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John Henry: “The Obligation”

By: Tarrian Rodgers

There are well known certainties in life death, taxes and Boston being title town. When we talk about successful sports towns it doesn’t get better than Boston. In Bostonian sports history their fans have been rewarded with a total of 50 sports championships. So if you’re a team in Boston winning championships isn’t just expected its obligated and those words came straight from Boston Red Sox owner John Henry himself.

"Win a World Series? That's not my choice, it's my role, it's my obligation to New England," Mr. Henry said. "That's what I've been charged with. When you bid on the Red Sox, the challenge you're undertaking is nothing short of winning the World Series." And winning World Series is just what Boston has done. The Red Sox have won four World Series titles in a span of 15 seasons 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018.

For many years in Boston’s title claim the one chink in that armor seemed like it was the Red Sox. If you are the superstitious type than you would understand how real the “Curse of the Bambino” was. When a ball rolls under Bill Buckner’s legs it doesn’t get more cursed than that. I don’t own any special socks or a lucky rabbit’s foot however, it takes a special folk hero to get a team out of an 86-year World Series drought. Mr. Henry's determination helped reinforce the Red Sox’s success helping them remain a perennial contender, with the goal of playing meaningful games in October. In 2018, the Red Sox won 108 regular season games, breaking the club record of 105 set in 1912, the year Fenway Park opened. And with 11 more victories in the postseason, 2018 marked the winningest season in Red Sox history.

Mr. Henry denies any and all credit for the team’s turnaround. The true owners, he says, are “Red Sox Nation.” By any measure, the Red Sox have succeeded with a flawless winning percentage of .560 which ranks second in the major leagues since the start of the 2002 season, and the Sox have advanced to the postseason 10 times in that span. That includes what many regard as the most improbable comeback in professional sports, when the Red Sox lost the first three games of the American League Championship Series in 2004 to the New York Yankees, then won the next four games, becoming the first major league team ever to win a series after trailing, three games to none.

Besides winning on the field Mr. Henry and his partners made it their obligation to win off of it as well. As he founded and funded the Red Sox Foundation, which has become the largest and one of the fastest-growing team charities in Major League Baseball. It at the time was one of the newer charities in all of the major leagues, it has won numerous awards for its imaginative outreach and impact, including the 2009 national award for "Best Sports Charity" from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Sports Philanthropy Project.

In 2010 it was recognized by Major League Baseball with the inaugural "Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence" for the Red Sox Scholars program. Since its creation in 2002, the Red Sox Foundation has donated to more than 1,780 organizations, helped 288 Boston Public School students with college scholarships through the Red Sox Scholars program, supported hundreds of youth baseball programs in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine with its RBI and Little League programming, and helped over 21,000 veterans and their families suffering from the "invisible wounds of war" with treatment and care at the Home Base Program. And through a longstanding and unique partnership that dates back to 1947, the Red Sox have helped the Jimmy Fund raise more than $146 million for cancer treatment and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The operation of the club always has been, and will continue to be, a collaborative effort. Mr. Henry said it best "Perhaps not every fan can identify with me, but I think I can identify with most of them because I've been a passionate baseball fan all my life. I know that even the best baseball team cannot win every night, but I want to make sure our fans win every night.” Winning in the sport and outside the sport has become a part of the Bostonian allure it’s not a prediction at this point but more of an “obligation.”

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