How a team with an 86-year World Series drought has won 9 titles

Analyzing the Red Sox streaky and unorthodox playoff history
Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox were founded in 1901 (originally the Boston Americans) and have played a total of 123 seasons since. Per Baseball Reference, they have made the playoffs in 25/123 seasons (20.3%), made the World Series in 13 seasons (10.6%), and won the World Series in nine seasons (7.3%).

Diving deeper, the Red Sox won their nine World Series within two relatively short time periods: five titles between 1903-1918 and four titles between 2004-2018.

Winning five titles in 16 seasons and four titles in 15 seasons is remarkable. But perhaps even more surprising is their infamous 86-year long World Series drought between 1919-2003, also known as the Curse of the Bambino. The Red Sox are tied with the Athletics for the third most World Series titles in baseball history, and somehow went 86 years without a title.

How close were the Red Sox to breaking the Curse of the Bambino before 2004?

How close were they to breaking the curse? Very, very close. Not only did the Sox make it to four World Series within the 86-year drought, but each of the World Series went to a Game 7. Per Baseball Reference, they lost to the Cardinals in 1946 and 1967, the Reds in 1975, and the Mets in 1986.

But the tragic story of the Red Sox drought doesn't stop there. In the 1975 and 1986 Game 7s, the Red Sox were winning 3-0 going into the sixth inning. But they gave up four runs to the Reds in the remaining four innings and lost 4-3 and gave up eight runs to the Mets and lost 8-5. Truly crushing, especially for the older Sox fans who remember watching this (and if you are one of them, I send my heartfelt condolences).

Fortunately, the Red Sox are far past the curse and have won the most titles since 2000 in all of baseball, with 4. Since 2003, they have made it to the playoffs in 11 out of 21 seasons (52.4%) and have the fourth most playoff wins among all teams, per StatMuse.

But their recent success only adds evidence to their incredibly unorthodox playoff and World Series history. Third most titles in baseball history despite the third longest World Series drought. Two eerily similar game seven collapses to prolong the drought. Five titles in 16 seasons and four titles in 15 seasons in two different centuries. The list goes on.

I think the takeaway is that your happiness as a Red Sox fan — and, to an extent, as a person — is largely dependent on the era in which you watched this rollercoaster of a baseball team.