The 10th anniversary of when everything changed — when the Red Sox overcame the Yankees and breezed past the speed-bump Cardinals for their first World Series championship in 86 years — is worth celebrating and re-living on its own merit. Hell, the franchise itself threw together an eight-year reunion of the forever icons of 2004.
But for me, there’s an additional, personal reason to savor and reflect — 2004 was the one year since the mid-90s that I wasn’t writing a column in some form somewhere. Nice timing, right? The Red Sox finally win, and in a fashion that outdid our wildest dreams, and I had no outlet to write about it.
That small regret is the reason I started this blog in November 2004.
That has been more fulfilling than I could have possibly imagined then. But I still wish I could have written about the postseason run in 2004 — especially the Yankees series. So on this anniversary, I’m going to seize the opportunity now that I whiffed on then.
Over the next few days, I will re-watch each game from the 2004 ALCS. Then I’ll come over here and write about all that was memorable, and all that we might have forgotten too, starting with Game 1, which was played on Tuesday, October 12, 2004.
Reliving this magical nine-day stretch isn’t the same as living it in real-time. But damn, if anything in Boston sports history is worth reminiscing about at any opportunity, isn’t it this?
To Game 1 …
WHAT HAPPENED, CONDENSED VERSION
Curt Schilling, who injured his ankle (you are familiar with this tale, yes?) in the ALDS, takes the mound with Frank Castillo’s fastball, and the Yankees light him up for six runs in the first three innings.
Yankees starter Mike Mussina is somewhat better — he retires the first 19 Red Sox before
Carl Everett Mark Bellhorn doubles with one out in the seventh. The Red Sox cut it to 8-5 in the seventh and 8-7 an inning later, but Bernie Williams’s two-run triple with two outs in the eighth inning gives the Yankees and closer Mariano Rivera a couple of insurance runs.
Derek Jeter smirks like he never #*#$*@#* considered the possibility that the Red Sox might win, A-Rod races him to the top step of the dugout to try to convince the Fox cameras to love him too, and the Yankees win, 10-7.
JETER LOVIN’, HAPPENED SO FAST
It took Tim McCarver all of one pitch to reference Derek Jeter. One. Pitch. And the Yankees weren’t even batting. Mussina throws a first-pitch fastball for strike-one looking, and McCarver can hold it in no more:
“Johnny Damon is just as important to the Boston offense,” McCarver says, “as Derek Jeter is to the Yankees.”
OK, it’s actually a cogent point. Damon did have a hell of a season, with a .304/.380/.477 slash line, 20 homers, 19 steals, 94 RBIs, and 123 runs scored, which I believe tops the run total of the entire 2014 Red Sox lineup.
But the Jeter comp? Eh, not really necessary at this moment. Of course, McCarver can’t help himself. And Buck does feed it:
“It’s good to see Jeter finally not look nervous in the postseason,” he says in the second inning, when the cameras pan for his reaction to some #*$*#* irrelevant thing.
After watching this game, I realized this: We actually underplayed how much Fox pandered to Jeter and the Yankees a decade ago. I mean it, and I have the Holy Grail of Jeter Worship as proof.
All of those jokes about Jeter’s “calm eyes” through the years? Well, I’m not sure they actually originated from this game, but we have the straight evidence of McCarver actually making the reference.
His words: “Jeter, who has two of the calmest eyes under pressure, that I’ve seen …”
STOP SMIRKING, JOE BUCK, AND SET THE STAGE FOR US ALREADY
Aw, you know I can’t help it — I like Joe Buck. I think he vindicated my appreciation of his ability to rise to the moment with a certain call a few weeks after this game. And he did strike the perfect tone in the bottom of the second inning here:
“While this is a rematch of a year ago, there is so much more anticipation. There are so many new faces from the ALCS from 2003. And with the way last year’s ended, with the Aaron Boone home run, and with the addition of Schilling and A-Rod for the Yankees, Foulke, Flash Gordon, Sheffield, right on down the line. The matchup seemed pre-determined, and here we are, inning one of Game 1, wondering what’s about to unfold over the next week.”
We had no idea, did we? Not in our wildest dreams. Well, maybe only there.
By the way, while Buck was talking about all the new faces, guess who led the montage that included a very youthful Terry Francona, Orlando Cabrera, and most of those he mentioned?
For a guy who had some new teammates that season, boy, were his eyes ever calm!
HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY WIN WITHOUT SCHILLING?
Because the memories of what did happen — Schilling and Dr. Bill Morgan stitching together a baseball miracle — are so enduring, it’s easy to overlook how grim the situation seemed after the Yankees lit up the Red Sox ace for six runs in three innings.
Schilling took the mound with nothing but guts, and guts alone wasn’t going to shut down that Yankees lineup. His fastball was straight and traveling at a nice, hittable 87 miles per hour, and his usually impeccable command betrayed him. It was in the top of the fourth that Buck addressed the seemingly unsurvivable for the Red Sox. What if Schilling couldn’t make another start?
“It’s the obvious question that’s hanging over the first three innings of this game, if you ask Curt Schilling how he feels and if he would want the ball for Game 4 or Game 5, you know what the answer is before you ask: of course. Send me out there, Skip, I’m your guy.
“But that statistics and the facts of what happened in the first three innings and the evidence of the pitches he threw up there, the lack of zip and control, would tell you that maybe there is something more serious with that ankle than we were led to believe going into this game or that Schilling let on. So I think his status, whether they want to talk about it after tonight’s game, [is] very much up in the air.”
It felt like more than that, actually. It felt like one more cruel twist for the Red Sox, and one more perfectly timed break for the Yankees.
WHAT YOU REMEMBERED, WHAT YOU DIDN’T REMEMBER, WHAT YOU DIDN’T WANT TO REMEMBER
At one point, McCarver informs us that Pedro Martinez is facing “Brandon” Arroyo in Game 2. Buck, having heard this before, responds, ”Did you know someone named Brandon Arroyo growing up?” … I had forgotten that John Olerud and Kenny Lofton were semi-regulars with the Yankees that season. Lofton hit a home run off Tim Wakefield in the fifth. And I did not recall Ramiro Mendoza pitching at all for the Red Sox in this series, but there he was, throwing a scoreless fourth and even appearing to try to get Yankees hitters out … The left field defense wasn’t exactly of the Vintage Yaz variety. Manny Ramirez had a brutal game in the outfield even by his usual standards; the Yankees scored their insurance runs in the eighth when he flailed at Bernie Williams’s triple. But Hideki Matsui wasn’t much better. Ortiz’s two-run triple in the top half of the inning should have been caught. He ended up a plus-3 on the night, though, driving in five runs …
Jason Varitek’s two-run homer in the seventh, cutting it to 8-5, was his first hit at Yankee Stadium all season. He was 0 for 36 before that at-bat. That’s hard to do — he was one-man perfect game, plus three innings toward another. You’d think Tek would have hard a flare, a gorp, a groundball with eyes, a dying quail somewhere along the way at Yankee Stadium. But nope. He was kind of our Jeter in that do-no-wrong way, wasn’t he? … The Great Mariano got a four-out save despite arriving Mirabelli-style in the fifth inning. He had spent the previous few days in Panama after two of his relatives were electrocuted in his pool … Remember Scooter, the animated baseball Fox used for a brief time to explain rudimentary baseball concepts in an overly chipper voice? He — it? — makes an appearance here, telling us all about the curveball. Now that you mention it, Scooter really wasn’t much different from that current cartoonish Fox baseball contributor, Harold Reynolds.
NEW ENGLAND STATE OF MIND, POSTGAME
Aggravated, pissed, and defiant, with just a hint of here-we-go-again Eeyore-ism based on Schilling’s uncertain status. He does that truck ad about ending a curse and he gets hurt in the playoffs. Figures. In other words, the usual. But we also nod in agreement when Bernie Williams tells field reporter Kenny Albert after the game: “That team [the Red Sox] is no joke. They can come back with the best of them.”
That’s what they call a harbinger, Bernie.
Little did you know. Little did any of us know.