For championship-less veterans, World Series title especially sweet
|10.31.13 at 4:13 am ET|
Jake Peavy cried.
It was the top of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series, and the Red Sox held a commanding 6-1 lead over the Cardinals. Koji Uehara was entering from the bullpen. The Lansdowne Street fireworks were ready. The game — the season — was all but over.
A lifetime of preparation, the last dozen years of which were spent in the majors, was about to culminate in a celebration and feeling of glory unlike any other.
“Just something that I’ll never forget, that we pretty much had it wrapped up there, especially with our guy Koji coming in,” Peavy said. “Really the ninth inning, those emotions come out of me and I had tears rolling down my face thinking about, just flashing back on 12 years and beyond. … It was very, very surreal.
“It’s what I’ve played for since I’ve played [as a kid] — to be a champion. To do it here, in this city, with this group of guys, with this fan base. It’s unbelievable.”
Peavy is one of a group of veterans on the 2013 Red Sox who despite lengthy big league careers had never reached the sport’s pinnacle, until Wednesday. Until Wednesday, Peavy, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli and David Ross and had combined for 59 major league seasons — 3,441 games — without winning it all.
“This is what we’ve been working so hard for,” said Dempster, whose 1998-2002 tenure with the Marlins was bookended by the club’s titles in 1997 and 2003. “All those days you put in work on the back field in spring training or throwing your side work or running your poles, lifting your weights, doing whatever you have to do. It all comes out in the end to win a championship.
“I just can’t believe we can’t come to the field and beat anybody tomorrow.”
For a long time, these Sox winning the World Series seemed like a long shot — but don’t tell them that.
“From the time I walked in this clubhouse,” Peavy said, “I certainly didn’t think anything else was going to happen but this.”
The reason was simple: Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia told him so.
Peavy referenced Aug. 1. It was a Thursday, and the Sox were in the middle of a homestand against the Mariners and Diamondbacks. It was also Peavy’s first day with his new teammates after a three-team deal that brought him in from the White Sox.
Hours before, Stephen Drew’s single gave the Sox a 15-inning win over Seattle. Hours later, the Sox pieced together a six-run bottom of the ninth for another dramatic win over the Mariners. The magic was flowing as strongly as it had all season.
Gomes and Saltalamacchia were the first ones to welcome Peavy into their brotherhood.
“In the first two minutes I was in the clubhouse, the words, ‘We’re going to win the World Series’ was spoken by both of those guys,” Peavy said. “On Aug. 1. When those words came out of their mouth, instantly I believed.”
Saying, believing, hoping it is one thing. Actually executing is another.
Peavy, Gomes, Dempster, and Ross had never made it out of the Division Series before this fall. Napoli came close once. In 2011, his Rangers were one out away from a title against the Cardinals before St. Louis mounted a comeback.
This time around, Napoli made sure to leave his mark. His homer off of Justin Verlander stood as the difference in 1-0, ALCS Game 3 win, then he blasted a tone-setting, three-run double in the very first inning of the Fall Classic. All that came while struggling through a foot injury.
“I was going to go out there regardless,” Napoli said.
The others got in on the action, too. Dempster pitched a lone inning in the Game 1 win. Ross came up with the eventual game-winning double in Game 5. Gomes made a number of diving catches, and his Game 4 long ball put the Red Sox on top for good.
“I just wanted an opportunity,” Gomes said. “It’s time to cue the duck boats.”
Ross didn’t mince words when it came to how he wanted the series to end.
“I wanted a strike out,” Ross said. “I wanted a punch out. I wanted to be holding the ball when this thing is done.
“It’s in my locker,” he later added. “Whoever wants it can have it. If the owner wants it, manager, Koji, whoever wants it can have it. I got a world championship to put in my back pocket.”
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