The curse ended the same way it began 86 years ago. St. Louis’s Edgar Renteria, who grounded out to end the World Series, fittingly wears No. 3 – the same number worn by Babe Ruth.
The Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason always seems to bring some excitement, and the Red Sox are usually right in the midst of it. Unfortunately for them, the excitement has historically come from their epic collapses.
As a Mets fan, my team’s chances usually end sometime in May, so my support shifts to whichever team is playing the Yankees. I had no problem rooting for the Red Sox; after all, they practically handed over the 1986 World Series to the Mets. But as the Boston-New York series approached, I fully expected another seven-game series in which the Red Sox would find some way to mess up and hand the series to the Yankees.
The first three games of the series surprised almost everyone, but yet again it was all about the misery of the Red Sox. Instead of seeing a back-and-forth dogfight, the Yankees took a 3-0 series lead by a combined score of 32-16. My Yankee fan friends bragged as even the Red Sox seemed to be waving the white flag.
“We thought we’d be up 3-0 right now,” Boston’s Johnny Damon said. “I think we’re definitely upset, definitely stunned.”
The media quickly pointed out that no major league team in history had even forced a Game 7 after losing the first three games, let alone win the series. For all three games at Fenway Park, FOX used the time between pitches to focus on the frustration of Boston fans as another season slipped away.
Game 4 was a close game throughout, but it seemed to go just according to plan for the Yankees. Closer Mariano Rivera came in for the ninth inning to put an end to Boston’s season.
However, things uncharacteristically started to go in Boston’s favor. David Ortiz won back-to-back extra inning games after Rivera let the Red Sox back in the game. Curt Schilling overcame a messed-up ankle and a disastrous Game 1 to pitch a gem in Game 6. By Game 7, the momentum was fully in Boston’s favor.
Still, as I watched Game 7 with some friends, I had a feeling that the Yankees would pull it out. However, the 2004 postseason was not like the past 86. The Yankees made one brief rally against Pedro Martinez but never made another charge in Boston’s lopsided win.
After the game, as I happily watched the sadness in the Yankee players’ faces and the pure joy of the Red Sox, I realized what an epic event had just occurred. The Red Sox made the biggest comeback in sports history, and they did it against the team that was their “daddy” for nearly a century.
It was like the Miracle on Ice – a bunch of “idiots,” just like the team of college kids, beating the best – the big shots, the ones who fully expected to win. Rivera had blown two saves that would have sealed the series. Derek Jeter, the most clutch playoff performer of all time, hit a dismal .200 for the series. In short, it was a Red Sox fan’s dream come true.
Jeter was very frustrated with the Yankees’ inability to put the Red Sox away, considering that was always the Yankees’ strength during the dynasty years from 1996-2000. “It’s not the same team,” Jeter said. “We’ve had teams that have been good at it, but this is not the same team.”
Jeter was right on. Over the past few years, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has replaced team players such as Tino Martinez and Andy Pettite with superstars like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez. Yet with such big names and high salaries, the Yankees have not won a World Series since 2000. The Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins and Red Sox didn’t beat the Yankees with talent and skill – they beat them with heart.
After their Game 7 celebration, the Red Sox had to focus on the World Series against the Cardinals. A lot of Yankee fans were rooting for the Cardinals to keep the curse going, but most people just had that feeling that the Sox were going to take care of business. They did, sweeping the series with ease.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they won’t even be remembered for their role in this year’s playoffs, despite their impressive year. The 2004 season will always be known as the year that the Sox made a miracle comeback against the Yankees and broke the curse.
The 3.2 million people who watched the Red Sox march through Boston on Saturday were celebrating an achievement that many thought would never come. Boston’s first title since 1918 is great for the city, but more importantly it is good for baseball. You don’t have to live in Boston or New York to appreciate the intense rivalry that gets more heated every year.