Green: John Henry and the making of a Red Sox dynasty

From Joshua Green at Bloomberg Businessweek on April 24, 2014, with mention of SABR President Vince Gennaro:

It’s Opening Day at Fenway Park, more than an hour before game time, and the seats are already jammed. No surprise here. Boston Red Sox fans feed on emotion. Today’s capacity crowd skipped work and school for the chance to mainline the best feeling of all: to celebrate as their team collects its championship rings for winning last fall’s World Series.

In Boston, they don’t skimp on pageantry. The ring ceremony features firefighters, Boston Marathon bombing victims, and a first pitch from the beloved, cancer-stricken former mayor, Tom Menino. The Boston Pops Orchestra materializes in right field to play A Hymn to New England. Colorfully plumed Irish step dancers leap and kick in both batting circles.

Amid all this, a man stands quietly at the end of a red carpet near first base and a table spread with jewelry. John Henry, 64, the principal owner, never says a word. No one really notices him or his partners, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner, until the players emerge from the dugout to collect a ring and a handshake.

To Red Sox Nation, this is a glorious, weirdly familiar scene. When Henry’s ownership group beat out local bidders for the team in 2002, they were greeted as carpetbaggers. The Boston Herald ran a front-page mock-up of the Fenway scoreboard that read: “Visitors 1, Boston 0.” “Generally, if you aren’t born in New England,” says Henry, “New Englanders don’t ever consider you as locals.” But the hostility didn’t last. Henry won a place in the heart of every Red Sox fan in 2004 by breaking the “Curse of the Bambino”—the 86-year World Series title drought that had plagued the team ever since it sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919. A second title, in 2007, proved this was no fluke. This latest one suggests that Boston’s baseball saga has shifted from misery to dynasty. Along the way, flinty New Englanders have adopted Henry as one of their own. “When I bought the Boston Globe last year,” he says, “I kept hearing and reading that people felt it was great that a ‘local owner’ had purchased it.”

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Originally published: April 24, 2014. Last Updated: April 24, 2014.