TWO WEEKS after the Red Sox won the World Series, senior writer Tom Verducci traveled to Boston to look at their mail. He was fascinated by the unique bond between the team and its fans--"I hadn't experienced anything like it in 22 years of covering sports," Verducci says--and he thought he'd see how the faithful were handling October happiness. In his mind's eye Verducci envisioned perhaps a half-dozen bulging mailbags. But in a room on the second floor of Fenway Park he found a small mountain range of envelopes addressed to the Sox. There were also, he was told, more than 10,000 e-mails.
Verducci spent an entire day and much of a night reading not just thank-yous and congratulations but tales of lives transformed by the Sox' postseason triumphs. One daughter wrote about her dying father's battling to hang on to see the world championship that had been denied him all his 79 years. When he reached the woman by phone, and she described how the team had given the family strength and brought them closer together, Verducci was moved to tears. "If you're looking for something good in sports, this was it," he says.
WHEN OUR photo editors commissioned Robert Silvers to create this year's Sportsmen of the Year cover, they were enlisting not just an innovative artist but--unbeknownst to them--a Plymouth, Mass., native and MIT graduate who is a longtime Red Sox fan. "Believe me," says Silvers, "when I got the call from SI, it was not lost on me that this was my team."
It was at MIT in 1995 that Silvers developed the patented photomosaic technique that he has employed to create variations on the Mona Lisa and van Gogh's Starry Nightas well as covers for Playboy, Newsweek and LIFE. (To see more of his work, visit photomosaic.com.)
Silvers, 36, who lives in Marshfield, Mass., used thousands of photos supplied by SI to create our Sportsmen cover. While the process is computer-aided, he selects from as many as 30 possible pictures for each of the 2,000 tiles, searching for the right color, content and, in the case of the outer ring of the Red Sox logo, "images that enhanced the sense of curvature."
He says he enjoyed wallowing in the broken Curse one more time. "That I could in some small way be a part of the new era," he says, "made this assignment extra special."
SI REPORTER Chris Mannix, 24, a Quincy native and former Boston Celtics ball boy, is also a Red Sox fan, but until he charted the team's highs and lows (page 55), he didn't know just how bad the Sox were after winning five World Series in the early 1900s. "They had three 100-loss seasons in a row in the 1920s," says Mannix. "They were just awful. I've complained a lot about their shortcomings, but I only remember back to the 1986 World Series and Bill Buckner. I have a whole new respect for Red Sox fans in the 80-to-90 age bracket."