When the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals take to Fenway Park for the opening game of the 2014 World Series tomorrow night, it will mark the fourth rendition of this particular Fall Classic.
The threads that tie the rivalry together since the teams’ first meeting in 1946 are pretty loose, aside from geographic locations and team names. Only two active players remain from even the most recent matchup, the iconic 2004 World Series, when a 21-year-old Yadier Molina served as backup catcher to Mike Matheny and David Ortiz was — well, he pretty much doing the same sort of stuff he’s doing now.
Matheny, however, still has a pretty big stake this time around — he currently manages the Cards, having taken over for the retiring Tony LaRussa following the 2011 season. The Red Sox, too, have switched managers since 2004, as John Farrell is completing his first year leading the club. Terry Francona, who led the 2004 club, left the team after an eight-season run in 2011. (The tenures of Francona and Farrell sandwich the Bobby Valentine Experience, which lasted but one season.)
Both teams ownership groups (for the Red Sox, that’s the group led by John Henry; for the Cardinals, Bill DeWitt Jr.) are still in place from the last meeting. But each team has changed guard at general manager since they last met. John Mozeliak succeeded Walt Jockety as general manager in St. Louis after the 2007 season, while Ben Cherington replaced Theo Epstein after Epstein left for the Cubs following the 2011 campaign.
The Red Sox, of course, went on to win the 2004 series four games to none to capture their first World Series title since 1918.
Fenway Park, opened in 1912 has been a constant in the history of this series, but this will be the first time the two teams square off in the new Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006. The Cardinals, incidentally, would win the World Series their first season in the new home. (They won a second of this millennium in 2011, defeating the Texas Rangers. The Red Sox also doubled up in the aughts, sweeping the Colorado Rockies in 2007.) Here’s the final out from each of those three World Series:
The name Busch Stadium, by the way, derives of mega-brewer Anheuser-Busch, which owned the Cardinals when the teams met in 1967. The Red Sox were about halfway through the long, championship-less ownership of the pedophile-protecting racist Tom Yawkey, his family, and his trustees.
The season is remembered in New England, as this one will be, as a remarkable turnaround; 1967 was Boston’s first winning season in nine years. But worth noting: the “Impossible Dream” team’s turnaround wasn’t as drastic, year-over-year, as that of the 2013 Red Sox. The 1966 Red Sox went 72-90, three games better than the 69-73 2012 iteration. And the ’67 squad went 92-70, a full five games worse than this year’s 97-win team.
Also worth noting: The Cardinals saw quite a bit of improvement that year as well. While St. Louis had won the World Series in 1964, they had struggled some since in the years in-between, registering 80- and 83-win seasons in 1965 and 1966, respectively. Their jump to 101 wins in ’67 registered as almost as big a swing as occurred in Boston that same summer.
The Cards won the ’67 series in seven games.
The 1946 World Series also lasted seven games and was also won by St. Louis. The ’46 series featured a matchup between the MVPs of each league, future Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Ted Williams. It was the only World Series trip of Williams’ career, whilefor Musial, it was his third and final. Neither player had played in the Major Leagues the season prior; both had served in the Navy during World War II. Musial missed the 1945 season and Williams served during the 1943, 1944, and 1945 campaigns.
St. Louis’s victory in 1946 was good for the team’s third championship in five years, while it was Boston’s first trip back to the Classic since their victory over the Chicago Cubs in 1918. The Sox were owned by Yawkey at the time. The Cardinals were under the ownership of Sam Breardon, who helmed the club during its first six championship seasons.
With the fourth matchup, Red Sox-Cardinals will become the fourth-most common World Series in history once this one gets started. Yankees-Dodgers, with 11 contests between them, Yankees-Giants (7), and Yankees-Cardinals (5) top the list.
Overall, the Cardinals have won 11 World Series to the Red Sox seven. St. Louis has won 19 National League pennants, while the Red Sox have won the American League 13 times.
photo: Ted Williams and Stan Musial