in his head and eventually making millions trading commodities. He and his partners bought the Sox in 2001 for an estimated $660 million. What Boston fans deemed a curse was, to him, a statistical anomaly at best. Or lousy management. One explanation for Boston's years of failure is that the team wasn't run very well. Tom Yawkey, the owner from 1933 until his death in 1976, was a lumber magnate who was willing to spend money but unwilling to let anyone other than a few trusted cronies run the club. His widow Jean directed the operation until her death in 1992, and then a trust led by John Harrington, hired by Yawkey as a Red Sox treasurer in 1973, took over. The Sox improved but still no silverware.
Henry, who had owned the Florida Marlins, is part of a new breed captivated by a strategy for evaluating players called sabermetrics. Its adherents dismiss traditional measures like batting average and RBIs, seeing stats like on-base percentages and pitch counts as better indicators of productivity. In this view, a guy who hits .250 and walks 50 times might create as many runs as one who hits .300 and strikes out a lot. He'd be a damn sight cheaper too. Sabermetrics produced signings such as that of third baseman Bill Mueller (with a $2 million-a-year salary), who would lead the American League in hitting after joining the club, and Ortiz ($1.25 million), who developed this year into an MVP candidate.