Touching All the Bases

Retro Recap, 2004 ALCS Game 2: Pedro Martinez Loses, Then Tells Us About the Mango Tree

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Over the next few days, in appreciation of a certain anniversary, I am re-watching each game from the 2004 ALCS, when everything about being a Red Sox fan changed. Then I’ll come over here and write about all that was memorable, and all that we might have forgotten too. The Game 1 Retro Recap is here.

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?

Let’s travel back to October 13, 2004, and Game 2

WHAT HAPPENED, CONDENSED VERSION
Derek Jeter walked on four pitches to lead off the bottom of the first, stole second, and scored on Gary Sheffield’s single give the Yankees the lead and momentum … perma-helmeted John Olerud built the lead to 3-0 with a two-run homer in the sixth … Jon Lieber (three hits and one earned run in seven innings) pitched like you hoped Pedro Martinez would, Pedro (three earned runs in six innings) pitched slightly better than you hoped Lieber would … the Sox were held to two baserunners through six innings … The Great Mariano whiffed tying run Kevin Millar to end it … Jeter smirked, Joe Torre weeded his nostrils, A-Rod pranced around like he’d won something before … and the Yankees went up 2-0.

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PEDRO AND THE JACKALS
One of the distinct advantages the home team had in Yankee Stadium II that cannot be replicated in their spectacular, soulless new ballpark is the proximity of the fans. Anyone who tells you that Yankees fans — howling, jeering, mocking, sneering and always standing, as if they might just reach out into the batter’s box and grab you right when the crucial pitch arrived– did not have an effect in October is more full of it than George Steinbrenner was in his blustery prime.

Worse, at least from a visiting rival’s standpoint, they knew they mattered, which only encouraged more cascading cheers and jeers, depending upon the circumstance. The scene was so familiar — and Fox mined the crowd for reaction so relentlessly — that it felt like some of the faces became familiar, too. Jeez, how many times is Fox going to show that #*#*@# again? And it wasn’t even a reference to Billy Crystal.

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Of course, you were never supposed to admit that you heard the Jeter-jerseyed jackals. Acknowledging them empowered them. Pedro Martinez should have known this. Surely he did. But he could not help himself. After the Yankees lit him up in back-to-back starts in September, he said this after the latter, a loss in which he gave up five earned runs in 7.1 innings:

Pedro’s candor in a moment of frustration ended up working against him. It gave the jackals an easily-chanted taunt: “Who’s Your Daddy?” clap clap clap-clap-clap, set to the tune of “Let’s Go Yankees” or “Just Out of Prison.”

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So it was that he was serenaded from his first pitch (the first of four straight balls to Jeter) through his 113th and last, a pop-out to third by Kenny Lofton that ended the sixth.

“It actually made me feel really, really good,” said Pedro afterward, . “I don’t know why you guys laugh. It really made me feel really important. When I think where I was 15 years ago, sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to pay for a bus, and today I was the center of attention for the entire city of New York. I don’t regret one bit [what I said].”

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Ten years later, you can still hear the chant ringing in your ears. And the mango tree became a recurring reference of its own.

But god bless Pedro, man. He was defeated for the moment, defiant forever.

WHAT YOU REMEMBERED, WHAT YOU DIDN’T REMEMBER, WHAT YOU DIDN’T WANT TO REMEMBER
Get a kick out of watching Pedro and Gary Sheffield work so well together on the TBS studio set this postseason, especially given their history. Remember, Sheffield basically threatened to rearrange Pedro’s organs with a Louisville Slugger if he hit him with a pitch in this series. “If he says one word to me, he’s done,” Sheffield told Sports Illustrated. “Pedro, your buddy pass is over. I’ve been playing for 17 years. I will never be disrespected on a baseball field, on or off. If he tries anything again, I won’t hurt my team, but I’m telling you, I will take care of him.” … It should be noted that the only batter Pedro hit in Game 2 was A-Rod. I doubt any Yankees had a beef with that. … Olerud, who hit a 1-2 pitch for the homer, was coveted by the Red Sox that summer after the Mariners let him go, but he didn’t even bother to return the front office’s calls. That changed a year later, when he joined the Sox in his final season. Guy could probably still slap a hard single to left right now if you gave him a few minutes of batting practice to warm up…

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After two games, Johnny Damon was 0 for 8. If I recall correctly, he did something later in the series to make us forget about the slow beginning … Lieber, who owned the Sox that season, threw 57 of 82 pitches for strikes, keeping the Sox sluggers off balance all night. He was like a good version of John Burkett. The only run he allowed came in the eighth, when he permitted a leadoff single to Trot Nixon. Tom Gordon allowed the inherited runner to score after Jason Varitek doubled and Orlando Cabrera grounded out … Mariano Rivera, invincible. For the second straight game, he came in for the final out of the eighth, this time whiffing Damon with Varitek standing on third. After a one-out double by Manny Ramirez in the ninth, he whiffed David Ortiz and Kevin Millar to end it. They shall meet again!

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NEW ENGLAND STATE OF MIND, POSTGAME
Let’s see, after Game 1, I went with “aggravated, pissed, and defiant, with just a hint of here-we-go-again Eeyore-ism based on Schilling’s uncertain status.”

I’d say that applies after Game 2 as well, though the news that Schilling had a torn tendon in his ankle might have added an edge of inevitability to the Red Sox’ apparently pending downfall. After all, the last 13 teams that had a 2-0 lead in an LCS had gone on to win the series. And the Yankees had the Great Mariano.

In the aftermath of Game 2, Derek Jeter said all the right things, even though you have to believe he figured the series was in the bag, because they always had been for the Yankees then no matter how much drama and suspense .

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“Winning two is great,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win two more.”

You’ll get one more and like it, Captain.

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