ST. LOUIS — The Curse of the Bambino is dead, forever submerged in Willis Pond with Babe Ruth's piano, buried with the home run balls of Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone, the funeral procession rolling through Bill Buckner's legs and coming to rest at a grave that took New England 86 years to dig.
Long live the Boston Red Sox.
It took a cast of self-proclaimed "idiots," a scraggly haired band of brothers who were inspired by -- and somewhat impervious to -- their franchise's star-crossed history, but the Red Sox finally won their first World Series championship since 1918 with a 3-0 Game 4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in front of 52,037 in Busch Stadium on Wednesday night.
Derek Lowe, the free-agent-to-be who was demoted to the bullpen to start the playoffs, gave up three hits over seven shutout innings to earn his third series-clinching victory of this postseason, and right fielder Trot Nixon had three doubles and two runs batted in, as the Red Sox completed a sweep of St. Louis.
Boston was so dominant it gave up only three runs over the final three games of the Series to a Cardinal club that led the National League in runs, batting average and slugging percentage.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 29, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
World Series droughts -- A listing in Thursday's Sports section of baseball franchises that have gone the longest without winning the World Series omitted the San Francisco Giants, who last won the Series in 1954. That is the fourth-longest streak after the Chicago Cubs (1908), Chicago White Sox (1917) and Cleveland Indians (1948).
The Red Sox, who on Oct. 17 were three outs away from being swept by the New York Yankees in the American League championship series, reeled off eight consecutive playoff wins and became only the fourth team in baseball history to lead every inning of a World Series. The others were the 1963 Dodgers over the Yankees, the 1966 Baltimore Orioles over the Dodgers and the 1989 Oakland A's over the San Francisco Giants.
Manny Ramirez, who batted .412 in the Series, was the most valuable player.
It was 10:40 p.m. local time when Red Sox closer Keith Foulke snared Edgar Renteria's comebacker and flipped to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out, touching off a team dog-pile near the bag that was so forceful, the entire group got pushed about 20 yards into foul territory.
The clubhouse erupted in a wild celebration, the traditional champagne sprayed around a room filled with elation and relief, the burden of 86 years of heartbreak and disappointment finally lifted.
"Somebody said to me today that this is the biggest thing since the Revolutionary War -- is that fair?" Red Sox principal owner John Henry said. "It's just an overwhelming sense of joy and release. All the faith, all the waiting for next year, this is vindication for all of the fans' frustration.
"It's sheer joy."
Henry's sentiments were echoed all over a room filled with the present and the past, current players partying with Johnny Pesky, the 85-year-old former Red Sox infielder whose 1946 team lost the World Series in seven games.
"This is a feeling I can't describe," said reliever Alan Embree, who retired two batters in the eighth inning Wednesday night. "The Curse is dead. We were the ones who killed it, and we can hold our heads up high."
More than an hour after the game, thousands of Red Sox fans remained behind the third base dugout, celebrating as players took turns hoisting the World Series trophy over their heads, showering them with chants such as "Thank you, Red Sox! Thank you, Red Sox!"
"They live and die with every pitch, every swing, and no more do they have to say, 'Is this the year?' " said Nixon, whose two-run double in the third inning gave Boston a 3-0 lead. "We want them to enjoy this as much as we are. They've been searching for that elusive championship for a long time."
Some longer than others.
"All those fans who have followed the Red Sox for decades, they can die happy now--they got to see the Red Sox win a world championship," Embree said. "They're so passionate about the club. They wanted a championship so bad. They deserved this. They willed us to this. In that sense, it wasn't just about 25 guys. It was about a nation."
Indeed, the World Series trophy belongs not only to the players, coaches and front-office executives but to all of Red Sox Nation, the legion of long-suffering fans hardened by catastrophic defeats and near misses.
It's for all those octogenarians who spent summer nights listening to the games on porches from Mystic, Conn., to Manchester, Vt., from the Berkshire Mountains to Bar Harbor, Maine; for the generations of fans who toted transistor radios to the beach and to family cookouts to keep tabs on their team and passed that passion for the Red Sox down to their children and grandchildren.
It's for those kids who grew up insisting their peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches be made with Big Yaz Bread; who left school early every spring to watch the home opener, and who later in life stopped their cars at the entrance to the many tunnels in The Hub to maintain radio contact if the Red Sox were rallying in the ninth inning.