The Boston Red Sox Legacy Through the Eyes of a 90-Year-Old Fan

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The Boston Red Sox Legacy Through the Eyes of a 90-Year-Old Fan
Photo courtesy of the Panacy family collection.
Alfred Panacy is a 90-year-old life-long fan of the Boston Red Sox.

Let us travel back in time to October 2004 just before the Boston Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

Before Boston staged that incredible comeback and went on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, the Red Sox had been without a World Series title for 86 years.

1918.  We all know the story—the "Curse." There was 1946, 1967 and 1975.  There was Bill Buckner and 1986.

Those tales are nothing new to Red Sox fans.

Let us take a moment to see how all of that affected one fan in particular and, more importantly, how the recent successes of Boston teams since 2004 have forever changed the face of one of baseball's most storied franchises.

My father, Alfred Panacy, was born in Boston in 1923.  He missed the Red Sox's last championship before 2004 by five years.

Growing up in Dorchester, just south of Boston, my dad used to visit Fenway Park as a kid and young adult.  His favorites are among the Boston immortal greats—Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and, of course, Ted Williams.

Getty Images/Getty Images
Ted Williams was Panacy's favorite among Boston's greats.

Panacy—who is considerably older than I and old enough to be my grandfather—used to go and see these legends in the late 1930s and into the 1940s.  He used to sit in the right field bleachers, which back then cost only 50 cents a ticket, from what he remembers.

"I loved seeing Williams hit it out of the park," Panacy always noted with his familiar Boston accent. "Nobody could hit the ball like Teddy."

The Red Sox were a welcome sight when he returned from service in World War II.  Players like Williams were back, too, and nothing beat going to Fenway Park on a lazy afternoon.

Photo courtesy of the Panacy family collection.
Panacy in Boston before shipping overseas in 1942.

While the Red Sox of his generation and generations thereafter had some great teams, the one thing eluding Boston was a championship.

There were plenty of close calls and near misses.  Red Sox fans need not be reminded of just how close Boston came to winning some of those World Series mentioned previously.

Dad always hoped to see a championship.  "One day," he would say.  "It is going to happen one day.  I just hope I am alive to see it."

Then came 2003.  

Game 7 of the ALCS and Boston was en route to beating the Yankees to advance to the World Series.  Aaron Boone happened.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Aaron Boone's walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS was heartbreaking to every Red Sox fan.

Dad called me minutes afterwards.

I cannot remember what we talked about.  Instead, I could only recall Burt Lancaster's comments as "Moonlight" Graham in Field of Dreams where he describes being "this close to your dreams" and then watching them slip away.  I am positive Panacy was feeling this way.

All of that changed in 2004.

I remember Panacy calling me right after Boston won Game 5 of the ALCS in dramatic fashion.  Dad told me the Red Sox were going to the World Series.  He was right.

Then, Boston went on to win their first title in 86 years.  Alfred was 81 when it happened.  All those years of waiting had come to an end.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Boston's 2004 World Series title forever changed the face of the franchise.

He called me right after Boston recorded the final out.  "I can't believe they did it," he said.  "After all these years, I can't believe they did it."  The quiet joy and excitement in his voice is something this author shall never forget.

At that moment, Panacy probably thought that would be the lone championship he would get to witness.  One would unquestionably be enough, but then Boston went on to back it up in 2007.  After their impressive championship run in 2013, the Red Sox can boast three in nine years.

Just like 2004 and 2007, dad called me after every playoff game—usually within seconds of each game's ending.  

His passion, excitement and enthusiasm reminded me of just how special baseball championships can be.  For him, the true pleasure of watching his beloved Sox is knowing that they have gone from perennial postseason underachievers to the pinnacle of the baseball world.

"I hope I live to see another three titles," he told me recently.  I hope he does too.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Sox's third championship in nine years has cemented their legacy for multiple generations.

Boston's incredulous run over the past decade has done tremendous things in the larger picture.  It invigorated a passionate fanbase.   It shifted the balance of power in the American League East.  It rallied a city in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Yet on a smaller level, it gave a 90-year-old man something just as special—pride and satisfaction.

It may have taken a long time, but it was worth the wait.

 

Supplementary information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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