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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Boston Red Sox vs St. Louis Cardinals World Series Rematch From 2004, How I Remember The Red Soxs Historic Run To Its First Title In 86 Years!


                                 
                                                                               Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images


     In 2003 The Boston Red Sox lost in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) against hated rival New York Yankees when Aaron Boone (or "Aaron F'in Boone" as Red Sox fans knew him as) hit a series winning walk-off home run (HR) off of Tim Wakefield to send the Yankees to the World Series. Boston had an early 4-0 lead after four innings. In the 8th inning, Boston squandered a 5-2 lead as New York scored three runs to tie the game up at 5-5. Pedro Martinez had been brilliant all night up to the point, but began to show signs of fatigue. Then General Manager (GM) Grady Little made what ended up being a costly decision, one that is still talked about till this day, to keep Martinez in the game. This move is more or less what inspired a coaching change at the end of the season, as the Red Sox would replace Little with Terry Francona. Not even being a fan of the Red Sox, I was completely ticked off that they blew their lead because I wanted to see history be made. Instead, "The Curse of the Bambino" came into effect once again as Boston would still have 1918 (the last time the Red Sox had won a World Series) haunting them in their dreams.


     The 2004 ALCS saw a rematch between the Red Sox and Yankees, only this time it appeared that the Red Sox would not even make a series out of it this time around. New York won the first three games to take a commanding 3 games to 0 lead in the ALCS. I (as well as many others) thought, "well looks like the curse will live on". Yankees Closer, Mariano Rivera, who was practically money throughout his entire career, came into relief in the 8th inning in hopes to effectively shutdown any rally attempt by the Red Sox. Rivera escaped the 8th unscathed and the Red Sox were down to their final three outs. Rivera would give up a hit to Kevin Millar in the Bottom of the 9th, and the Red Sox would bring in Dave Roberts to pinch run in what is arguably looked at the turning point of the whole series! Roberts stole second on Rivera's first pitch to the next batter to put himself into scoring position. Bill Mueller would single off of Rivera, allowing Roberts to score and tie the game at 4-4. Two innings later, David Ortiz would hit a walk off HR for a 6-4 Red Sox victory and kept Boston's hopes alive for another night. Much of the nation still figured the series was already over and that the Yankees would wrap things up, if not in Game 5, then definitely by Game 6. Game 5 displayed a little "deja vu". David Ortiz would once again come up with the game winning hit, and Boston would survive and force the series back to New York with the Yankees up 3 games to 2.

     Back in New York, the Yankees looked to put any talk of a Boston comeback to rest. The storyline heading into Game 6 was Curt Schilling pitching with an injured ankle. Despite the injury, in which Schilling's ankle would actually begin to bleed through his socks, still managed to produce a solid pitching performance going seven innings strong. Boston entered the 8th inning with a 4-1 lead. The Yankees had cut the lead in half in the bottom half of the inning, and momentarily appeared to bring themselves within one run after a ground ball from Alex Rodriguez, in which he slapped the ball out of Boston's pitcher Bronson Arroyo's hands. Red Sox manager Francona would argue that Rodriguez interfered on the play, and the umpires would call Rodriguez out and order Derek Jeter back to 1st Base. The Red Sox would hold down the fort and finish the inning without allowing any further damage, and would hold on in the 9th to force a decisive Game 7 with a chance at becoming the first team in Major League Baseball history to win a series after being down 3-0! Schilling's ankle and Rodriguez's slap were talked about from the sports media all the way down to my fellow high school peers and teachers! Game 7 had so many implications, ranging from a berth in the World Series, to breaking a curse, and history being made all rolled into one!

  With a Game 7 to be played, the Yankees knew they had their backs against the wall but hoped that home field advantage would give them the edge they needed. Boston opened up the scoring in Game 7 when series hero and MVP David Ortiz, hit a 2 run HR in the 1st. Johnny Damon would hit a Grand Slam in the 2nd and expand the lead to 6-0! I remember being in complete awe and satisfied with the outcome thus far by running up and down the hall in excitement! Entering the Bottom of the 7th with the Red Sox up 8-1, Francona called in Pedro Martinez in for relief. Yankees fans were hoping a repeat of last year in which Martinez blew a three run lead that allowed New York to comeback and win. Things got off to a shaky start for Martinez, giving up two runs to cut the lead to five and a chorus of "Who's Your Daddy" chants by Yankees fans began to erupt ( Martinez awkwardly referred to the Yankees as "My Daddy" in a press conference during the ALCS). I got anxious and began thinking about the curse, Martinez's blowing the lead in last years Game 7, but as soon as my anxiety began, Martinez quickly settled down and would not allow another run the rest of the inning. Boston would get those two runs back by scoring once in the 8th and 9th innings. I stayed up for the entire game and would not go to bed until I saw that the Red Sox hadwon and go on to play in the World Series. At 12:01 A.M. October 21, 2004, Red Sox 2nd Baseman Pokey Reese fielded a ground ball and threw to 1st Baseman Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out and the Red Sox completed the impossible by coming back from a 3 games to 0 deficit to win the series in 7 games! What made it sweeter was seeing them do it against their much hated rival New York Yankees.


     As expected, the following day in school the talk was about the Red Sox and their historic comeback. Students were in the Library on the computers watching highlights of Game 7, and it was talked about in each class I had that day!" My best friend who was a Yankees fan, really did not say much, but I knew the lack of words said it all for not only him, but all New York fans. In one of my classes, a teacher, who was a Yankees fan, showed her frustration and even let out a loud "Damn". She quickly apologized but then followed up by saying "well its the Boston Red Sox, so I kind of have to be that way." One of my teachers even quizzed our class by asking "Okay even though the Red Sox won, is the curse over yet?" I knew that if a small town of Hughesville was giving it's undivided attention to the Red Sox, the entire nation would have their eyes glued to their televisions in the upcoming nights of during the week!


     The Red Sox would be facing the National League Champions St. Louis Cardinals. Game 1 saw both offenses explode for a total of 20 runs setting a record for the highest scoring opening game of a World Series. Boston would open up with a 4-0 lead after the bottom of the 1st, thanks in part to David Ortiz's 3 run HR. St. Louis would cut the lead in half after 2 1/2 innings, but Boston would get three runs in the bottom half of the 3rd to expand their lead to five. St. Louis would get those three runs back in the top half of the 4th. Heading into the bottom of the 8th with the scored tied 9-9, Mark Bellhorn would break open the tie with a two run HR to give Boston the lead and the Red Sox would hold on in the top of the 9th to secure the victory and take a 1 game to 0 lead in the series.

     Boston would win Game 2 with a strong outing from starting pitcher Curt Schilling, pitching six innings, giving up just one run, four hits, and registered four strikeouts. Heading to St. Louis with a 2 games to 0 lead, Boston looked to close out and sweep the series. Boston would shutdown the St.Louis offense in Game 3 with effective pitching and a strong defense. The Red Sox bats, while not as hot as the first two game, still came up with timely hitting and scoring. Manny Rameriz hit a solo HR in the first and brought in another run with a single in the fifth as Boston would go on to win 4-1 and take a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Red Sox continued to be the talk of the town. Almost every conversation I had at school throughout the week involved the Red Sox and their miracle comeback against the Yankees and magical ride thus far. One question that came to my mind was if Yankee fans would be more upset if the Red Sox won the world series than blowing a 3-0 series lead over Boston in the ALCS. Whatever the answer was, Boston was a team hell bent on a mission since Game 5 of the ALCS, and it did not matter who it was that would try to stand in their way!


     I made a commitment to watch Game 4 in hopes the Red Sox would win, just in case the Red Sox would go on another long drought without a World Series (which the wait for another Red Sox title ended up only being another 3 years) that way I could tell my grand kids that I saw Boston win a World Series! Just like in Game 3, Boston got off to a quick 1-0 lead off a HR, this time by Johnny Damon. Boston would add two more runs for insurance for a 3-0 lead. I remember sitting in my bed, anxiously watching for history to be made as the Red Sox were just three outs away from winning their first World Series in 86 years! Albert Pujols led off with a base hit for the Cardinals, but Keith Foulke rebounded quickly and caused Scott Rolen to fly out, and followed that up with a strikeout to Jim Edmonds. Being just one out away, I could just feel it! I and over 28 million others across the nation knew we were about to experience something special (Unless you were a Yankees or Cardinals fan of course). With a 1-0 count, Foulke delivered a pitch across the plate that Edgar Renteria swung at, and grounded the ball back to the pitcher's mound
                           
  Back to Foulke, Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: The Boston Red Sox are World Champions!
                                   - Joe Buck

     For not even being a Boston Red Sox fan, you would have thought I was one! I was just so tickled and excited to see the Red Sox win the World Series and experience history be made! Classmates were taking it all in the next day along with the rest of the nation as "The Curse of The Bambino" was no more and 1918 was finally just a thing of the past. About a year and a half later when I saw my 5th Grade teacher again, who was a Red Sox fan (who I mentioned in a previous blog of mine regarding my fandom of the Cleveland Indians, which you can read here! http://noodleofnam.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-truth-of-how-i-became-cleveland.html) I asked him what he was doing as he watched the Red Sox win the World Series just a little over a year prior at that point. I remember him telling me how he could not watch it, at least not directly, but had the game on the television and would listen to it from around the corner of the room where the T.V. stood and he would pop in and out between at bats. That alone, at least for me, represented what it was like for a Boston fan to experience their beloved Red Sox finally overcome the demons from years past by making fantasy, or what could have been, into reality once and for all! Even the casual baseball fan knew that they were witnessing something special. Now nine years later, the Red Sox and Cardinals meet up in a rematch with a World Series title once again at stake, and while many will tune in to watch, it will not have the same atmosphere around it like it did in 2004!






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