BOSTON – Albert Pujols delighted in denting the Green Monster, and Keith Foulke kidded about the wall messing with his mind. For a day at least, the St. Louis Cardinals (search) and Boston Red Sox (search) were just happy to be at Fenway Park (search). Roger Clemens, the New York Yankees and the other obstacles were out of the way — up next, the 100th World Series. They'll turn serious starting Saturday night in Game 1, with Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield facing Woody Williams.
"I think I appreciate where we are," Boston manager Terry Francona said Friday. "But as far as that goes, that's it. The task at hand is all that's on our mind, because the task isn't over. When it's over, we can sit back and think about a lot of things, and I'm sure that will bring a smile to my face."
The Series opens in the city where it all began back in 1903, with Cy Young (search) throwing the first pitch at Huntington Avenue Grounds.
That was only nine years before Fenway Park opened. A big sign outside the stadium Friday proclaimed it "America's Most Beloved Ballpark" and it's certainly a popular place to visit — every Red Sox home game this year was a sellout.
And, it's quirky.
There's the 37-foot-high Green Monster (search) looming beyond left field, just 310 feet from home plate down the line. Across the way, there's Pesky's Pole in right, 302 feet from home, with a tricky fence that's only 3-to-5 feet high.
"It's a neat environment. Fans very close to the ballfield," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "A lot of passion, a lot of knowledge of the game."
Boston fans certainly know the history, too.
The Red Sox are making their first Series appearance since 1986 and trying to win their first title since 1918. They're facing a team that beat them in seven games in both 1967 and 1946.
Now that they've pulverized those pinstriped Yankees, becoming the first major league team to win four in a row in the postseason after losing the first three games, the Red Sox will try to roll over a Cardinals' team that won 105 games, the most in the majors.
Last year, the Red Sox's grounds crew painted the Series logo on the field before the seventh game of the AL championship series in New York, only to have the Yankees rally from a four-run deficit to win on Aaron Boone's 11th-inning homer off Wakefield.
"No premature logos, I can assure you," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Boston went ahead early in Game 7 and beat New York 10-3. After celebrating in front of Yankee Stadium's monuments on Wednesday night, the Red Sox took Thursday off, then worked out at midday Friday in empty Fenway on a cool and cloudy day.
The logo was on the field this time, for real.
There figures to be a boisterous crowd for the opener, with dry weather forecast and the temperature in the low 40s.
"This is all bonus time," said Kevin Millar, who will play first base for the Red Sox in Boston but make way for ALCS MVP David Ortiz when the designated hitter comes out of the lineup at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis, which beat Houston 5-2 in Game 7 Thursday night to return to the World Series for the first time since 1987, didn't arrive until early evening for its workout.
Reggie Sanders and the other St. Louis outfielders spent a lot of time practicing how to field balls hit off the high wall. Manny Ramirez and the other Boston boppers figure to take aim in that direction.
"The way these guys are hitting in the ballpark, it's amazing how far they hit the ball over that wall," Williams said. "Hopefully, the balls will bounce off the wall and our guys will make a good play and keep them to a single."
Outside the park, fans dressed in Boston hats and jerseys walked around, looking for a way to get into the games.
How prized are tickets?
On eBay, $5,100 was bid for four bleacher seats for the opener. Want a better view? Someone bid $7,700 for four box seats.
"I want to see us win one time, because it's been a long time coming," said 85-year-old Johnny Pesky, a former Red Sox star who now is a special assignment instructor with the team. "I can die happy then."
Pesky was blamed by some for Boston's Game 7 loss to the Cardinals in '46, with some saying he held the relay too long on Harry Walker's double, allowing Enos Slaughter to score in his mad dash from first.
Boston didn't make it back to the World Series until 1967, when it faced the Cardinals yet again, and Bob Gibson pitched a three-hitter on three days' rest to beat Jim Lonborg.
St. Louis, which last won the Series in 1982, features a powerful lineup that includes NLCS MVP Pujols and Scott Rolen. The Cardinals' bashers, whose .278 batting average led the National League, will have to deal with Wakefield's often-baffling floater before Curt Schilling, his ailing ankle held together by sutures, throws harder stuff at them in Game 2.
Foulke, the Boston closer, got a day off in the Game 7 romp and is rested after a busy ALCS.
St. Louis isn't ready to pick its Game 2 starter.
"Woody tomorrow, TBD, TBA," La Russa said. "We still have some decisions to make."