When the Red Sox took the field at Fenway Park for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, they officially put New England in a place that seemed more like a pipedream back in April. Coming off last year's nightmare, the team's worst season in more than 40 years, it seemed incredibly far-fetched back then that the Red Sox would still be playing baseball this late in October. Most of the team's fans would have gladly settled for a .500 season. That's what makes the Red Sox appearance in this World Series so remarkable.
There have been so many unexpected contributions to the Red Sox success this season that it's hard to pick a difference maker. But General Manager Ben Cherington is a good start. Not only did he manage to unload all the big money contracts for underachieving players that the Red Sox were saddled with to the Dodgers -- thanks again Los Angeles -- Mr. Cherington managed to find the right group of players for this year. Not only did they adapt quickly to playing in Boston, which isn't easy, this group fit together well, another difficult task. Those crazy-quilt beards that make half the Red Sox look like Civil War veterans are living proof of this team's camaraderie. The beards also have made it easier for New England to embrace this team.
Although a good chunk of their fans probably wanted the Red Sox to face the Dodgers in the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals will be a quality opponent. Like the Original Six franchises in the National Hockey League, the Red Sox and the Cardinals are part of the bedrock that make up Major League Baseball, storied franchises with national, heck international, followings and long traditions. Here in New England, where baseball is followed like a religion, many of our ancestors are Red Sox fans. It's the same in Cardinal land, especially in the areas where the Redbirds are worshipped. St. Louis was Major League Baseball's western-most outpost until the National League expanded to the West Coast in the late 1950s. So it's not surprising that the Cardinals have a national fan base like the Red Sox do.