We like to be topical here at Over The Monster, often, as now, because there is no real baseball about which to write. Soon, comrades. Until then, let’s piggyback off last night’s Oscars clusterfork with a look back on the five biggest self-owns in Red Sox history. Fair warning: I used the pronouns “we” and “our” to describe the Sox in these situations, as if I was part of the team, but I am not actually on the team. Don’t want to confuse you.
5. Bucky Dent gets a new name (1978 one-game playoff for AL East title)
Russell Earl Dent’s home run in the 1978 play-in game is pretty soul-crushing, but it’s the only item on this list in which the screwup is mostly a matter of the other team beating us straight-up, i.e., doing it without our help. Still, when you blow an epic division lead only to stage a remarkable comeback to host a one-game playoff at home against your blood rival, you don’t, everything else being equal, want the batboy to beat you.
4. Grady Little doesn’t get his GOAT, becomes one (2003 ALCS vs. Yankees, Game 7)
I don’t know whether to feel better or worse about this one as time passes and titles pile up. On the one hand, the 2004 season alone was a perfect capstone to not just a 2-season 2003/2004 story but an 86-year one, and it leaves virtually no reason to focus on the former year’s epic failure; furthermore, given Josh Beckett’s outsized role in the 2003 and 2007 World Serieses, there are real correlation and causation problems that might have developed if Little’s Sox had faced Beckett’s Marlins for the title in ‘03. On top of that, there’s no telling that whoever would have replaced Pedro Martinez in the fateful 8th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS would have done any better than Pedro did; on top of that, Pedro, at least in part, got dinked and dunked to death. It happens, and given what happened after it, we should be okay.
On the other hand, this game showed once and for all that our real problem wasn’t our incredible ability to step on our own private parts in the biggest of moments, but was our inability to reliably reach these moments. Until 2003, the Red Sox were a contender every 8-15 years or so and trash the rest of the time, a team of one-offs in ‘46, ‘67, ‘75, ‘78 and ‘86. From these failures we drew the wrong conclusions, dime-store curse-wise, into their destinies. There was no binding agent to them except the middle finger of fate, and to her I give the finger right back, and yeah, I’m still kind of angry.
3. Enos Slaughter’s “mad dash” slays the Sox in slow-motion (1946 World Series vs. Cardinals, Game 7)
The Red Sox lost the 1946 World Series when Enos Slaughter scored from first base on a tie-breaking two-out single to left in the bottom of the eighth inning, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
The first piece of critical information is that Slaughter was a proto-Molina on the bases. You, dear reader, are likely faster at this very moment than Slaughter was at the time of his mad dash.
The second piece of critical information is that Slaughter, however sluggish, was running with the pitch.
The third piece of critical information is that, upon receiving the relay throw, shortstop Johnny Pesky did or did not hold the ball for a crucial second before throwing home, and if he did, was either thinking of doubling [xx] off first base or was shocked to see the slugger headed for home through the stop sign of his third base coach.
The rest is history. My theory is that the Red Sox should have thrown him out at the plate and won the World Series instead.
2. Bob Stanley screws the Sox, Bill Buckner takes the L (1986 World Series vs. Mets, Game 6)
The idea that Bill Buckner was redeemed by the Red Sox’ 2004 title is crazy in near-exactly the same way that Steve Bartman is “redeemed” now that the Cubs are champions; I don’t know if he is more or less redeemed than Bartman by having, you know, played in the game for which he is most remembered, but he’s certainly over it, publicly, in a way Bartman isn’t. Buckner was on Curb Your Enthusiasm for Christ’s sake, and not just in a cameo role. He was never the one who needed to be redeemed: We were.
All of that and Buckner’s error was just the cherry on top of the sh#t sundae served to the Sox shortly after Shea Stadium congratulated the Sox on their big board, and everything went to hell. The worst part was Buckner being five-holed, but moments before, Stanley threw a wild pitch allowing the tying run to score and putting Ray Knight, damn him forever, on third base. You know what happened next.
1. Harry Frazee sells Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000, $300,000 in loans, a hogshead of mead, and a pack of naked lady playing cards missing the three of clubs (offseason 1918)
The biggest mistake in Red Sox history is also the most commonly misunderstood one, at least in shorthand, but it looks no better in the sunlight of truth than it does in the moonlight of mystery. Legend has it that Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in order to finance a theatrical production of “No, No, Nanette,” but the truth is more complicated. Faced with intransigence on one side — Ruth threatened to hold out unless his 1919 salary was doubled — and a commissioner’s office looking to undermine him, a frustrated Frazee sold Ruth as a path of least resistance. This path led to a windfall for his flagging theater business, yes, but it was a consequence of the deal instead of the driving force behind it.
Still, I do declare: This was a bad trade for the Red Sox. Don’t @ me.
Ed’s Note: I would include 2011 as an honorable mention, but that season never happened.