5. 1986 - This was the year my generation really experienced what it meant to be a Red Sox fan. We were too young in 1975 and couldn't appreciate the emotional depth of Bucky F'ing Dent in 1978. And from 1979 to 1985 the Sox weren't competitive. But 1986 taught me, and millions of other teenagers, about being a Sox fan. And in doing so, created the base for the Red Sox Nation we know today. I'm not using the photo of Buckner's infamous error to highlight that year. Rather, I like to think about Hendu's shot in Game Five of the ALCS against the Angels. Which just goes to show that we should've known better than to count the Sox out in 2004.
4. 1939 - On April 20 of this year, the greatest player ever to wear a Sox uniform took his first cuts at home plate. Theodore Samuel Williams, Teddy Ballgame, The Splendid Splinter, or simply The Kid, began his epic four-decade career with the Red Sox in 1939. Many years, he was the only thing worth watching on the Sox, especially in the 50s as the team never came close to challenging for a pennant. He was the purest hitter the game has ever seen. If it wasn't for his spending five years of his career fighting in two wars, he'd have likely had well over 700 home runs and 3500 hits. He is the iconic player for the Sox, just as Ruth is for the Yankees, or Musial is for the Cardinals.
3. 2004 - The year the insipid "Curse" was put to bed and Shaughnessy had to find another way to pay for his beach house. (I don't know if he actually has one, mind you.) 2004 saw the Sox put down two demons, the infernal Yankees in the ALCS and the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series (who had killed off two previous chances in 1946 and 1967.) The ALCS was one for the ages as the Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit and proved that their 2003 loss was a matter of their having lost the game, rather than the Yankees winning it. And when the Sox recorded that final out in St. Louis, a weight was lifted from the shoulders of every living Sox fan. Generations of families celebrated that they wouldn't die without seeing the Sox win a championship. And trust me, that was a very palpable fear.
2. 1920- Only three days into the new year, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee (center) sells Sox hurler Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 and a $300,000 loan. I don't care what happens in the rest of sports history; this is the dumbest trade of all-time in any sport. This set into motion a sea change in the fortunes of the two teams. Frazee would continue to trade away the finest players the Sox had to the Yankees over the next few seasons for what amounted to a bunch of retreads and scratch players. If an owner tried this today, the commissioner would have their head. The result is a dynasty in New York and 84 more years of frustration in Boston.
1. 1967- How could this be a more important year than the year we sold Ruth or the year we finally won, you ask? You have to understand what was going on at that time with the Sox. And since I wasn't around, I get this from my father, who was lucky enough to see Williams' last game in 1960 while on leave from the Navy.
From 1960-66, the Sox finished sixth once, seventh twice, eighth twice and ninth twice. In other words, they sucked. Williams had retired and their best pitcher was Bill Monbouquette. And while that's not meant as a slight to Monbouquette...your best guy shouldn't be a career .500 pitcher. Fans simply were not coming to Fenway. As an example, in 1965 (a year they finished ninth) the Sox drew only 18,000 on Opening Day. The next day, the attendance was 6,285. By season's end, a two-day series with the Angels couldn't draw 1,000 fans combined. This was at a time when franchises were moving all over the country. It had happened to the Braves in the 50s because of low attendance; could it happen to the Sox? Fans were apathetic about the team and cared more about the Bruins and the Celtics.
Then 1967 came along. A team that was supposed to do nothing almost did everything. Yaz launched himself into icon status with the last Triple Crown season in the majors to date. If not for the remarkable talents of Bob Gibson, the Sox would have likely won the 1967 World Series against the Cardinals. That single season brought the franchise back from the dead. People cared about the team again. Because of 1967, people cared enough to pass that love onto the next generation. My generation. And Heaven knows we're passing it on to our kids. The Sox of 2007, with the rabid fan base, the 2004 title and the Nation, would not exist without the "Impossible Dream" of 1967.