The Red Sox had not played a Series Game 6 since that infamous night at New York's Shea Stadium in 1986, when Bill Buckner allowed Mookie Wilson's 10th-inning roller to get through his legs. And there had not been one at Fenway since Fisk's 12th-inning home run off the foul pole atop the Green Monster.
Following consecutive late-season skids, the Red Sox parted with Francona at the end of the 2011 season and reports emerged of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games.
Valentine took over as manager, injuries caused Boston to use a club-record 56 players, and the Red Sox skidded to a 69-93 record, their poorest since 1965.
John Farrell, Boston's pitching coach from 2007-10, was hired after a pair of seasons as Toronto's manager.
A roster turnover began in August 2012 when Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and their big-money contracts were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that saved Boston just more than $261.66 million through 2018. The Red Sox restocked during the offseason by signing seven major league free agents for contracts of three years or fewer at a total of $100.45 million: Victorino, Napoli, Gomes, Drew, Uehara, Ryan Dempster and Ross.
After losing closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey to injuries early in the season, the Red Sox remained relatively healthy: Seventeen players wound up on the DL, down from 27. They finished 97-65 — matching St. Louis for the best record in the major leagues — and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They also became the first team since the 2005 Cardinals to navigate the season without losing more than three in a row.
After falling behind 2-1 in the Series, the Red Sox ended with three straight wins.
NOTES: Boston also won the Series at Fenway Park in 1912. The Red Sox won the first World Series in 1903 at the Huntington Avenue Grounds and in 1916 at Braves Field. ... Catfish Hunter and Jimmy Key each won Series clinchers for two clubs, as a starter and reliever. ... Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP, hit .158 (3 for 19) with no RBIs.