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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October 2004, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Fans fuel Boston's cause
By Alex Trickett
BBC Sport at Fenway Park, Boston

Boston Red Sox fans show their support for their team
The fans are proving just as vital to Boston's World Series hopes

You did not need to be at Fenway Park this weekend to understand how much baseball's World Series means to Boston.

Every advertising hoarding in the city champions the Red Sox cause.

The Prudential Building staggers the lights on its upper floors to spell out "Go Sox."

And all bar about 23 - I counted them - of the 4m population sport at least four items of team merchandise.

Boston's fans are an extreme bunch, and with good reason.

They have been starved of success for so long and tormented by metropolitan big brother New York, whose Yankees have enjoyed 26 World Series wins since Boston's last in 1918.

The famous "curse," which began when legendary hitter Babe Ruth was sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1920, still hangs over the city.

But everyone in this part of the world senses that its grip is finally slipping and that this is the year that superstition will be spurned.

BEST BITS FROM FENWAY
Advert: "Fastball, curveball, meatball"
for Bertucci's Italian restaurants
Ticket plea: "Will donate semi-healthy liver for a seat"
Food: Legal Seafood's clam chowder
Chant: "Who's your Papi?"
for Boston slugger David "Papi" Ortiz
Play: Mark Bellhorn's winning home run in Game One
The Red Sox have a two-game lead in their best-of-seven showdown against the St Louis Cardinals thanks in no small part to their impressive fans.

Inside the stadium, each of them plays his or her part.

Some clasp hands together and quietly pray for the third opposition out to end an innings.

Other more raucous attendees mercilessly bait the St Louis players as they prepare to bat in the on-deck circle.

And a deafening din greets any hit from a Red Sox bat.

There is still time for humour and the hated Yankees - not the Cardinals - are the subject of most of it.

"What's the difference between a New York hot dog and a Fenway frankfurter?" bellows one man munching on a snack.

Actors Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck
Actors Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck up the celeb count at Fenway
"We're still eating Fenway Franks," comes the punch-line, referring to the premature Red Sox-induced end to the Yankees' post-season campaign.

In fact, hot dogs are only one choice on a surprisingly diverse World Series menu.

Unlike the pie and pastie diet at most of England's Premiership grounds, delicacies like New England clam chowder and even lobster are on offer.

America has always been good at staging big sporting events and Boston wheels out local pop star Steven Tyler from Aerosmith to belt out the national anthem.

Celebrities like Tom Hanks and Ben Affleck litter the stadium, but what makes Fenway Park special is a healthy dose of reality, brought about by genuine, long-suffering fans.

Outside after Game Two, an elderly man who could not afford the touts' steep prices (up to $5000 per seat) offers $20 for a used ticket stub.

He, like every other Bostonian, wants a small piece of the action, something by which to remember the remarkable Red Sox of 2004.





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