BOSTON -- You wanted to be Jonny Gomes. You wanted to be wearing the stupid deep-sea party glasses. You wanted to be wearing the stupid plastic combat helmet. You wanted to be wearing the duck hunter beard and the baseball pants and the baseball shoes and you wanted to be carrying the flag.
The World Series championship flag.
"If you have a chance to run around Fenway Park with a championship flag, you have to do it," Mr. Gomes, starting left fielder, explained late last night after his team, the Boston Red Sox, had dropped the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, to capture the 2013 Series. "That's what I say."
You wanted to appear, same as he did, out of the Red Sox dugout. The festivities, of course, were long done, the trophy dutifully presented, speeches delivered, everybody in the ballclub back in the home team clubhouse squirting a fine mist of champagne over all surfaces, animate and inanimate. You wanted to get out on the Fenway grass again, late. You wanted to take one more lap, just for the hell of it.
The beauty was that there still were people in the stands, knots of them, still celebrating, music still pounding from the mega sound system. There still were cameramen, lots of them, still waiting for one more shot, any shot. You wanted to get out there and start running. You wanted to hear the cheers in the wind. You wanted to have that posse of cameras in pursuit.
"Just to show lucky I am," Gomes explained later about his run. "Just to show how lucky I am to play with these guys who play the game the right way. Just to show how lucky I am to be in this city. Just to show how lucky I am to play in this place."
You wanted to do that. You wanted to do all of that.
* * *
"Take whatever feeling you think it would be," Shane Victorino, right fielder, said, describing his emotions at the end of the game. "Multiply it by ten. That's how it feels."
Worst to first.
What could be better?
In the long annals of this game, what World Series winner ever has had as much satisfaction? Such fun? With a core of players who were publicly humiliated a year ago, par-boiled 24 hours per day on every local talk show, added to a curious list of B-level free agents like Gomes and Victorino, additions not expected to add much, a championship team somehow was built. Crazy stuff. It really happened.
"I didn't know what to expect," Gomes said about his first day with this group in Ft. Myers, Florida in March. "I show up, though, and there's Pedey (second baseman Dustin Pedroia) and he's done working out and he's all sweaty and in terrific shape and shaking my hand and I'm saying, 'I've got to get going.'
"As soon as we went to Ft. Myers, the movie's already been written. All we had to do is press 'Play' and this is what happened."
The bank account of goodwill from World Series wins in 2004 and 2007 had been squandered on the fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse from the dog days of 2011, then by the sad 2012 administration of manager Bobby Valentine. Things had gone so bad so fast under Valentine that plans were begun in his second month on the job to make considerable changes to the roster, to the environment, to all things Red Sox.
The biggest change was in the manager's office. Exit Mr. Valentine. Enter, 51-year-old John Farrell. The former Red Sox pitching coach, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays for two seasons, brought a clear head, a steady hand, a steady message that had been missing.
"The one thing I wanted to establish," he said," was that everything we do is important. Every pitch is important. Every at-bat is important. Every inning. Every game. I wasn't here, but I think we had gotten away from that."
The message was underlined in all minds. Every pitch, every inning, every game. Everything was important. Everybody was important. This was the way the game was played in Spring Training. This was the way it was played for the entire season. There were no days off. Players would talk about how important each play was. They bought the package.
"Like I said from Day One, a body can't function without a good head," David Ortiz, the Series most valuable player, said. "And our manager is outstanding. He showed to all of us since Day One that he was the master piece (of the puzzle) and we all had to get to his level. John, he did such a nice job with us. And our focus was coming in and doing nothing but baseball, which is different than last year."
Pieces of the puzzle were discussed often. The pitching staff still was led by John Lackey, by John Lester and Clay Buchholz, players who had shared blame for the bad seasons. The star players were still Ortiz, Pedroia, and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who had played through the troubles. The new men were the pieces to be added around them. ("We were here to help," Victorino said. "That's what we tried to do.") Bingo. The pieces fit better than ever imagined.
"We felt there was a very good core group of players here, that finished last year with injuries," manager Farrell said. "And a number of returning players that were driven and motivated to rewrite their own story. There was a tremendous feeling of embarrassment here a year ago and guys came into Spring Training determined, and the players that came in to augment those returning came in as a very strong team."
It all worked. They were winners from the beginning. They were winners at the end. They grew beards. They had lines clipped into their buzz cuts. They had team songs and team dinners and a lot of discussions about baseball. They played aggressive, fundamental baseball, trying the hard plays, throwing the ball around the diamond without fear. They were situational hitters, stepping out of a latest slump to knock home the winning runs. They played all games to the last out, winning an inordinate amount of them in the last inning.
They brought the love back. They showed that a new attitude can bring new results. They were a bright light for anyone locked in a bad job, a bad marriage, a bad anything. There is hope. Hey, if these guys can bounce back, anyone can. They took the Boston Strong challenge that came with tragedy in April. They ran with it all the way home.
"What was the atmosphere like on the field tonight?" Pedroia was asked in the clubhouse, champagne everywhere, a pair of stupid deep-sea party glasses hanging from his neck. "What was it like to win the first World Series at home, at Fenway, since 1918?"
"I've never felt anything like that," the Red Sox captain said. "This is a special place. To win it here meant everything."
A man asked if Pedroia could see the faces in the Fenway crowd during the game. Could he see the joy, the happiness, the flat-out civic exultation? The second baseman said he didn't see any of that. He was too locked in during the game. He didn't see anything except baseball, the game.
"But this is great," he said, the music pumping from a mega sound system, teammates, batboys, family, friend,celebration everywhere. "It's special."
You wanted to be Dustin Pedroia.
You wanted to be any of these guys, all of these guys.
Yes, you did.