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Moments of Bliss

In honor of the Phillies, Sox and bonds of baseball

Have I included the Red Sox winning the World Series as Moments of Bliss? For many, there is something bonding about baseball. Even better than Thanksgiving. For me, baseball includes a bonding to the past.

I grew up in South Jersey in the 1950s where allegiances to the Philadelphia Phillies were as strong as nearby center city. My home was exactly 14.6 miles and a Delaware River away from the field where the Phillies played their home games, Connie Mack Stadium.

Baseball in Philadelphia in 1954 was all about the Phillies. Four years earlier, they had gone to the World Series. This achievement continued to give them a strong fan base. Alexander Pope wrote,“Hope springs eternal.” Especially true for Phillies fans of 1954. Not until 1983 did a Phillies team make it back into a series. By then, the “Whiz Kids” of 1950 were all but forgotten.

My father loved the Phillies. I loved baseball. The Phillies became a strong bond between us. Several times a summer my father and I would drive into Philadelphia to see a game.

In the fall of 1965, I went off to Boston for college. For a while I remained loyal to the Phillies, but then I floundered. Baseball in Boston was all about the Red Sox. In the spring of 1967, I, with great difficulty, told my dad that not only were all of my friends Red Sox fans, but I had become one, too.

To my surprise, my father said, “Bob, I always felt we should root for the home team. Most of the year Boston is your home. Rooting for the Red Sox is a natural for you.”

One thing for sure, Phillies and Red Sox fans are unpracticed in Series watching. Having followed the Phillies through many losing seasons, and then having the same experience with the Red Sox, I was not equipped for the tensions of thinking, but not believing, that the Red Sox would make it to the Series this year. Let alone win it.

I know a guy named Lucky who works at the Fitzwilliam post office and is a Yankees fan. He is practiced in Series winning, but this year his team was arguably never in contention. This made it easier for he and I to be nicer to one another than we would have been under a more traditional Red Sox/Yankee end-of-the-season rivalry.

Then again, maybe not. Lucky is one of those Yankee fans so nice you almost want to root for his team, but not quite. Not the Yankees. Even in Philadelphia we knew better.

One day, as I spoke to Lucky before the Series, it dawned on me what I would have to do to make it happen. During the playoffs and the Series, Lucky asked me who I thought would win. Each time I told him the other team. When the Red Sox made it to the World Series I said, “St. Louis in five.”

I have no doubt that this tactic and these words of feigned prophecy were single-handedly responsible for the Red Sox riding the duck boats. I played the odds and I am not Lucky. My strategy and a good team, not the beards, won the series for the Red Sox.

I don’t want much in return. I come cheap. Lunch with David Ortiz would be enough. I plan to invite Lucky. Bliss? You bet. I wish you a bonding Thanksgiving weekend.

Bob Ritchie is pastor of Bennington Congregational Church and a regular contributor.

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