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BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:22 PM ET

Consider the insults the Boston Red Sox directed at the New York Yankees this spring were nowhere to be seen yesterday.

Remember the Alex Rodriguez-Jason Varitek scrap at home plate in 2004?

What happened as the Sox were presented their 2004 World Series rings resembled a Woodstock Music Festival love-in -- all that was missing was the two teams holding hands and singing James Taylor songs.

When Sox coach Johnny Pesky, 85, was introduced to the 33,702 at sold-out, rusting, old Fenway Park, Yanks manager Joe Torre, coach Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and almost the whole team stood on the top step of the dugout and clapped.

Pesky tipped his hat to the fans and then the Yanks dugout. Pesky has carried around the sin of holding the ball when St. Louis Cardinals Enos (Country) Slaughter scored from first base to win the 1946 World Series.

When the Yanks were introduced, Kevin Brown was booed. Why boo Brown, a big reason the Yanks blew their 3-0 lead in American League Championship Series?

A few players later Mariano Rivera was introduced and the Fenway faithful showered him with cheers as if he was wearing a Sox uniform. Rivera jogged towards the foul line, stunned by the reaction and couldn't contain himself, breaking out in laughter. He tipped his cap to the fans and the Sox dugout.

"Our crowds are great," Johnny Damon said. "They're all about class in that dugout. For them to stay on top all that time, I don't know how they do it. They've been doing it for years."

Rivera's reception was similar to the way Atlanta Braves reliever Jeff Reardon was greeted when he exited the SkyDome bullpen during the 1992 World Series.

"It was a complete surprise, I didn't know what was going on," Rivera said.

Why laugh?

"That's me. You laugh and go with it. I know they didn't do it in the right way, but I went with it."

The Sox tagged Rivera with blown saves in Games 4 and 5 and two more in the opening series of 2005.

"Fans aren't stupid in either city," said Curt Schilling. "Mariano got it. It was a great moment. But if you ask our fans they'll tell you how much respect for him."

As Derek Jeter said: "Mo enjoyed it, had fun with it, but I didn't see any Boston players cheering."

Ceremonies began when from atop the Green Monster in left, banners were dropped indicating the Sox 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 Series titles.

And then to a loud roar a 231-foot banner dropped proclaiming Boston as 2004 champs. That's an 86-year gap if you are pining along at home.

Then, as James Taylor sang America The Beautiful, 19 soldiers, three in wheelchairs, the true American heroes of the day, made the trip in from left. They carried the Series rings.

All were injured in battle, some were flown the Walter Reed Medical Hospital in Bethedsa, Md. All were New Englanders.

"People talk about us as heroes," Varitek said. "We play sports, we aren't heroes. They're heroes in life. I went over and thanked them for risking their lives.

"One soldier had just gotten out of surgery. He had a 4-to-6 months rehab and he's trying to cut it to four so he can get back to his troops. I have the utmost of respect for those guys."

The ring ceremony was simple and moving. The scoreboard showed a 2004 Series ring on the board, the ring turned to show "Francona" and out came manager Terry Francona to cheers. No introduction was made over by the P.A. announcer. None was needed.

On and on it went. Pesky received the loudest ovation.

Carl Yaztrzmenski and Pesky then hoisted the 2004 Series banner in centre. The Sox will give out 512 rings to players, staff and officials.

"My Emotions?" Jeter repeated. "Probably a little jealously. But we have respect for what they accomplished."

Boston legends Bill Russel, the former Celtic, Teddy Bruschi and Richard Seymour, of the New England Patriots and Bobby Orr, former Bruin, threw out the ceremonial first pitches.

TROTTING OUT THE GREATS

Sox greats of yesteryear --Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Frank Malzone, Luis Tiant, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd, Fred Lynn and others, 28 in all, were in uniform.

When you have 86 years of planning you can get it right and the Sox did.

The cherry on top of the Monday sundae for Sox fans was the game itself ... it couldn't get much better:

Alex Rodriguez, who ran through a stop sign and should have been out by 15 feet was save when Edgar Rentaria triple-pumped like Tom Brady, he booted Damon's fourth-inning ground ball leading to three unearned runs and fans gave him a mock standing ovation when he fielded Doug Mirabelli grounder in the eighth.

And oh, yes, Boston won 8-1.

Port Hope's Paul Quantrill broke in with Boston and is now in the Yanks bullpen.

"Johnny Pesky is one of the nicest people I've ever met in baseball," Quantrill said. "I was happy for him, scout 'Broadway' Charlie Wagner, 91, too."

Has a truce been reached in the rivalry with so many warm feelings?

"Don't think so, that was just one game."


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