BOSTON -- For the first time since 1975, a baseball season will end at Fenway Park, and isn't that perfect? This 101-year-old hardball cathedral is arguably the sport's most sacred ground, with its timeless beauty and dignity along with an assortment of nooks, crannies and, perhaps, a ghost or two.
The Red Sox and Cardinals will play Game 6 of the 2013 World Series on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 first pitch), with the home team leading the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and attempting to win a championship at home for the first time since Sept. 11, 1918. And they have two chances to close it out.
"The place, the atmosphere is going to be great," starter John Lackey said. "The fans are going to be crazy."
When John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino bought the Red Sox on Dec. 20, 2001, one of their promises to New Englanders was to preserve and protect Fenway Park. So they set about upgrading it here and there, adding seats, amenities and various fan comforts.
Throughout the process, though, they were guided by the unshakable belief that the majesty of Fenway Park, the look and feel, the simplicity, had to be preserved.
"Do no harm -- those words were repeated again and again," Lucchino said.
No matter how many players come and go, no matter how many championships are won or lost, Fenway Park will always be the franchise's resplendent star. Upstairs in their executive offices at 4 Yawkey Way, the new owners constructed a boardroom overlooking the field, and it's there they receive many first-time visitors.
Party time in Beantown?
Location of Red Sox's World Series-clinching wins
Bos. 4, Col. 3
Bos. 3, Stl. 0
Bos. 2, Chi. 1
Bos. 4, Bro. 1
Bos. 5, Phi. 4
Bos. 3, NYG 2
Bos. 3, Pit. 0
Hunt. Ave. Grounds
They do this because there's almost always a moment when a visitor enters the room and his or her eyes take in the little bandbox of a ballpark. At that point, the conversation pauses as the guest attempts to soak it all in.
There's something so captivating and beautiful about the place that it defies words. When the Cards arrived for Game 1 last week, it was interesting to watch their young players hurry from the bus to see Fenway Park for the first time.
All those iconic points of interest, starting with the 37-foot Green Monster in left. Yes, boys, it's a mere 310 feet from home plate. And just beyond Pesky's Pole in right -- Johnny wrapped a home run around it a time or two -- is that distant red bleacher seat where Ted Williams is said to have sent a homer 502 feet on June 9, 1946.
When Fenway Park is empty, it oozes history, its quiet somehow serving as a voice for the memories and especially the players who've come before, from the Bambino to The Kid to Yaz to Big Papi.
Bring it home
World Series Game 6s at Fenway Park
Bos. 7, Cin. 6
Reds in 7
Bos. 8, Stl. 4
Cardinals in 7
Bos. 2, Chi. 1
Red Sox in 6
Lackey closed out another World Series, 11 years ago, when he was a 23-year-old rookie with the Angels. Back then, he was where Cardinals starter Michael Wacha is today, a gifted kid from Texas with a big arm and a bright future.
Asked on Tuesday what he remembers about that Game 7 assignment in 2002, Lackey almost groaned.
"That was a long time ago, man," he said. "Most of the guys in that game aren't playing anymore."
That Lackey would get the Game 6 assignment is somehow appropriate. His return to prominence has been one of the story lines of a season in which the Red Sox were overhauled by general manager Ben Cherington and guided masterfully by new manager John Farrell.
As wonderful a story as the remake of the roster is, none of the moves gets the Red Sox to Game 6 of the World Series without Lackey and Jon Lester coming all the way back from injuries and poor performances.
Lackey started Game 2 opposite Wacha and allowed three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 4-2 loss. Now he has a chance to pitch one of those games that will become part of the rich lore of the Red Sox. And their little ballpark.
"I'm sure it's going to be an incredible atmosphere here tomorrow night," Farrell said. "So if we happen to be able to share it with them, that would be great."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U.