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For Boston, 1918 a thing of the past
10/28/2004 2:32 AM ET
ST. LOUIS -- In 1918, America was at war abroad; there was a national influenza scare; "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played for the first time at a World Series game and Irving Berlin wrote the first version of "God Bless America."

And the Boston Red Sox were the best team in Major League Baseball.

In 2004, America was at war abroad; there was a national influenza scare; fans sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" at Busch Stadium one last night in October ... and the Boston Red Sox were the best team in baseball.

What happened in between really doesn't matter right now to Red Sox fans.

And now, for those fans who have spent their entire lives constantly reminded about a year most of them never saw, it is time at last to say a final goodbye to 1918.

Now it will become just another year in America's past.

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Strike up Al Jolson's "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody" and take one last look back at 1918 -- never to utter it again in a baseball discussion.

In 1918, the Raggedy Ann doll first appeared, as did Gray's Anatomy. The New York Times began home delivery.

Babe Ruth threw a World Series Game 1 shutout and the Red Sox beat the Cubs in six.

Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition would be repealed in the 1930s, after years of bootlegging, gang violence and the failure of the "noble experiment."

Mary Pickford was "America's Sweetheart," starring in the silent film, "Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley." Helen Keller moved to New York, and her new home became a base for her extensive fundraising tours for the American Foundation for the Blind.

The War Department bought the entire output of Bull Durham tobacco. The American Tobacco Company advertised, "When our boys light up, the Huns will light out."

The federal government took control of the nation's telephone and telegraph systems. Ernestine Schumann-Heink sang, "Danny Boy." Charlie Chaplin starred in "A Dog's Life." A Hershey Bar cost three pennies.

The Standard Time Act was enacted into law in the U.S. It came into existence because of the railroads, and much of the country subsequently ran on railroad time, but local time was a different matter.

A band at Wrigley Field in Chicago began playing the "The Star-Spangled Banner" after the completion of the top of the seventh inning of a World Series game. Ruth, taking his warmup pitches, suddenly stopped what he was doing as fans sang along and his own third baseman, a military man, took off his hat and did the military salute. Eventually it became the national anthem and a baseball tradition.

Berlin, the great songwriter, was drafted into the armed forces -- a bigger newsmaker that year than when Elvis Presley was drafted many years later. While at war, Berlin composed the early version of a song he rejected himself at first: "God Bless America." He didn't think its elevating emotions matched the urgency of the moment, and initially it had these lyrics: "Stand beside her/And guide her/To the right with a light from above/Make her victorious on land and foam..." The song slept in his mind for 20 years.

The first test kitchen in an ad agency was created in the Chicago office of the J. Walter Thompson Company. Enrico Caruso sang "Over There."

The Great War in Europe finally came to an end.

It was an interesting year. It had to be. People couldn't stop talking about it, mostly Red Sox fans. They traded Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 and never won another World Series after that.

Until 2004. Finally. Now it is time to salute 1918, and formally put it in the past -- just another year.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.