BOSTON -- Bostonians who never thought they'd live to see the Red Sox win it all witnessed another first in the franchise's recently refurbished lore: The New York Yankees applauding as their rivals collected the spoils of their World Series championship.
With gaudy rings and an emotional flag-raising by old-timers who never got a chance to fly their own, the Red Sox celebrated their 2004 title and turned to its defense, beating the Yankees 8-1 on Monday in the Fenway Park opener.
"Now we can put that to bed and get on with 2005," said knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, the longest-tenured player on the team. "It was a great run last year and it was very exciting to be a part of that. I think once the game started, it's time to move on."
Wakefield (1-0) allowed one unearned run, five hits and two walks while striking out five in seven innings. Doug Mirabelli homered, and the Yankees played compliant guests by watching and clapping during the hourlong ring ceremony and then fumbling away the game.
Mike Mussina (0-1) allowed seven runs -- four earned -- seven hits, three walks and five strikeouts in five innings. Alex Rodriguez, the focus of much Boston ire during the offseason and the fans' taunts during the game, misplayed a grounder for an error that let in three runs as the Red Sox made it 7-1 in the fifth.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead on Mirabelli's second-inning homer and made it 4-0 on Kevin Millar's two-run single in the third. After Rodriguez singled, stole second and scored on a throwing error by Boston shortstop Edgar Renteria, Rodriguez gave back three runs with an error in the bottom half.
"It's the home opener. We're playing the Yankees. We've got a ring ceremony. All of a sudden, you look up and (Derek) Jeter's in the batter's box," said Boston manager Terry Francona, who returned after missing four games with a viral infection that was feared to be a heart problem.
"It was going quickly. But Wakefield kind of took care of the rest of that for us. He was fantastic."
Through bench-clearing brawls, home-plate collisions, bullpen crew dustups and fights among fans, the Red Sox and Yankees have developed an animosity that fuels one of the most venomous -- and one of the best -- rivalries in all of sports.
But it had also been laughably one-sided: Since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, New York had won 26 World Series and Boston hadn't won any.
Until last year.
"They certainly deserved everything they got today," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "They won the championship last year, and even though you envy what's going on and you're a little jealous, it doesn't mean that you can ignore it.
"I think everybody was curious just to see what the Red Sox would do on the day that they got their World Series rings."
Among the curious were the Boston fans, who waited nine decades to see it. Filling the ballpark hours before the first pitch, they braved a 46-degree temperature, and a strong wind kept the new World Series flag flapping stiffly above the Green Monster.
It was 2:05 p.m. -- an hour before the scheduled first pitch -- when the words "World Series Champion Boston Red Sox" were first spoken over the loudspeaker, drawing a huge cheer from the crowd of 33,702.
They cheered the arrival of the World Series trophy (though it's hard to believe anyone hadn't seen it as it makes its victory tour to all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts). They cheered for the injured soldiers and sailors who carried some of the rings onto the field.
They cheered -- sarcastically -- for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who blew a save in the Game 4 of the AL championship series when New York was on the verge of a sweep. The Red Sox won four straight games to advance to the Series and swept the St. Louis Cardinals for their first world championship since 1918.
They cheered for a Green Monster-sized World Series champion banner hung over the famous left-field wall, and the regular-sized one that will fly on the center-field flagpole for this season. Former shortstop Johnny Pesky helped raise it to half-staff along with Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.
"I never dreamed anything like this would ever happen to me," said Pesky, who first joined the team 64 years ago and never saw it win a title. "It's just fun to be with people that really love the game."
The cheers continued for the Boston sports greats -- Bruin Bobby Orr, Celtic Bill Russell and Patriots Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour -- who tied together the city's championship history by throwing out ceremonial first pitches.
Bruschi, who is recovering from a stroke, threw his pitch to Francona. The two have Arizona roots and they became friendly long before they both had medical scares.
"It was probably a little more emotional that I wanted it to be," said Francona, who gave Bruschi a big hug. "He knows I'm pulling for him. I've been pulling for him for a long time. Probably more so now."
- The pregame ceremony delayed the start by 13 minutes.
- Wakefield did not give up a hit until the first batter of the fourth inning.
- The Red Sox are 61-44 in home openers, 52-42 at Fenway Park. It was Boston's first victory in a home opener in four years.
- Gary Sheffield went 2-for-3 for the Yankees after going 1-for-9 in his previous two games.
- Jeter went 0-for-4 to snap his season-opening six-game hitting streak.
- New York's Jason Giambi received mild boos -- fewer than the batboy -- in his first road game since his offseason was tarnished by the steroids scandal.