BOSTON — Shane Victorino and John Lackey exemplify the entire 2013 Boston Red Sox team and its relationship with Boston baseball fans.
Most Sox fans hated when GM Ben Cherington signed Victorino this past offseason because he was coming off the worst year of his career and some thought his bat speed was diminishing.
Likewise, no Boston fan, it seemed, wanted to see John Lackey ever pitch another game in a Red Sox uniform. Everyone was sick of the righty’s antics.
Before spending last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, Lackey had a historically bad 6.41 ERA in 2011, frequently showed up his fielders when they made errors and he never took accountability for his poor performance on the mound or his questionable clubhouse behavior that contributed to Boston’s monumental 2011 September collapse.
Yes, fans were more than leery to accept these two players — just like they were more than leery to accept this new-look 2013 Red Sox team after what happened in 2011 and then the 69-win, last-place finish in 2012.
But as this season progressed, fans grew quite fond of Victorino, Lackey and this entire bunch of hairy Red Sox players. That fondness turned into everlasting love last night.
With Victorino and Lackey front-and-center, your Boston Red Sox won 6-1 over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 to claim the 2013 World Series title here at rocking Fenway Park.
Before last night, the Red Sox had not clinched a World Series title inside Fenway Park since 1918. How appropriate for this team to break that 95-year drought? How appropriate for it to happen this year — a year that has been so trying for the people in this city following the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
This team began to win over Boston fan’s hearts when they rallied around the city following that tragedy.
“When the Marathon tragedy happened, they didn’t need to be told anything,” Cherington said. “It’s a group of players. ... They came together on their own — completely genuine, organic movement and it really drove them through the year. It’s hard to put it into words.”
Victorino got Boston’s offense started with a two-out, three-run double in the third inning to give Boston a 3-0 lead.
“Victorino! Victorino! Victorino!” the fans in the right field stands chanted as the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” — took his defensive position in right before the start of the fourth inning.
“Boston Strong,” Victorino appropriately yelled to fans after the game.
Lackey, meanwhile, pitched 6.2 innings, allowing just one run on nine hits and one walk while striking out five. He became the first pitcher in major league history to start and win a World Series clinching game for two different teams. He also did it in 2002 as a rookie for the Angels.
When manager John Farrell removed Lackey with two outs in the seventh inning, a rather appropriate song blared over the loud speaker as fans chanted the pitcher’s name and the right-hander tipped his cap.
The song has been played before this season when Lackey leaves games. It was Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.”
Yes, Lackey was too good to be true yesterday.
“He was an injured player last year, actually the year before,” Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo said. “He was almost treated unfairly because he wasn’t at full strength. So we knew when he was going to be coming in this year, if he could execute and stay healthy, then he was going to have the type of year that he had.”
Red Sox fans also chanted Lackey’s name during the postgame ceremony.
“It’s a situation where he’s come full circle,” Lovullo said. “He deserved that moment to walk off the field, tip his hat and have these fans understand just how special that moment was because of all the hard work he put in to get back to where he was.”
Victorino was a huge part of this team’s winning attitude this year because he’d run through a wall to catch a ball, put his body at risk and always had some interesting comment in the clubhouse in his fashion (he speaks a mile a minute).
“He comes with such a great track record that we knew we were getting something special,” Lovullo said. “But when you get to see him every day, he has a great balance of serious, uniquely funny, uniquely quirky. But the bottom line is that at 7 o’clock every day, he brings every thing he’s got to going out there and moving forward to helping this team win.”
This ballpark was rocking from pitch No 1 through the game’s final out through the postgame on-field ceremony when David Ortiz — Boston’s beloved Papi — was awarded World Series MVP.
Fans were all over St. Louis rookie starting pitching Michael Wacha, trying to get under his skin by chanting his name so loud they probably could be heard in neighboring Brookline. Maybe it worked. Wacha entered Game 6 with a 4-0 record and 1.00 ERA in four playoff starts. He only got through 3.2 innings last night, allowing six runs.
It was like a rock concert in here. Most everyone was standing for most all of the game. As Wacha was removed in the fourth, the Fenway Faithful chanted “Na-na-nah-na, na-na-nah-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”
Yes, some fans paid thousands and thousands of dollars to attend this game, but Red Sox players rewarded them and the fans rewarded themselves by having an absolute blast as they witnessed history unfold.
This Red Sox team did what probably everyone thought was impossible. It only won a World Series but it won over Boston.
Lackey did it by pitching his heart out every time he took the mound. Victorino did it with his clutch hits, Gold Glove defense and big smile. And the Red Sox — they did it as a team.
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB