A season for the ages

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

SOUTH BOSTON, Mass. – There is Laura, 76, with the Boston Red Sox shirt, lucky beads and an eye for Johnny Damon – "I like the long hair." Don't all the ladies?

There is Peggy, 70, who turns off the TV when the St. Louis Cardinals are at bat because she can't stand the pressure.

There is Bea, 76, who, even though she isn't completely over the Nomar trade, sent her daughter scrambling Sunday morning to get a new TV when her old one broke.

And there is Joe, 80, the WWII vet who finally, after all these years, has given up on being a cynic and started to believe – mainly due to the energetic presence of Julie, 24, the activities director here at the Harborlights Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in this old Boston neighborhood.

"It's Julie's fault. She convinced me," Joe Berry said with a smile and then turned toward Julie Mearn. "See what you did to me?"

"At least we'll be able to party together when we win the World Series," Mearn laughed back.

Boston, with a 2-0 World Series lead, plays at St. Louis in a critical Game 3 Tuesday.

Red Sox fans, of course, have been waiting 86 years for a world championship. But when TV cites the team's long-suffering fans, it always seems to be college kids in crowded bars or some Gen-X actor who fills the screen.

Here at an assisted living facility in Southie is where some of the longest-suffering fans live and still cheer, cheer for the Red Sox.

"I tried to keep the faith," Laura Walsh-Leary said, "but [after] all these years I was worried. Especially with those Yankees.

"But I think this is the year."

If Laura doesn't know, then who does?

Most of the 89 residents here grew up in Boston, got hooked on the Sox as a kid and followed along through Pesky and Williams and Yaz and Rice and Pedro, wondering when The Year would finally come.

Eventually they wondered that if it ever did, would they live to see it?

Just because they have to take naps in the afternoon to stay up for the games – this isn't exactly a coveted age bracket for television advertisers – doesn't mean their passion is any less than the Kenmore Square revelers or megabucks box seat owners.

"When I was a kid," Joe said, "you could get into the bleachers of the Boston Braves games for 50 cents. Fifty cents! I heard the good seats were going for $3,000. Can you believe that?"

You get a lot of this kind of talk at Harborlights. But it isn't all nostalgia. These also are the good old days.

This is no laid-back place to follow the team. All season long, Mearn has been bouncing about the building reminding residents of the standings and making new believers out of old curmudgeons.

Harborlights has a giant television screen in its 25-seat "cinema." For big games Mearn throws viewing parties that bring the residents together. "Walkers go in the back, wheelchairs up front," she laughs.

The room is decorated with "Let's Go Sox" and "Keep the Faith" posters. There are lucky beads and pennants. By the time the game starts there isn't a room in Boston that wants a victory more.

Just about everyone comes except Peggy Curran, who is too nervous to watch the Cardinals hit. "I click the TV off for 10 minutes and then come back. In Game 1 [of the World Series] every time I clicked back [St. Louis] had scored another run.

"Then I have to curse under my breath."

She isn't alone.

"I had to settle the party room down the other night because there was too much cursing," laughed Mearn.

These Red Sox have helped the joys of summer linger deep into the early darkness and growing chill of a New England fall. They again have given these seniors something modern to get caught up in. "I am a bigger fan now," Laura said. "When I am here, [I] don't have as much to do."

So now folks who have seen so much in their long lives are two victories from seeing something brand new, a Red Sox championship. Mearn keeps throwing the viewing parties, even if it means she winds up working 18 hours on game days.

"The other night, when we beat the Yankees, they were all crying," Mearn said. "I love [the Sox] but I am only 24. So I have no idea.

"I really want to see them win for the residents."

Tuesday Boston goes for win No. 3. The cinema in Southie promises to be packed.

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