FROM THE STOOL

JOY IN BEANTOWN

Joy takes many forms. To the WCTU, joy is the return of prohibition, to the National Organization for Women, a female president, to the Gay and Lesbian Coalition, a gay or lesbian president, to the Urban League, an African American president, to Planned Parenthood, a pro-choice president, to the NRA, Charlton Heston president, to the Women of Faith, an appearance by the Virgin Mary, to the Right-to-Life, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, to the ACLU, the repeal of capital punishment, to Rush Limbaugh, the return of the whipping post, to the cigar smoker, a cigar friendly bar, to the gourmand, an all-you-can-eat buffet, to the gourmet, a truffle reduction ragout, to the bomber pilot, something to bomb, to the voyeur, something to ogle.

There is one measure of joy, however, unique in all the world, specific to Bostonians, but shared by a core group of baseball fans wherever they congregate. Just last week, this group experienced the ultimate euphoria the Yankees lost the World Series on the final pitch in the bottom of the 9th with their best relief pitcher on the mound to none other than the Arizona Diamondbacks, only four years in the league and a 37 to 1 shot.

Unless one grows up in Boston, there is no way to fully understand the despair the New York Yankees have caused Red Sox fans since they traded Babe Ruth to New York better than 70 years ago, the last time the BoSox won a World Series.

For the hard-core Red Sox fan there is nothing that will ever fully erase the Babe Ruth trade, the Bucky Dent homerun, the Billy Buckner boot, and the continuing anguish that each of the 26 Yankee World Series crowns has inflicted on their psyche and sense of fair play. This most recent and unusually hard-fought Series came close.

After three consecutive world championships, and after climbing back from a 2 games to 0 deficit to Oakland in the play-offs, again to Arizona in the Series, the Yankees finally faltered with a 2 to 1 lead going into the last inning. The Bronx Bombers were apparently poised to drive another stake into the hearts of Bostonians everywhere.

Against the tragic backdrop of September 11, some of the purest Yankee haters, and even a few Red Sox fans, felt obligated to turn their backs on tradition and cheer on the Yanks. Notwithstanding George Steinbrenner, universally loathed even in New York, with virtually no residual sentiment for the fledgling Arizona club and a considerable reservoir of sympathy for the city and its suffering, even I for one brief moment, thought it might be fitting for Mariano Rivera to snuff out the Diamondback rally in the 9th.

Having said that, called back images of my dad who both literally lived and died for the Red Sox. For most of the last 20 years of his life, he was struggling with the debilitating symptoms of Parkinsons, but rarely, if ever, missed a Sox game and in my view the Billy Buckner boot, hastened his untimely demise.

For better than 50 years, I've had to listen to the taunts and derision of my associates and friends who have grown up in New York with the Yankees as their team. Red Sox ownership for most of this time has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on right- handed power hitters believing that the long ball and the short porch in Fenway Park would finally produce another championship, never understanding, or course, that it is pitching that carries the day. Roger Clemens, too old to play in Boston, traded to Toronto, wins the 2001 Cy Young Award with a 20 and 3 record wearing Yankee pinstripes. The Red Sox pony up a $100 million for Mo Vaugh, the Yankees take Derek Jeter. With 8 weeks to go in the current season, the Red Sox are in first place, 8 weeks later 17 games out.

The Red Sox Yankees rivalry, one of the most intense in all of professional sports, is also the most one-sided. Celtics Lakers, Bruins Canadians, Patriots Jets, great rivalries where both cities have experienced both agony and ecstasy.

While a Diamondback victory is no substitute for 70 years of despair, it sure beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.