August 02, 2010

2004 ALCS 30 For 30

I’ve been a huge fan of ESPN’s 30 for 30. There have been so many entertaining documentaries and I missed the one about Gretzky which I heard was very good. It’s tough to pick a favorite but I think the one I’m going to like best is the one about the Redsox coming back from three games to nothing against the hated Yankees. Here’s the description from ESPN.

“When the night of October 6, 2004 came to a merciful end, the Curse of the Bambino was alive and well. The vaunted Yankee lineup, led by A-Rod, Jeter, and Sheffield, had just extended their ALCS lead to three games to none, pounding out 19 runs against their hated rivals. The next night, in Game 4, the Yankees took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, then turned the game over to Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher in postseason history, to secure yet another trip to the World Series. But after a walk and a hard-fought stolen base, the cold October winds of change began to blow. Over four consecutive days and nights, this unlikely group of Red Sox miraculously won four straight games to overcome the inevitability of their destiny. Using extensive archive coverage from that week, Major League Baseball Productions will produce a film in "real-time" that takes an in-depth look at the 96 hours that brought salvation to Red Sox Nation and made baseball history in the process.”

I’m going to give you my own little 30 for 30, as it’s a series of days I’ll never forget. First, let me start back in 2003 which is still my all-time favorite Redsox team.  They had a very care free attitude and even nicknamed themselves “the idiots.” However they were my favorite team because they just raked. 1-9 they could hit, Bill Mueller won the battle title that year and he hit eighth for most of the year. Ortiz came out of nowhere, Todd Walker was signed and had a solid year, Kevin Millar was the fun loving first baseman, Pedro was obviously Pedro. Losing to the Yankees in game 7 was awful and to this day I still haven’t seen Aaron Boone’s ball land.

That off-season management traded for Schilling and the season started off well in April before 3 straight months of .500 ball. I remember the 2004 trading deadline very well. I was coming back from a graduation party when I heard the Redsox had traded Nomar Garciaparra, our beloved shortstop who had a falling out with management and fans especially after a Yankees-Sox game in July. I had a ton of mixed feelings about it but was more upset about not getting Matt Clement for Derek Lowe (fortunately I wasn’t the GM). Lowe had sucked that year and I thought Clement would’ve been a substantial upgrade.

After a rough start to August the Redsox finished 40-15, and made the playoffs. They promptly swept the Angels and it was on to face the Yankees in the ALCS. What’s amazing is a lot of Redsox fans not only thought the Sox would win, but I thought they’d win in 6, USA Today predicted they’d win in 5, and several media members predicted the Sox would win in a short series. Why not? Last year they took the Yankees to seven games, they’ve added Schilling, and they were the best team in baseball the last two months.

As usual in baseball, didn’t work out that way. Schilling injured his ankle in game 1 of the Angels series and got shelled against the Yankees in game one, Pedro was outpitched by Lieber in game 2, and game 3 was just awful. So now the Sox are down 3-0 and have to win 4 games in 4 days because of a rainout in between games 2 and 3.

I remember the morning of game 4 very vividly. My family came up to visit me at school on a Sunday morning. I went to Niagara University so we made the short trip to the casino to have their breakfast buffet. I was running late so I threw on my Sox hat and my family (parents and brother) who stayed over the previous night at a hotel only brought Redsox stuff with them.

So picture this. Here we are eating breakfast miserably in the casino in Sox gear in New York, not really saying much of anything, arms crossed, pained faces, telling my brother he was an idiot for his stupid theory. He thought if the Sox won game 4 they had a pretty good shot at winning the series. In fact, another Sox fan came up to us and was actually pretty cheery saying “I know how you guys feel.” I think I  just gave him a nod but really didn’t care what he had to say.

For those that don’t follow baseball it’s a sport you burn up a bunch of emotional energy. You watch your favorite teams game every night for 6 months, 7 if you’re lucky. Furthermore, there’s so much dead time during games, there’s way too much to think. As a player or coach it goes fast. As a spectator it’s like time stands still in between pitches. So you go through the emotional swings with your team.

As my parents dropped me off on campus that morning I remember saying to my dad as I was leaving. “The worst part about this is now we have to beat Rivera at least once, maybe twice.”

Game 4

As game 4 started I had very little expectations. No baseball team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. I watched the game that Sunday night alone in my dorm room. I remember being somewhat excited when the Sox took the lead in the fifth and fuming when they gave it up in the sixth.

So now fast foward to the bottom of the ninth. Rivera had already been in for one inning and worked through it with no problems. I sat in my computer chair with my feet up thinking there was no shot the Sox could come back. The boxscore is up top so I won’t bore you with play by play, but when Mueller singled up the middle my reaction was to get up and wave home Roberts, by the time he crossed the plate I was in my hallway.

The rest of that game was a blur, the Sox ended up winning in 12 thanks to great relief pitching and an Ortiz homer. Then, when watching the post game press conference in bed I popped up when I heard the manager, Terry Francona say that Schilling was going to start game 6. He was making very little progress with his ankle and most Redsox fans thought he was done for the year, but all of a sudden games 5 and 6 looked a lot more winnable. Suddenly there was hope. In fact the next day when I was talking to my dad the first thing we discussed was Francona mentioning Schilling was going to start game 6, that’s how much of a surprise it was.

Game 5

This was a late afternoon game and unfortunately I had practice. When I got in, the score was 2-1 Redsox in the fifth. I was incredibly nervous at this time, Pedro Martinez is my all-time favorite Redsox and that probably won’t ever change. It’s tough to describe the bond the fans of Boston had with him. If he lost game 5 I would’ve been devastated, especially after game 7 the previous year. This all looked like a real possibility when Jeter hit a 3 run double (a flare btw) and the Sox were down 4-2 after 7.

Tying it up in the eighth thanks to Tom Gordon (And Rivera blowing his 2nd straight save, although he came in with a one run lead and men on 1st and 3rd w/ no outs.) and then came theWakefield outing. Tim Wakefield throws a knuckleball and sometimes it’s a very good one. Unfortunately the Redsox catcher Jason Varitek can’t catch knuckleballs. We’re in the twelfth inning at this point and the trouble started right away. The first batter reached on a strikeout on a passed ball and while Wakefield was able to get out of a second and third jam by striking out Rivera it was just an awful inning to watch. I couldn’t get made at Varitek since being a catcher and having experience catching a good knuckleball, it can be almost impossible.

Sitting in the same computer chair in the fourteenth, I simply just put my hands up when Ortiz blooped a single into center to win the game. As the ball was in the air, my roommate an Indians fan just said “it’s over.” Onto game six. I do remember hearing a Yankee fan complain to an RA that Sox fans were celebrating too loud.

Game 6

As a fan you really had no idea how this was going to shake out, but Schilling’s performance is one that’ll never be forgotten. People often compare it to Brenard King’s game, however without disrespecting Mr. King this would’ve been like if he put up 40 that game.  During the A-rod slap in the eighth I remember calling my dad and buddy complaining about how it wasn’t legal and it better be overturned. Either way during that whole sequence Sox fans could feel things slipping away, we’ve seen it all before. If A-rod was called safe and the Redsox lost that game I can’t imagine how bitter I’d be.

Many people actually forget how tense the ninth inning was. With the Redsox clinging to a 4-2 and Foulke working his third straight day after throwing a ton of pitches the previous two nights. He promptly walked the leadoff batter.  Then with two outs I remember my knees buckling when he got squeezed on a 2-1 pitch against Sierra.

After a walk to Sierra, I was sitting on my bed in my dorm room and for some reason I had a fistful of my hair with both hands for the 2-2 and 3-2 pitches to Clark. My roommates girlfriend asked me if I was ok, I’m sure she wasn’t used to seeing someone react like that and I’m really not sure why I decided to go with that pose for the last two pitches of the game.

I’m fortunate I have short hair since after he struck out Clark, with my hands staying in fists they shot forward. If I have anything but a few week old buzz cut, I probably have some patches in my head for a couple weeks. Needless to say I was ecstatic and game 7 could come soon enough.

Game 7

Honestly I remember being nervous the whole day, don’t remember much about the game even the Damon grand slam. The most vivid memory for me is when Pedro came in relief. The Yankees were knocking him around and the crowd was coming alive. I actually had to go get some food, I couldn’t watch especially after game 7 the previous year. As I was paying for the food I heard Joe Buck’s call as Bellhorn’s ball hit the foul pole which pretty much ended things.

Keep in mind, this all happened in 4 straight days, it really turned into a war of attrition as both bullpens were gassed. 2004 was sort of the perfect set-up  of the team trying to overcome a “curse”, great personalities, unreal drama, and a fairytale ending.  I have no problem reliving it and can’t wait until this 30 for 30 comes out.

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"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." - A. Bartlett Giamatti

Posted By bosoxx34 at 12:42 AM

11 Comments

11 Comments:

stmarys posted on August 02, 2010 at 04:07 AM

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Dude, the 30 for 30 on ESPN are some of the best documentaries I have ever seen, and I watch a ton of them. Definitely check out the one with Matt Hoffman if you have a chance (think it's called "The Rise of Big Air" or something like that).


bosoxx34 posted on August 02, 2010 at 14:10 PM

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Yeah I saw the Matt Hoffman one last week. I didn't think I was going to like it at all since I'm not a fan of that sort of stuff but it was incredibly entertaining.


asidrane posted on August 02, 2010 at 19:30 PM

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The 2004 club was "The Idiots" 2003 was "Cowboy up" Thanks for reminding me of 4 of the worst days of my life.


bosoxx34 posted on August 04, 2010 at 02:16 AM

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Yeah that's a pretty bad mistake by me.


Joe Tall posted on August 09, 2010 at 03:20 AM

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O M FUCKING G

I had no idea this was coming.

THANK YOU!


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