BOSTON — For much of the 20th century, the Boston Red Sox were a symbol of frustration and pain for an entire region. As popular as they were in their corner of the nation, either they were good enough to lose in agonizing fashion on baseball’s grandest stage or they were just plain bad.
But that all changed in 2004 when the Red Sox ended an 86-year championship drought, and now their fortunes have changed so dramatically that winning titles has become commonplace.
The latest victory came Wednesday night, when the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, in Game 6 of the World Series to take the series, four games to two. They earned the third jewel in their championship crown over the last 10 years, and their eighth overall.
In addition, for the first time since 1918, Boston was able to celebrate the victory at home, winning in front of an announced crowd of 38,447 at Fenway Park and many thousands more who crammed the city streets and bars to proclaim those formerly scarce words that are now often-repeated: The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
Even after the team’s horrendous late-season collapse in 2011 and a last-place finish in 2012, Red Sox fans have become so accustomed to winning that, once their scruffy team had won Game 5, Game 6 had an air of inevitability.
By the time Boston had taken a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning, the cool air at Fenway Park vibrated in anticipation of the party that would soon follow.
David Ortiz, whose contributions to the Red Sox’s last three championships cannot be overstated, was named the most valuable player of the series. He hit two home runs, knocked in six runs, scored seven more, batted .688 and had a staggering .760 on-base percentage.
In 2004, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals, winning Game 4 in St. Louis, and in 2007 they swept the Colorado Rockies, taking the final game in Denver.
The Red Sox had lost in excruciating fashion in their four previous World Series appearances, in 1946 and 1967 to the Cardinals, in 1975 to the Cincinnati Reds and in 1986 to the New York Mets, each time in seven games.
What made this year’s title even more notable was that the Red Sox completed a worst-to-first transformation, rebounding from a last-place finish in the American League East in 2012, shedding a negative reputation and replacing it with scruffy beards to signify team unity.
The team brought in Farrell to replace Bobby Valentine and several new players, including Victorino, Drew, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and closer Koji Uehara, to change the toxic culture of the clubhouse.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia said the Red Sox bonded in spring training and then were motivated after the Boston Marathon bombings to use baseball to help the city heal.
“Because of what happened to this city,” he said, “we wanted to do something special and make everybody happy and proud.”