Game 1 of the World Series should have been rated ''R'' for Little Leaguers. If they stayed up late enough to watch this crude comedy of five errors, 14 walks and various pratfalls, they learned how the game shouldn't be played.
They saw 21 players left on base, the Boston Red Sox try every which way to blow one lead after another, the St. Louis Cardinals catching up and ultimately falling short, 11-9, after four hours of woe.
Manny Ramirez, his shirt smeared with dirt and grass stains, was a one-man wrecking crew. On offense, he smacked three singles and drove in two runs. On defense, he made two consecutive errors in the eighth inning, bobbling one ball and falling to his knees as another hit him in the chest on the fly, to allow the Cardinals to tie the game 9-9.
''That was not an instructional video to send to the instructional league,'' Boston manager Terry Francona cracked. ''That was a little rough. I walked out here through the outfield and about twisted an ankle where Manny had his divot. We did some things wrong, but we persevered and we won.''
Mark Bellhorn bailed out the Red Sox in the bottom of the eighth, following an error by St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria, with a homer off Pesky's Pole in right.
Tim Wakefield started for the Red Sox, his knuckler weaving in the wind, sometimes baffling the Cards, sometimes giving them free passes. He left after 3 2-3 innings, yielding only three hits but giving up five walks and five earned runs.
''I had a hard time the first three innings, but in the fourth I just lost everything,'' Wakefield said. ''The conditions weren't that great. The ball was slick and it was tough for you to hold onto.''
This was a game to drive fans of both teams nuts, the highest scoring first game of a World Series in history. It had two more runs than the Yankees' 12-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs in 1932.
Red Sox Nation has been waiting for its team to go back to the World Series since 1986, to win it for the first time since 1918. The fans, half pessimists, half optimists, suffered through this opener as if they were watching a collection of years of mishaps.
''Today was a weird game,'' Boston closer Keith Foulke said. ''There's no reason to think they'll all be like that. A lot of weird things happened.''
The last time a team won a World Series game while committing at least four errors was 1952, when the Yankees did it against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The last time any World Series team made four errors in a game was 1982, that dubious honor going to Milwaukee, also against St. Louis.
Blame the cold and the wind 49 degrees and 21 mph at the start, chillier and wilder as the game went on but the elements didn't cause all the problems.
Blame the weariness of the players after two seven-game league championship series. But St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, for one, wasn't buying that. He saw all the mistakes and made no excuses.
''You open the door, however you open it, and guys are gonna score,'' La Russa said.
''We did some things we don't usually do. We walked guys to set up innings and I think two or three times they scored. That's kind of not how we play it. But I give them credit. We opened the door and they capitalized just about every time.''
The errors and walks were mostly self-inflicted gaffes, though one bad hop caught St. Louis second baseman Tony Womack hard in the collarbone and knocked him out of the game. He was sore afterward, but preliminary X-rays showed no fracture.
Ramirez ran after balls as if he were trying to find them using Mapquest. His misadventures in the field are not new, and what makes him so endearing and valuable is the way he can turn around games with his bat.
''I caught my spike, but I shouldn't have dove,'' Ramirez said of his error on Larry Walker's fly ball in the eighth. ''If I had kept on running, I would have got the ball easy.''
Smiling as always, no matter what went on, Ramirez was happy his team escaped with a win.
''Your teammates always pick you up when you do something wrong,'' he said. ''That's what this team is all about. I know I'm the champ and can go out there and do the job. Once you think like that, the rest is easy.''
On this night, most of the players feasted at the plate 13 hits by Boston, 11 by St. Louis and they were fed plenty of dessert with all the walks eight by St. Louis pitchers, six by Boston pitchers.
''The errors cost us five or six runs tonight,'' said Boston's David Ortiz, who stayed hot with a three-run homer in the first inning, two walks and a single. ''We've been playing great defense, so I can't tell you why that happened. But they're too good a team to do that and expect to win.''
Steve Wilstein is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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