By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) – This year’s World Series has special significance for Boston Red Sox players and baseball fans, coming a little more than six months after the city was rocked by twin bombs that killed three and injured 264 at the Boston Marathon.
While the matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals has not captivated the city in quite the same way as the teams’ 2004 contest, which brought Boston its first World Series win in 86 years, officials said the games will provide a much-needed boost following the April 15 attack.
Slugger David Ortiz, who rallied Bostonians with a defiant speech declaring “this is our (expletive) city” at the team’s first home game after the attack, repeated that missive, in a more toned-down fashion, on Saturday night after the Red Sox clinched their spot in the series.
“This is our bleep city, Boston is strong,” Ortiz told the crowd after the team defeated the Detroit Tigers to become American League champion.
Fans strolling by Boston’s Fenway Park on Tuesday said a win of Major League Baseball’s most prestigious trophy this year would carry extra heft.
“Because of everything that Boston has been through, it would be good to see them win,” said Linda Provencal, a 64-year-old retiree who stopped off to buy souvenirs. “Boston has had a rough time.”
Team officials said the players knew the city was counting on them for a boost.
“These players feel a special bond, a connection to this city. It’s there for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the tragedy we’ve all experienced together,” said Larry Lucchino, the team’s chief executive, at a Tuesday press conference at Boston City Hall. “This team understands what the city, the victims went through.”
The April 15 attack occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, about a mile from Fenway Park. Twin homemade pressure-cooker bombs tore through spectators, volunteers and athletes at the race’s finish line.
A pair of ethnic Chechen brothers who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts have been accused of setting the bombs. The older of the pair, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died three days after the bombing in a gunbattle with police. Younger brother Dzhokhar escaped the confrontation and was found hiding in a boat in Watertown, Massachusetts, backyard late on April 19, after a daylong manhunt by police.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Security has been ratcheted up at public events in Boston since that attack. Boston Police Department Superintendent in Chief Daniel Linskey told reporters that police would have a sizable presence at this week’s games.
“Obviously things have changed in our world but we’ve got the benefit of all the citizens of Boston who were with us on April 15 and will be with us tomorrow as we go forward,” Linskey said.
While Boston holds its sports traditions dear — the Red Sox still play in a 101-year-old stadium — one World Series tradition will be skipped this year. That is because the city’s mayor, Thomas Menino, was unable to get his St. Louis counterpart, Francis Slay, to agree to a friendly wager of food.
“The mayor of St. Louis said he was too busy to put a bet together,” Menino said of the tradition in which the mayor of the losing city sends a local specialty to his counterpart in the winning city. Slay said on his Twitter feed that the practice took up too much of his staff’s time.
Menino, now in the final months of a 20-year-stint as mayor, had planned a wager that would have reflected the heritage of Boston’s first Italian-American mayor: fried ravioli.