The date was October 16, 2004. It’s a day that I once hoped I would one day forget. The Red Sox were playing Game 3 of the American League Championship Series again the New York Yankees. Those of you who were following the Red Sox in 2004 will also remember the game and it’s significance, but for me, I now look at this game as one that had special meaning. I’m going to explain why in today’s post.
Let’s set up the scene. The Red Sox and Yankees were viewed as equals following the seven game ALCS series in 2003 which ended with an Aaron Boone walkoff. The Sox added Schilling. The Yankees added A-Rod. The rivalry was never bigger. Going into the ALCS, another seven game series was expected it was a coin flip in terms of how would prevail. The Yankees had other ideas. They took Game 1 after beating up Schilling and they squeeked by in Game 2 despite a strong performance by Pedro Martinez. It was 2-0 Yankees heading back to Boston.
Although the Red Sox were down 2-0, there was still confidence in Red Sox Nation heading into Game 3. The next three games were at Fenway and the Red Sox offense would find itself. I remember the buzz around the ballpark before the game was tremendous. The streets were filled with Red Sox fans. I thought at the time that there was a minimal amount of Yankees fans compared to normal and that was refreshing at the time. I went to the game with three friends and our seats were directly under the centerfield scoreboard. We were at least 500 feet from home plate and we didn’t care. We were at the ALCS to witness the start of a Red Sox comeback in this series. I don’t know why I remember this, but when I got to my seat, there was a band playing a song called “Hair”. I didn’t understand it, but I guess it was for Johnny Damon and his new look. That song took the buzz out of the ballpark before the first pitch.
The Yankees got three off of Bronson Arroyo in the first inning and never looked back. The Sox hung around early and actually took a 4-3 lead with four runs in the second including a Trot Nixon home run into the Sox bullpen. From there, it was all downhill.
You don’t need to or want to hear about the summary of the rest of this game. We all know what happened. Matsui and A-Rod teed off and the Red Sox threw batting practice. 19-8 final.
So, why am I writing about this game today?
As the Yankees pulled away and there was no hope, Fenway Park quickly emptied. My friends were nowhere to be found after about the fourth inning. I was about to leave myself at 17-6 in the 7th inning.
But, I stayed.
For those next three innings, I had many thoughts going through my head:
I can’t believe this. This was supposed to be the year we took down the Yankees. What just happened?!
Is the curse real? No. I don’t believe in curses. But maybe IT IS REAL?!
Is this just the way it is? I’m supposed to just come to Fenway Park along with the rest of Red Sox Nation and take it from the Yankees and their fans every year? (By this time it seemed as if there were A LOT of Yankees fans. They were NEVER louder. You remember the chant…”1918!!”)
Will I ever see the Red Sox win a World Series in my lifetime? My father hasn’t. My grandfather hasn’t. Does the trend just continue with me…and my kids one day?
Why am I still here?!
I walked to my car after the game ended and thought about all of these things. A five minute walk seemed like it took five hours. People were angry. Others were deflated. I was somewhere in between.
The following morning I drove to Gillette Stadium with my future wife to see the Patriots play the Seahawks. All I could think about was the game the night before and how that was the lowest point I had ever felt at a sporting event.
We set up our tailgate and a guy in the car next to us said “did you guys see the game last night?”
I didn’t want to deal with this guy at all. I wanted to move on. Brady vs. Hasselback. Time to focus on a championship football team for a few hours.
“Yep, I was there”, I said.
“Must have been terrible”.
Then he said something I hope I never forget. “The Red Sox are going to win four games in a row. MARK MY WORDS!”
Here we go. Here’s the guy who just can’t accept reality. Obviously, HE does not believe in curses. Good for him. Stay strong, buddy.
36 hours later, the second Ortiz walkoff happened and I believed again. You did too. And after Johnny Damon’s grand slam in Game 7, the Yankees fans believed. Yes, those same fans who took over Fenway and treated us like dirt just a few nights earlier.
The Red Sox went on to make history and won their first World Series championship in 86 years. There was no better feeling as a sports fan. The best comeback in the history of sports. No more “1918!!”
After eleven Boston sports titles since 2001, I still say that none of them came close to that one. At the time, I didn’t look back at October 16, 2004 as a day I wanted to remember. I was just another guy who had a ticket to the wrong game.
As I watched the Red Sox come back from a 4-0 deficit to win Game 4 of the World Series, I thought about October 16, 2004 a lot. I thought about what it was like to be a Red Sox fan that night fourteen years ago. Then I thought about what it’s like to be a Red Sox fan today…
On that cold October night in 2004, I never could have imagined that the Red Sox would be playing for their fourth World Series championship in 14 years. One championship would have been more than enough on that night.
The Red Sox are World Champions! We have now heard those words four different times since 2004. No other professional sports team has won four championships in that span.
That’s right. The BOSTON RED SOX have won the most professional sports championships since 2004. The same team that it felt impossible to win one fourteen years ago.
Many of us talk about how lucky the kids are who have just seen all of the titles and never experienced the “pain” we felt having gone from 1986 to 2001 without any championships in Boston sports and 86 years without a Red Sox title.
Today, I feel lucky to have been one of the people who experienced that pain.
I feel lucky that I was at the 19-8 game in 2004…
And now I realize why I stayed at that game.