Sox the lords of the rings

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

No one knows for sure what will happen at Fenway Park this afternoon.

Will the visiting New York Yankees win behind Mike Mussina or will 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox and Tim Wakefield take the home opener.

But that's about all we don't know. For example, we know this about today's historic banner:

- The Sox will be presented with their World Series rings at 2:15 p.m. in lavish, pre-game ceremonies.

- It will be in-your-face time for the Yankees, who were three outs away from sweeping Boston with Mariano Rivera on the mound, when the Sox rallied against all odds and history to win four straight in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Will Jason Varitek or Trot Nixon hold up his ring, raise it toward the Yankee dugout, give Alex Rodriguez the raspberry or Bronx cheer and yell "I got mine?"

- The World Series banner will be raised for the first time since opening day April 23, 1919, when Carl Mays of the Sox beat the Yankees and George Mogridge 10-0.

After hearing the chants "1918! 1918" from Yankee fans, will the Fenway faithful chant "2000!, 2000!," the previous year of a Yankee World Series win.

- An anthem called This is for Teddy Ballgame as a tribute to the late Ted Williams, composed by songwriter Terry Cashman, will be played. The Boston Pops will play the national anthem and a moment's silence will be observed for Pope John Paul II and former Sox reliever Dick Radatz.

We asked reliever Mike Timlin the other night if there was a danger for the Sox opening against the Yankees in New York, then coming to Toronto for three games and then heading back to Boston for the home opener. Was there a natural tendency to overlook the Jays?

Toronto is certainly not on the same radar screen as the Yanks when it comes to hatred.

"We're not treating (the Jays) any differently than any other team in the majors," Timlin said Friday night, "they have the capability of sweeping us."

And the Jays almost did, winning two of three.

When Timlin was with the Jays and they were winning divisions from 1991-93, he said he didn't remember any bad blood between the Jays and the Sox -- at least nothing at the level of the Yanks-Sox rivalry.

"The Yankees weren't very good back then, but Boston wasn't very happy to see us come into Fenway," Timlin said.

Boston dropped two out of three at Yankee Stadium to open the season, but twice tagged Rivera with blown saves, the first time the dominant reliever has blown back-to-back, games and the rivalry continues today.

The Fens will be sold out just like it was in 1919 -- the last time Boston was honoured as defending Series champs -- and just like it is most days.

Box seats are being scalped for $4,000 US, while grandstand seats are going for $2,500 and bleacher seats for anywhere between $800 and $1,000.

Yesterday's Air Canada flight to Boston was filled with returning Sox fans: a husband and his wife who flew up for Saturday's game, a loud bachelor party of 11 which went to the first two games of the series, toured the Hockey Hall of Fame and other establishments.

They were easy to spot and easy to hear: red Boston jackets, blue Boston caps, green St. Patrick's Day caps, 2004 World Series champion t-shirts. It was a time of celebration. They were a movie in waiting at a Fever Pitch.

A Jays fan asked, "Say, I wasn't paying attention, how did your team do this weekend?"

"Leave us alone," a Sox fan said in his thick Back Bay accent, "we have one Series in the last century.

"Now we're going to rub the Yanks face in it. We get rings, I bet they are afraid to come out of the dugout to watch."


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