October 28, 2004 12:57 PM PDT

Red Sox series win resounds across Web

After 86 years of frustrating defeats, baseball fans celebrated the first World Series Championship for the Boston Red Sox since 1918 on Thursday, generating increased Web traffic and inspiring a glut of online tributes.

In a carnival of activity with roots that predate the Internet by decades, the Web was buzzing with traffic to sports and World Series-related sites, as fans clamored to soak in the historic championship run. With a victory in Wednesday night's Game 4, the Red Sox ended the second longest World Series drought for any current Major League Baseball franchise. Only the Chicago Cubs, who last won the series in 1908, have waited longer to claim the sport's biggest prize.

According to officials at the league's MLB.com site, which also manages Web operations of the official Cardinals and Red Sox sites, traffic at all three venues was extremely heavy overnight. The company did not have specific page view numbers but said that viewings easily beat its expectations for the event.

In September, MLB.com announced that it had set a new record for visitors to its site with 730 million visitors year-to-date, compared to 650 million visitors for the full year 2003.

The Web sites of the largest newspapers in Boston and St. Louis predictably created some of the largest volumes of series-related content. Boston.com, the home page for the Boston Globe, featured a sizable multimedia package offering everything from pictures of the game and the celebration that followed the victory, to video interviews of the players and multiple message boards for fans looking to share their feelings. The Globe's rival, the Boston Herald, offered a similar blend of content, including pictures of the paper's front page which simply stated "Amen!"

On the flip side, the Web site for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch mourned the Cardinals' inability to win a game in the best-of-seven series or to take the lead in a single game. Even the New York Times, which chronicles the play of the New York Yankees, the Sox's archrival, featured a story on Theo Epstein, the Boston team's wunderkind general manager, on its site throughout the morning.

Among the fan-bred sites garnering large amounts of World Series traffic was a Red Sox-related one that has garnered significant media attention over the course of the 2004 season, the Sons of Sam Horn. Named for a former Sox player, the site became a lightning rod for fan attention last winter when Boston was working to acquire ace pitcher Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Schilling began posting notes about his impending trade on the site's message boards.

Eric Christensen, who founded the site in 2000, said that some 312,000 visitors crammed its pages from the time Game 4 of the World Series started Wednesday night until 3 a.m. PT Thursday. Even more fans, some 324,000, of them, hit the Web page in the 24 hours after the Sox defeated the Yankees in the American League Championship Series last week. By comparison, Sons of Sam Horn averages roughly 172,000 page views per day.

For Christensen, who started the site for entertainment purposes but is rapidly shifting it into a full-time business venture, 2004 will be remain a memorable season for a number of reasons.

"It's been pretty crazy these last few weeks, and hopefully this victory will quell the fans' anxiety for the next several generations," he said. "Watching the site develop this year has been amazing. We don't advertise anywhere, but the word-of-mouth has been great. I never expected the site to become a real business."

Officials for at least one sports information site argued that high-profile events such as the World Series actually serve to sap page views from its Web site. Larry Wahl, a spokesman for CBS Sportsline.com, didn't have traffic numbers available from last night, but said that hits often wane when games are nationally televised.

"You'd think that such an event would be a big driver, but that's not necessarily the case," Wahl said. "Geographically displaced fans that might usually turn to the Web for news can see the game on TV, so sometimes a day like Super Bowl Sunday is actually a very slow day for us."

A number of Boston-based businesses are using the Sox' win to broaden their online efforts. In one contest, Boston-area chain Brigham's Ice Cream is turning to the Web to help rename its "Reverse The Curse" flavor, named for the Red Sox' much-publicized championship blight. The company is encouraging fans to visit its Web site to help vote in a new moniker for the ice cream since the famous curse has been voided. Among the possible names for the flavor, which is a combination of vanilla ice cream and chocolate-covered peanuts, are "Curse Reversed" and "Fenway Faithful," a nod to the Sox's fans.

Another Boston retailer, department store chain Filene's, is trying to cash in on demand for Sox memorabilia with a Waterford Crystal World Series Championship baseball, which it is selling via its Web site for $155 each. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the item will go toward the Jimmy Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Red Sox's official team charity. The retailer also announced plans to sell a full-size replica of the World Series Championship trophy made by Waterford that will cost $30,000.

 

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