October 27 — enuf said
That is what the date is on Friday, and it is the most meaningful sports date in existence for any fan with any connection to the Boston Red Sox.
Yes, the Red Sox won the World Series exactly two years ago when that Renteria grounder landed safely into the glove of Foulke, who handed off to Mientkiewicz before jumping into the arms of Varitek.
To this day, one of the most indelible sports images you’ll ever see is the look of ecstacy on Foulke’s face as he embraced Varitek. His lips were moving and I still have no idea what he was saying, but it is one of the great looks I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. Just sheer amazement. It captured the night, it captured the moment, it captured the culture of the Boston Red Sox taking a 180-degree turn in a simple instant.
In the press box, I didn’t feel all of the raw and jubilant emotions you folks felt at home, or wherever you might have watched the game. I was too locked in on my assignment, trying to write the best story I could, and trying to capture the most historic moment I’ve ever been a part of.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later when it really sunk in for me that the Red Sox had actually won the World Series. But I was there every step of the way, so I can fully appreciate the magnitude of what I witnesses.
Thank God for that collector’s Edition DVD that has the complete games of every ALCS Game against the Yankees and all four games against the Cardinals. There are still things you can go back and watch and almost forget that it happened.
Here are things that jump out to me about the entire run: This is just a running stream of conscience from me, things that jump out. None of this is scripted. My fingers are just moving here as I think.
Thinking it was over when Schilling was shelled in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, and, for all practical purposes, was probably done for the series.
Thinking it was over again in Game 2, when Pedro pitched well against the Who’s Your Daddy chants, but the Red Sox made Jon Lieber look like Bob Gibson, circa 1968.
Thinking it was over again in Game 3 when Arroyo got shelled, as did every other Boston pitcher that took the mound that night.
Thinking it was over again in Game 4 when the Sox were down 4-3 with six outs to play and Mariano Rivera pitching.
But you know what? Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t over. All that was over, it turned out, were Curt Schilling’s two former pals of the Yankees — Mystique and aura.
Foulke turned around the entire season by coming out of the bullpen in the seventh inning and throwing 50 pitches that night. How could Rivera walk Millar? I don’t know, but he did. And we all remember the rest. Roberts stole second, Billy Mueller bashed one right through Rivera and up the middle to tie it. Bedlam at Fenway. Then three innings of tension that wasn’t lifted until Ortiz drove Paul Quantrill’s meatball sub into the Yankees bullpen. Joe Buck had the words to fit the occasion: We’ll see you later tonight.
Indeed, Game 5 was the most tense of all. Pedro was looking good early, and Trot made a tremendous diving catch in the corner to rob a stunned A-Rod. Ortiz pokes an RBI single up the middle for a 2-0 lead against Mussina. Pedro brushed back Matsui with some high, inside heat, setting the tone that the Red Sox were not going to go down easy. But then the Yankees put together their inevitable rally to silence Fenway and seemingly, again, putting an end to the season. Bases loaded, two outs, and who but Jeter smashes a three-run triple into the corner in right. 4-2 Yankees, silence, I tell you, silence at Fenway. Jeter pumps his fist as he gets to third — like we haven’t seen that before. But Nixon again gets some momentum back on Boston’s side by sliding to catch a stinging liner off the bat of Matsui, which would have cleared the bases and made it 7-2 Yankees. intead, it ended the inning.
Flash Gordon, allegedly after throwing up in the bullpen, serves up a homer to Ortiz off the Volvo sign in left. 4-3 in the eighth. Millar walks again. Roberts pinch-runs again. Nixon comes up with a clutch, hit-and-run single to right. First and third, nobody out. Here comes Rivera. Here comes Varitek, who hits a sac fly to tie the game, and the Sox are revived again.
Remember Tony Clark hitting that go-ahead double against Foulke in the ninth? Oh, wait a minute, the ball takes a fateful hop into the stands. Ground rule double. No runs score. The game stays tied for several more hours, but not without some anxiety-ridden battery work between Wakefield and Varitek in the top of the 13th. Yes, Varitek did have three passed balls in one inning, and the Yankees didn’t score.
Ortiz worked that epic at-bat against Loaiza in the 14th, seemingly fouling off about 18 pitches before looping a bloop into center, prompting more magic from Joe Buck, by far the best broadcaster to work the 2004 postseason. "Damon running to the plate, he can keep on running to New York, Game 6, tomorrow night."
And after this game, certainly, a lot of people started feeling like the Sox really were going to be the first team to come back from 3-0. Game 6 was a raw, gross night. But Schilling went out there with the bloody sock and the rest was history. Bellhorn hit a three-run homer off Lieber and A-Rod made his foolish chop play on Arroyo that was overruled. The game ended on a truly nervewracking at-bat between Tony Clark and Foulke in the bottom of the ninth. two on, two outs, and Foulke blew an 88-MPH fastball by Clark to end it and set the stage for a winner-take-all.
In hindsight, what a truly gutty move by Tito (and possibly Theo) to start Derek Lowe in Game 7 on two days rest. I figured it would have been Wakefield, but I think Lowe was a much better idea. And that theory that a sinkerballer is more effective when he’s tired? Lowe proved it in this one, dominating the Yankees like nobody had ever seen him do before. And Johnny Damon, Yankee or no Yankee now, put himself into Sox lore forever with one of the best big-game performances in the history of the club. Two homers, six RBIs, including a grand slam. Do you guys and gals remember how awful Damon was in the first six games of that series? What a dramatic turnaround. Red Sox 10, Yankees 3, On to the World Series.
Being in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium during that celebration was filled with irony. Just one year earlier, I had been in that same clubhouse after a different sort of Game 7, when grown men were crying and David Ortiz was slumped over the couch in utter despair. I’ve never seen a group of baseball players as gratified by an accomplishment as this group was after coming back from 3-0. At that point, you didn’t know if the Sox would play the Cardinals or Astros in the World Series, but you knew they would win.
Again, in hindsight, the Cardinals were a far easier matchup for the Sox than the Astros. Houston had hard throwers like Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Brad Lidge that could have struck some fear into the Boston bats. The Cardinals, without Chris Carpenter, had a bunch of marshmellow throwers. Game 1 was ugly and neither team deserved to win. But Bellhorn clanged that Julian Tavarez pitch off the Pesky Pole in the bottom of the eighth, and any intrigue this series might have provided ended right then.
Schilling did the bloody sock thing again in Game 2, making the Cardinals look silly in the process. Then it was off to St. Louis.
Pedro, making his first World Series start and last appearance for the Red Sox, looked a tad shaky early but received two big breaks. Larry Walker tagged from third and tried to test Manny’s arm in the first, and Manny, who had belted a homer in the top of the inning, nailed him at the plate. And then the inexplicable, unfathomable, baserunning error by Suppan a couple of innings later. Bellhorn fielded the grounder on the edge of the grass at second and basically gave suppan an invitation to score. But Suppan instead fell asleep and Ortiz showed he’s not a stiff on defense, making a perfect throw across the diamond to nail him.From there,Pedro turned back the clock and looked 1999-2000 invincible, blowing through the St. Louis lineup and handing off to Foulke, who finished it off.
That brings us to that date. October 27, 2004. The game ended when it began — Damon led off with a homer. From there, you knew the Cardinals were toast. Lowe, in his Boston finale, was very bit as sharp as Pedro was in his. Trot got greenlighted on 3-0 and roped a two-run double in the third to make it 3-0. Nothing sticks out about this game from that point forward, except for the anticipation which game with the best 27th out in Red Sox history.
So Friday is your day, Red Sox fans. Enjoy it, Remember two years ago. Remember everything about it. Nights like that are why you watch sports to begin with.