In the world of professional sports franchises, perhaps no team embodies the term ‘cult brand’ better than the Boston Red Sox, a baseball team with over a hundred year history of spectacular successes and failures, as well as a fanatically devoted fan base.
The Red Sox were founded as the Boston Red Stockings in 1901, as one of the eight founding teams of the new American league. Boston’s early history was written in large part by pitching legend Cy Young, who during the team’s first eight years of existence won 192 games for the team, and led them to American League pennants in 1903 and 1904, the latter coming on the last day of the season against the New York Highlanders, in a start to perhaps the greatest rivalry in the history of professional sports (the Highlanders later became the New York Yankees).
In 1908 the Red Stockings became the Red Sox, and in 1912 the team moved to a new stadium, the now legendary Fenway Park, and over the next seven years won four world championships, led by young pitcher Babe Ruth, who threw 29 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play.
Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919 for $100,000 plus the promise of a $300,000 loan. Thus began what has come to be known as ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, as the Red Sox failed to win a World Series championship for 86 years following Ruth’s sale to the Yankees, while Ruth led the New York team to the first several of its 27 world titles.
The ‘curse’ was finally broken in 2004 when the Red Sox came back from a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series against the rival Yankees to with the pennant, and then swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the championship. The Red Sox also then won the World Series in 2007.
Despite the 86 year drought between championships, the Red Sox were generally a very good team over that time, with many legendary, hall of fame players, including Lefty Grove, Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, Carl Yastremski, among others.
The Red Sox cult brand status is evidenced by the extraordinary attendance at its games. They have sold out every game at Fenway Park since May of 2003 (a major league record for consecutive sellouts), and they are usually at the top of the league in average road attendance as well.
Their cult following is generally referred to as ‘Red Sox Nation’, and has been described as the most fanatical following of any major sports team. Their love of the Red Sox is matched only by the hatred of them from fans of the rival New York Yankees and other fans across the country, many of whom consider fans of both the Red Sox and Yankees to be insufferable.