Art Terrill bought his first house sight unseen in Orono. It was 1978.
His first wife, Evelyn, had seen the house and she asked him if he wanted to see it, but he didn’t feel it was necessary as long as it had one important feature.
“I wanted cable TV so I could watch the Red Sox. They were on channel 38 back then,” said Terrill, who had lived in Glenburn where cable wasn’t available.
Terrill’s passion for the Red Sox is shared with millions of diehard fans, who have earned the moniker “Red Sox Nation” and will devoutly follow another season when the Red Sox open against the Orioles at 3 p.m. Monday in Baltimore.
Terrill was among many long-suffering fans as the team went 86 years without a World Series championship before winning in 2004 and following up with titles in 2007 and 2013.
Everyone has their reasons for their passionate allegiance to the Red Sox. For many, it is a rite of passage: They were born into multigenerational Red Sox fan families.
Hampden’s Margo Taintor was 89 years old when the Red Sox beat St. Louis 3-0 in Game 4 to sweep the 2004 series.
“I never expected to see one. It was great. I enjoyed it,” said Taintor, a native of Shelburne Falls, Mass., who is now 100.
Taintor’s father, Harlow Phillips, got her interested in the Red Sox at an early age and her first visit to Fenway Park was memorable.
“I had never seen anything but a schoolyard ballfield,” she said. “When I got to Fenway Park, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was so different. I had never seen anything so big. It was so beautiful to me. They had nice green grass.”
Taintor admitted that she used to get pretty excited watching or listening to Red Sox games.
“I used to pound the floor or bang around when they didn’t win,” said Taintor. “But I’m not able to move around very much now because of my breathing so I just take things calmly.”
Her eyesight isn’t what it once was so she often will switch from the TV to the radio.
“I try to catch them as much as I can. I don’t have much else to do,” she said.
Orono’s Cary James constantly has the Red Sox on his mind.
“I came out of the womb loving the Red Sox,” said James. “Fenway Park is the greatest place on Earth.”
He grew up following them in Russell, Mass., and the 2004 World Series supplied him with an unforgettable joy.
His mother, Louise, was born in 1918 and also was a rabid fan.
He was able to share in the jubilation with his mother before she died the next spring while the Red Sox were playing a preseason game against the Minnesota Twins.
“I’ll never forget that. She passed away in peace,” said James.
He added that going 86 years without a championship to now having won three in 10 years is “almost too good to be true.”
Terrill said he “always wondered” how he would react if the team won a World Series.
“I figured I would tear up but I didn’t. I hugged my son. I did tear up during the parade a few days later,” said Terrill.
What made the 2004 championship even more special was that the Red Sox became the first team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series and it came at the expense of the hated New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
“That was probably the greatest moment in Red Sox history as far as I’m concerned,” said longtime fan Mike Fagan of Abbott. “To come back after being down 3-0 to their bitter rivals. There is nothing sweeter than that.”
The previous year, the Red Sox had blown a 5-2 lead in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series as New York scored three runs in the eighth to tie it and then won it in the 11th.
“After that year, I didn’t think [the Red Sox winning a World Series] was ever going to happen,” said Bob Merritt of Clifton. “I made my wife [Peggy] turn off the post-game show [after Game 7 in 2003]. It was like a death in the family.”
Fagan, who is originally from South Weymouth, Mass., said he “loves everything about the Red Sox” and that Hall of Fame left fielder Carl Yastrzemski was his idol. He also thought Tony Conigliaro was going to be a superstar until a Jack Hamilton fastball fractured his cheekbone and eye socket and damaged his retina on Aug. 18, 1967.
It wasn’t easy for the fans to stick with the Red Sox who lost in Game 7 of the World Series in the Impossible Dream season of 1967, who failed again in 1975, and who suffered the most heartbreaking collapse of all in 1986 when they were one strike away from winning it on several occasions in Game 6 against the New York Mets before losing that game and Game 7.
“I was devastated when they lost Game 6,” recalled Bangor High School baseball coach Jeff Fahey.
In 1978, they squandered a 14-game lead over the New York Yankees in the fight for the American League pennant before losing in a playoff game on a three-run homer by light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent.
“After they lost in ‘75, I never thought it would take as long as it did to win the World Series. But once they did, the dam burst and now they’ve won three,” said Terrill.
Many fans said their first trip to Fenway Park amped up their passion for the team.
“I was 7 and I looked over at my mother and said [Yastrzemski] was over the hill. Just then, Yaz smashed a home run into the seats. It was a delightful game. Everybody hit home runs,” said Merritt.
“I was 12 years old during the Impossible Dream season. It was a storybook year. That rolled into the ‘70s when they had great teams but never won anything,” said Terrill, recalling Sox stars Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk and Rick Burleson.
Peggy Merritt, an Arlington, Mass. native, said Boston sports fans are more passionate than fans in other cities.
“I don’t know what it is. It is so exciting to go to Fenway Park. The seats are little, some of them are obstructed and the parking situation is bad. But life there is great. Everybody has their Red Sox stuff on,” she said.
Fahey said the colorful personalities over the years, including Rice, Lynn and Ted Williams, have generated interest in the team.
Fagan said current second baseman Dustin Pedroia is his favorite player because, “you know at the end of the game, he has given it everything he has and most of the field is on his uniform.”
He also loves a quote recently attributed to Pedroia when he was asked about the 10-year, $240 million Seattle Mariners contract signed by former Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano.
“He said, ‘What do I care, I’m rich as [...],” said Fagan.
Several fans said another reason that the Red Sox are the most popular New England team is the length of the season. The Red Sox play 162 regular season games, nearly twice as many as teams in other professional sports.
James pointed out that baseball is virtually a year-round sport because the off-season, known as the Hot Stove League, has more trades and other transactions and is much more compelling than it is in other sports.
“The Hot Stove League never dies,” he said.
Another factor in maintaining interest, according to the fans, is the high quality of the play-by-play broadcasters on radio and television over the years.
“Ned Martin and Ken Coleman were two of my favorites and Curt Gowdy was my favorite of all time,” said Fagan.
“That has really been a [valuable] link over the years,” said Terrill, who has a Red Sox blog called Red Sox Maineiacs.