Play ball!


Wednesday, October 24
Tonight, the World Series begins at Fenway Park in Boston.

In this corner, with 107 seasons of history and tradition (and more than a little heartbreak mixed in), is the Boston Red Sox.

In the opposite corner, with 15 seasons of history and precious little tradition, is the Colorado Rockies.

The Red Sox, formed in 1901, started off the 20th century great. They reeled off five championships before going into an 86-year coma. At least the 21st century has been kinder to Red Sox Nation.

The Rockies, formed in 1993, were the major league team long promised for Denver. Aside from a brief moment of brilliance in the mid-1990s, the history of the Rockies has been that of a mediocre baseball team in a football-crazed city.

Football-crazed is the term most fans associate with Denver.

Broncos fans are notorious for being the loudest and rowdiest of any team in the NFL. As for baseball, Denver had a long history of minor league baseball before the Rockies arrived on the scene, but until this month, baseball played second fiddle to football in Colorado.

Rockies fans are getting their first initiation into the experience of the World Series. But there isn't a "Rockies Nation." Aside from winning the wild card in 1995, there isn't any generational lore handed down through the decades with this team.

Red Sox fans, by contrast, only shed the title "long-suffering" in this century. Most can recite the litany of heartbreak by year -- 1946, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, 2003. It took the 2004 championship to purge that long history of disappointment and release the pent-up frustration of 86 years.

The events of 2004 wiped the psychic slate clean for Red Sox fans.

Now, the Sox are poised to become -- dare we say -- the new New York Yankees, the team of high expectations, insatiable demands for success and the willingness to spend what is needed to deliver the goods.

The Red Sox are now No. 2 behind the Yankees for the highest payroll in the major leagues. Thanks to the highest ticket prices in baseball and the money gusher that is NESN, the Red Sox have the resources to rival the Yankees in the pursuit of top talent.

With every game sold out at Fenway, the Red Sox this year surpassed the Yankees as the No. 1 drawing team on the road. Fans in stadiums in Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Toronto found themselves drowned out by visiting Red Sox fans. The Red Sox now have a nationwide following.

At first, the Rockies went the route of spending lots of money on players and achieved early success with the "Blake Street Bombers" of Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Larry Walker and Andres Galarraga in the mid-1990s. But the Rockies eventually could not afford to keep spending money on high-priced stars and reverted back to the model that teams without the Yankees and Red Sox deep pockets must follow -- develop your own talent and hope they turn into stars.

This year's Rockies, a team filled with players few have heard of, have had a phenomenal run in reaching the World Series. Instead of being a one-dimensional team of bashers, pitching and defense have been the keys to their success. A team that has won 21 of its last 22 games can't easily be dismissed. A team of destiny? Perhaps.

On the downside for the Rockies is that, thanks to two playoff series sweeps over the Phillies and Diamondbacks and the television schedule makers, the hottest team in baseball hasn't played a game since Oct. 15. Colorado will have a considerable amount of rust to shake off tonight.

As for the Red Sox, they quickly dispatched the Angels and played a grinding seven-game series with the Indians. Rust isn't an issue with these guys. They are a team filled with experienced players who know what it means to be on baseball's biggest stage.

We hope for an entertaining and exciting World Series. And, of course, a Red Sox victory.


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