The Boston Red Sox finished the 2004 season in second place in the American League East Division behind the New York Yankees to earn a wild card birth. The season was riddled with uncertainty as injuries plagued the roster, young gun general manager at the time Theo Epstein made bold trades at the deadline (shipping Nomar Garciaparra away for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, later trading a minor leaguer for Dave Roberts) and they had a terrible mid-season slump falling more than eight games back of the Yanks at one point.
However, despite things looking dreary, the 2004 Boston Red Sox turned things around just in time to make the post-season as they won 22 of their last 25 games. Cabrera, Roberts and Mientkiewicz all played crucial roles in the Red Sox clubhouse during that stretch, and would continue to contribute in the postseason as well.
After sweeping the then Anaheim Angels in the ALDS the Sox looked poised to finally overthrow the “Evil Empire” as they entered the ALCS against their arch nemesis. As you might remember the series didn’t exactly start the way we had hoped. Boston fell into a 3-0 hole the size of the Grand Canyon and it looked like there was no way out.
But just when the Fenway Faithful thought all hope was lost…something miraculous happened. The Boston Red Sox came to life and roared back into the series. Over the next four games minds were blown, sports writers and analysts were baffled, history was being written right before our very eyes, but no one could even begin to believe it.
Game 4 had the Sox season all but over. Going into the bottom of the 9th Boston trailed 4-3 and The Bronx Bombers had star closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. After Rivera walked Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts came in to pinch run and made the steal that would start the improbable comeback. Roberts would score on a Bill Mueller single to tie the game, and an extra innings two-run blast by David “Big Papi” Ortiz would clinch the first of four victories for the Sox.
Game 5 was long and grueling, and was again capped off by Papi as he hit an extra innings RBI to score Johnny Damon. Game 6 had Curt Schilling and “The Bloody Sock”, in which Schilling put on an a brilliant pitching performance to capture another victory. Finally, Game 7 featured a grand salami from Johnny Damon which helped seal the crazy comeback, as the Sox won 10-3 and propelled themselves to their first World Series appearance since 1986.
To illustrate just how improbable this comeback was, it should be noted that only four teams in the history of sports with a seven game playoff series (MLB,NBA,NHL) have came back down 3 games in a championship series to win (the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL, the 1975 New York Islanders NHL, the 2004 Boston Red Sox MLB, and 2010 Boston Bruins NHL, No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit).
After doing the unthinkable against the New York Yankees the Red Sox didn’t spend anytime relishing in defeating (and embarrassing) their rivals, but instead continued the calamity and swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.
I’ll never forget the final out made by then closer Keith Foulke. With two away and the Sox up 3-0 on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, you could certainly cut the tension with a butcher knife. We all remember where we were in that moment. The batter was Edgar Rentaria, who coincidentally donned the number 3 on his uniform, the very same number worn by Babe Ruth. Foulke got Rentaria to ground right back to the mound and the rest is history. Foulke flipped it over to Doug Mientkiewicz and those famous words, uttered by esteemed announcer Joe Buck, rang out on household televisions and sports bars across the country “Red Sox Fans have longed to hear it; The Boston Red Sox are World Champions”.
This wasn’t just an 86-year-old curse being broken, this wasn’t just our first World Series title since 1918, this was so much more. This was what generation after generation of Red Sox fans had spent their whole lives waiting for, this was bigger than baseball, this was the one night that washed away decades of pain and suffering, that overshadowed all the spring training whispers of “this could be the year”. There was no catch, no hold up, no disappointment, only joy, celebration, and triumph.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox were unlike anything the sporting world had ever seen. They wrote their way into the history books one game at a time, in the cold nights of October, winning baseballs fall classic and the hearts of millions.
What was your favorite 2004 ALCS/World Series moment? Leave a comment below.