BOSTON (AP) - The old ballpark was packed for a celebration nearly a century in the making.
Players danced around the infield with their families.
Fans remained in the stands, savoring a long-awaited moment generations of New Englanders had never been able to witness.
Turmoil to triumph. Worst to first. A clincher at Fenway Park.
David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox, baseball's bearded wonders,capped their remarkable turnaround by beating the St. Louis Cardinals6-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday night to win their third World Serieschampionship in 10 seasons.
When it was over, Ortiz took a microphone on the field and addressedthe city, just as he did a week after the marathon bombings last April.
"This is for you, Boston. You guys deserve it," the Series MVP said."We've been through a lot this year and this is for all of you and allthose families who struggled."
And the Red Sox didn't even have to fly the trophy home. For thefirst time since Babe Ruth's team back in 1918, Boston won the title atFenway. The 101-year-old stadium, oldest in the majors, was jammed with38,447 singing, shouting fans anticipating a party that had beenbuilding for more than nine decades.
"Maybe they won't have to go another 95 years," said John Farrell, a champion in his first season as Boston's manager.
Shane Victorino, symbolic of these resilient Sox, returned from astiff back and got Boston rolling with a three-run double off the GreenMonster against rookie sensation Michael Wacha. Pumped with emotion,Victorino pounded his chest with both fists three times.
John Lackey became the first pitcher to start and win a Seriesclincher for two different teams, allowing one run over 6 2-3 innings 11years after his Game 7 victory as an Angels rookie in 2002.
With fans roaring on every pitch and cameras flashing, Koji Ueharastruck out Matt Carpenter for the final out. The Japanese pitcher jumpedinto the arms of catcher David Ross while Red Sox players rushed fromthe dugout and bullpen as the Boston theme "Dirty Water" played on thepublic-address system.
There wasn't the "Cowboy Up!" comeback charm of "The Idiots" from2004, who swept St. Louis to end an 86-year title drought. There wasn'tthat cool efficiency of the 2007 team that swept Colorado.
This time, they were Boston Strong - playing for a city shaken by tragedy.
"We've dealt with a lot," Dustin Pedroia said. "But our team came together."
After a late-season collapse in 2011, the embarrassing revelations ofa fried chicken-and-beer clubhouse culture that contributed to theouster of manager Terry Francona, and the daily tumult of BobbyValentine's one-year flop, these Red Sox grew on fans.
Just like the long whiskers on the players' faces, starting with Jonny Gomes' scruffy spring training beard.
"As soon as we went to Fort Myers, the movie's already been written,"Gomes said. "All we had to do was press play, and this is whathappened."
The only player remaining from the 2004 champs, Ortiz had himself aRuthian World Series. He batted .688 (11 for 16) with two homers, sixRBIs and eight walks - including four in the finale - for a .760 on-basepercentage in 25 plate appearances, the second-highest in Serieshistory.
"We have a lot of players with heart. We probably don't have thetalent that we had in '07 and '04, but we have guys that are capable (ofstaying) focused and do the little things," Ortiz said.
Even slumping Stephen Drew delivered a big hit in Game 6, sendingWacha's first pitch of the fourth into the right-center bullpen for a4-0 lead. By the time the inning was over, RBI singles by Mike Napoliand Victorino had made it 6-0, and the Red Sox were on their way.
"Hey, I missed two games. It's time to shine," Victorino said.
All over New England, from Connecticut's Housatonic River up to theAroostook in Maine, Boston's eighth championship can be remembered forthe beard-yanking bonding.
Fans bid up the average ticket price to over $1,000 on the resalemarket and some prime locations went for more than $10,000 each. Nearlyall the Red Sox rooters stood in place for 30 minutes after the finalout to view the presentation of the trophy and MVP award. A few thousandremained when a beaming Ortiz came back on the field with his son 75minutes after the final out.
"It was an awesome atmosphere here," Lackey said.
The win capped an emotional season for the Red Sox, one heavy withthe memory of the events that unfolded on Patriots Day, when threepeople were killed and more than 260 wounded in bombing attacks at theBoston Marathon. The Red Sox wore "Boston Strong" logos on their leftsleeves, erected a large emblem on the Green Monster and moved the logointo the center-field grass as a constant reminder.
"There's I think a civil responsibility that we have wearing thisuniform, particularly here in Boston," Farrell said. "And it became aconnection initially, the way our guys reached out to individuals or tohospital visits. And it continued to build throughout the course of theseason. I think our fans, they got to a point where they appreciated theway we played the game, how they cared for one another. And in returnthey gave these guys an incredible amount of energy to thrive on in thisballpark."
Red, white and blue fireworks fired over the ballpark as CommissionerBud Selig presented the World Series trophy to Red Sox owners JohnHenry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, leaving a haze over the field.
"When the fireworks went off at the presentation of the trophy outthere, when the ballpark was filled with smoke, it was completelysurreal," Farrell said. "To be in this position, given where we've comefrom, reflecting back a year ago at this time, there's been a lot that'shappened in 13 months."
Players then put on goggles for a champagne celebration in the cramped clubhouse.
"They just found ways to win," Henry said. "At some point you have to think there's something special happening here."
Among the players blamed for the indifferent culture at the end ofthe Francona years, Lackey took the mound two days shy of the secondanniversary of his elbow surgery and got his first Series win since the2002 clincher. He pitched shutout ball into the seventh, when CarlosBeltran's RBI single ended the Cardinals' slump with runners in scoringposition at 0 for 14.
Junichi Tazawa came in with the bases loaded and retired Allen Craigon an inning-ending grounder to first. Brandon Workman followed in theeighth and Uehara finished.
St. Louis had been seeking its second title in three seasons, but theCardinals sputtered after arriving in Boston late Tuesday following aseven-hour flight delay caused by mechanical problems. Symbolic of theteam's struggles, reliever Trevor Rosenthal tripped while throwing apitch to Ortiz in the eighth, balking Pedroia to second.
"They were some frustrated guys in there, but overall you can't askus to go about any better than how our guys did," Cardinals manager MikeMatheny said. "Not too many people expected us to do what we did."
Wacha entered 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his postseason career but gaveup six runs, five hits and four walks in 3 2-3 innings, the shorteststart of the 22-year-old's big league career.
"I just made too many mistakes," he said. "It doesn't matter how hard you're throwing if you can't locate it."
Boston was a 30-1 underdog to win the World Series last winter butjoined the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to win titles oneseason after finishing in last place. Now, the Red Sox will raiseanother championship flag before their home opener next season April 4against Milwaukee.
Boston hit just .211, the lowest average for a Series champion in 39years and 13 points lower than the Cardinals. But after falling behind2-1 in the Series on the first-game ending obstruction call inpostseason history, the Red Sox tied it the following night on thefirst-game ending pickoff in postseason play. That sparked the Red Soxto three straight wins and another title.
"When we started rolling," Ortiz said, "nobody ever stopped the train."
NOTES: Boston also won the Series at Fenway Park in 1912. The Red Soxwon the first World Series in 1903 at the Huntington Avenue Grounds andin 1916 at Braves Field. ... Catfish Hunter and Jimmy Key each wonSeries clinchers for two clubs, as a starter and reliever. ... Freese,the 2011 World Series MVP, hit .158 (3 for 19) with no RBIs.