Thursday, October 21, 2004

American League Championship Series - Game 7

Red Sox 10, Yankees 3
Red Sox win, 4-3

Boston Red Sox, 2004 American League Champions

A friend of mine from Seattle e-mailed me at about 12:30 last night to congratulate me. My response to him (sent on my Blackberry in the midst of watching the Sox celebrate) was that this was the 4th-happiest day of my life after my wedding day and the days my 2 daughters were born. And that I was willing and hoping to knock it down one notch in a week or so.

As Ruben Sierra's groundball settled first into Pokey Reese's glove and from there into Doug Mientkiewicz', every memory of Red Sox tragedy, every wasted opportunity, every held relay throw or mental error, or managerial blunder, every ghost, and every disappointment washed away. I fell to the floor of my living room and pounded the carpet with both fists, crying, laughing, repeating, "They did it. They did it. They did it."

In the buildup to Game 7, I knew that a Sox win would produce euphoria in the moments after the game, and it did. I soaked up all the post-game celebrations, reveling in the catharsis wrought by this self-proclaimed band of idiots. What I didn't expect, and have welcomed, was the flashback euphoria. I was driving to work this morning, and - from nowhere - my eyes watered and I tore off an involuntary fist pump. It was an adrenaline aftershock of sorts. It's happened 3 or 4 times since.

Forgive me if this post is a jumble of unconnected thoughts - I simply have not completely processed the entirety of this thing. The Red Sox were 1 single inning away from losing this series, 4-0, and the Yankees had Mariano Rivera on the mound with nobody on base. Consider for a moment the "nevers" that the Sox overcame in this series alone: New York had never lost consecutive extra-inning postseason games; Rivera had never blown consecutive postseason saves; a team trailing 3-0 in a best-of-7 series had never extended the series to 7 games, let alone won it; the Yankees had never lost Game 7 of an ALCS; the Sox had never beaten the Yankees in an elimination game. Add to that the well-documented and quasi-tragic history of the Boston Red Sox. Mix in Curt Schilling's injury and Pedro Martinez' not-quite-dominance, and a 19-8 Yankee thrashing in Game 3. Stir in for good measure the fact that Johnny Damon started the series 3-for-29 and that Manny Ramirez finished the series with 0 RBI. I mean, c'mon, you couldn't make this up. They won. They did it.

From this day forward, the Sox will be known as the team that pulled off the greatest comeback in the history of sports, and the Yankees will be known as the team that committed the greatest chokejob in the history of sports. And even though that's wildly unfair to the Yankees - they didn't choke, the Sox scratched and clawed and fought and won - I won't correct anyone who says they did. They are well and truly vanquished. You can't possibly imagine how good it feels to type that and to know that.

So here's to the 2004 American League Champion Boston Red Sox. And in my best text version of the 'One Shining Moment' signoff, here are a few of the things I'll always remember about this series:
  • Curt Schilling pitching Game 6 on one leg, with blood pouring through his sock, and shutting the Yankees down for 7 innings
  • Dave Roberts stealing 2nd base in Game 4, and scoring on Bill Mueller's single to tie the game. The baseball version of a cardiac crash cart.
  • Doug Mientkiewicz' otherworldly scoop on Mueller's short-armed throw to start the 8th inning last night. Even up 9-3, a leadoff error would have probably sent me into arrest.
  • David Ortiz. David Ortiz. David Ortiz.
  • The bad Johnny Damon morphing into the good Johnny Damon in the span of 3 at-bats in Game 7 - and Ortiz claiming post-game that it was because he told Damon's fiancee to sleep in a separate room.
  • Derek Lowe, in a post-game interview, pointing to the Yankee Stadium pitcher's mound and noting that Tim Wakefield was standing there alone, soaking up the good feelings and erasing the memories last year's gut-punch. I simply lost it at that point.
  • Keith Foulke getting 15 outs in three games in about 48 hours, giving his team everything left in his arm.
  • Manny Ramirez smiling through it all.
  • Terry Francona making the right move time after time after time - and I'll give him a pass on bringing Pedro in last night.
  • Alex Rodriguez' bush-league karate chop on Bronson Arroyo in Game 6. Karma's a bitch, ain't it.
  • Derek Jeter being the only Yankee with any heart in Game 7. Say what you want about that guy - and I've said it all - he is one hell of a competitor. And his teammates went out like so many whimpering puppies, tails between their legs from the first inning on.
  • Wearing a bald spot in my living room carpet from pacing back and forth in the final innings of Game 6.
  • My favorite aunt (a Boston resident) emailing me after each of the final 3 games - at first worried, then cautiously optimistic, then ecstatic. My last email to her: "Believe, Jan. Believe"
  • Mark Bellhorn, not once but twice, hitting homeruns immediately after I told my wife that he'd been worthless in the postseason.

The Sox beat the Yankees. Damn.

But here's the thing: the Sox aren't done yet. They will face a worthy adversary in the World Series, and they will overlook Houston or St. Louis at their peril. Which is to say, they won't overlook them. I'll always have Game 7, but it'll mean something less if the Sox don't close the deal next week.

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