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October 23, 2013

Phil Stacey column: Improbable Red Sox are back in our good graces

By my recollection, it all started during the summer of 1975.

I was six years old and first become acutely aware of this phenomenon known as the Boston Red Sox. My dad didn’t like them (never did; he grew up a Boston Braves fan), but a lot of other adults seemed to get very happy when talking about them. Once I found out rookie sensation Fred Lynn threw and hit left-handed like me — I had his batting stance rituals down cold — I was hooked.

Ever since then, I’ve been all in. Through years of heartbreak and disappointment, the cathartic experience of finally watching them win it all in 2004 and tens of thousands of hours spent watching, analyzing, questioning and reading about them, the Red Sox are very much part of my life’s fabric.

But even ever-loyal fans have their limits. The crash-and-burn of September 2011, exacerbated by the sheer embarrassment and pathetic efforts of 2012, left me feeling empty. For the first time in forever, I felt ambivalent as spring training approached eight months ago.

It didn’t help that the Red Sox — which, let’s face it, didn’t seem to have a lot of promise — were trying to make rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. into a folk hero before he had played a single major league inning seemed forced and sad.

Then the 2013 season began, the team started winning.

And kept winning.

And never really stopped.

For a team coming off a last place finish with not much hope of climbing more than a rung or two higher, the Red Sox defied all expectations. With a new manager, some new faces in the everyday lineup and an attitude cultivated in late February in Fort Myers, Fla., that they were going to change the entire culture of the team.

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