Boston's bearded band of brothers will go against the burgeoning talents of a remarkable St. Louis Cardinals rookie class in the best-of-seven World Series beginning on Wednesday at the Red Sox home of Fenway Park.
The two best teams in Major League Baseball, representing two of the most rabid fan bases in the sport, renew their rivalry in a fitting championship climax.
American League champions Boston and National League winning St. Louis tied for most wins this season with 97 and led their respective leagues in runs scored.
"They've got a fantastic team," Boston manager John Farrell said. "And a lot of young power arms that will walk to that mound."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the Red Sox reminded him of his own club in critical ways.
"They're about doing the little things right - about family, about considering each other and thinking about the team," Matheny said. "Those are the sorts of things that ring real true with us."
They last met in the 2004 Fall Classic with the Red Sox ending an 86-year World Series title drought with a four-game sweep of the Cardinals, who had beaten them in seven games in their other two championship showdowns of 1946 and 1967.
Only one player on each side - slugger David "Big Papi" Ortiz of the Red Sox and premier catcher Yadier Molina of the Cardinals - carry over from the 2004 teams.
Power-hitting Ortiz and Mike Napoli helped carry the Red Sox past the Detroit Tigers, while extraordinary 22-year-old rookie pitcher Michael Wacha shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers twice for St. Louis, who like Boston won their pennant in six games.
Roaring crowds of red-clad fans packing each home park should be treated to a highly competitive series.
Both clubs have strong starting rotations with Boston featuring Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, while the Cardinals counter with a group led by Adam Wainwright and whiz kid Wacha.
St. Louis might have advantage at the top of the rotation, with Wacha having allowed just nine hits and one run over his last 29 2/3 innings, but the resourceful Red Sox managed to get through the fearsome troika of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez in eliminating the Tigers.
The bullpens of both teams have been formidable with Boston thriving with the late-game efficiency of closer Koji Uehara and set-up men Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow.
Uehara, named the American League Championship Series most valuable player, pitched six scoreless innings in that series, notching one win and three saves. An uncanny strike thrower with a devastating, diving splitter, Uehara has not walked a batter since early August.
The Cardinals bullpen is loaded with hard-throwing rookies with Trevor Rosenthal serving as the closer, touching 100 mph (162 kph) with his fastball, aided by fellow first-year players in Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist.
Boston's attack may be more explosive as demonstrated by the grand slam home runs blasted by Ortiz and Shane Victorino that swung games their way against Detroit, and the homer hit by Napoli that provided the only run in another of their wins.
But St. Louis boasts a premier postseason hitter of their own in Carlos Beltran, making his first World Series appearance of his 17-year career, and help could be on the way with the expected return of Allen Craig.
Craig drove in 97 runs and batted an incredible .454 with runners in scoring position this season before being sidelined in early September by a foot injury but appears ready to serve as designated hitter.
The designated hitter spot is used only in games hosted in the American League park. The lack of the DH role when the series shifts to St. Louis for the middle three games will rob the Red Sox of one of their more productive bats.
Ortiz, Boston's regular DH, is only fit to play first base, the position played by Napoli.
Regardless of the outcome, the World Series winner will be celebrated for bouncing back from disappointment in 2012.
The Red Sox went from worst to first after a dysfunctional 69-93 season, achieving that feat in unusual fashion by dumping high-priced players and replacing them with veterans who changed the chemistry of the clubhouse.
The additions of Napoli, Victorino and Jonny Gomes not only helped on the diamond but fostered team spirit when they took to growing long beards that became a trademark of the club.
The transformation of more than half the club did not stop on the field, as Boston traded with Toronto to acquire their manager Farrell, the former Red Sox pitching coach who brought stability and guided starters Lester and Buchholz to a return to form.
St. Louis looked poised to return to the World Series last season following a rousing seven-game triumph over Texas in 2011 before squandering a 3-1 lead over San Francisco in the NLCS.
Then they lost top starting pitcher Chris Carpenter to injury in spring training.
Riding to the rescue were a posse of rookie pitchers led by Wacha, who have made a strength out of a pitching staff that could have headed in the wrong direction.
Louis Cardinals rookie class in the best-of-seven World Series beginning on Wednesday at the Red Sox home of Fenway Park.
Game One: Wednesday, Oct 23 - St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox (01:07 BST/8:07 p.m. ET)
Game Two: Thursday, Oct 24 - St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox (01:07 BST/8:07 p.m. ET)
Game Three: Saturday, Oct 26 - Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals (01:07 BST/8:07 p.m. ET)
Game Four: Sunday, Oct 27 - Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals (01:15 BST/8:15 p.m. ET)
Game Five (if needed): Monday, Oct 28 - Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals (01:07 BST/8:07 p.m. ET)
Game Six (if needed): Wednesday, Oct 30 - St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox (01:07 BST/8:07 p.m. ET)
Game Seven (if needed): Thursday, Oct 31 - St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox (01:07 BST/8:07 p.m. ET)
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Manager: Mike Matheny
Stadium: Busch Stadium
World Series titles: 11 (1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011)
2013 Regular season record: 97-65
Most home runs: Carlos Beltran (24)
Most wins by a pitcher: Adam Wainwright (19)
How they qualified for the World Series: Won National League Central Division; beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 in the division series; beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in the NL championship
* The Cardinals are one of Major League Baseball's oldest and most successful teams. They have won the World Series 11 times, the most by any team in the National League, and second overall to the New York Yankees (27).
* Professional baseball began in St Louis in 1875. The team was originally known as the Browns Stockings, the Browns and the Perfectos before adopting the name of the Cardinals in 1900.
* After years of struggling, the Cardinals broke through to win their first World Series in 1926, their second in 1931, them a third in 1934, with a team that became know as the Gashouse Gang.
* Led by their star hitter Stan Musial, who set a string of batting records and was later elected to the Hall of Fame, they won three more World Series titles in the 1940s.
* They added two more titles in the 1960s and another in 1982 before enduring a 24-year wait.
* The last decade has been another golden era and this year marks their fourth appearance in the World Series in 10 seasons.
BOSTON RED SOX
Manager: John Farrell
Stadium: Fenway Park
World Series titles: 7 (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007)
2013 regular season record: 97-65
Most home runs: David Ortiz (30)
Most wins by a pitcher: Jon Lester (15)
How they qualified for the World Series: Won American League East Division; beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in the divisional series; beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 in the AL championship
* The Boston Red Sox were a founding member of the American League in 1901 and won the inaugural World Series in 1903.
* Originally known as the Red Stockings, they changed their name to the Red Sox in 1908.
* They have been based at Fenway Park since 1912, making it the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball.
* The Red Sox won the World Series four times between 1912 and 1918 before entering one of the longest droughts in the sport, which became known as the Curse of the Bambino, after they traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.
* While the Yankees, their greatest rivals, went on an unprecedented run of success, winning the World Series a record 27 times between 1923 and 2009, the Red Sox had to wait 86 years for their next title.
* They broke the drought in 2004, coming from 3-0 behind to beat the Yankees in the best-of-seven American League championship, then sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series.
* The Red Sox won another World Series in 2007, their seventh overall, to be tied for fourth on the all-time list, before some lean years.
* In 2012, the Red Sox finished bottom of the AL East division with a record of 69 wins and 93 losses, their worst season since 1965, when they lost 100 games.
IT CURRENTLY STANDS AT CARDS 2, SOX 1
Here is a look back at their previous World Series meetings.
1946 (Cardinals 4, Red Sox 3)
Appearing in their first World Series since 1918, the Red Sox won the opening game 3-2 when Rudy York his a 10th inning home run. York also homered in Game Three as Boston won three of the first five games. Needing to the last two games, the Cardinals tied the series at 3-3 by taking Game Six, then won the decider when outfielder Enos Slaughter ran home from first base to score the winner in the bottom of the eighth in a play that became known as the Mad Dash.
1967 (Cardinals 4, Red Sox 3)
The Cardinals were appearing in the World Series for the second time in four season after winning the title in 1964 while the Red Sox were back in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1946. The Cardinals, led by future Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda and Bob Gibson, won three for the first four games before Boston's "Impossible Dream" team fought back to win the next two and force a Game Seven. The Cardinals won the decider 7-2 with Gibson pitching his third complete game of the series and also blasting a home run.
2004 (Red Sox 4, Cardinals 0)
The Red Sox had gone 86 years since claiming their last World Series and their hopes of ending the drought seemed a lost cause when they trailed the New York Yankees 3-0 in the American League championship. But against all odds, they came back to beat the Yankees 4-3 and join the Cardinals in the Fall Classic. Unlike their two previous meetings, the Red Sox dominated from the outset, winning the first two games at Fenway Park and completing a sweep by winning both games on the road to end the so-called "Curse of the Bambino."