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Boston Red Sox, 2004 World Series Champions

I know this is a fantasy football website, but I know many of you out there are fans of other sports. From the title, you can gather what this story is going to be about. If this isn’t something that will be of interest to you, that’s fine. This is just something that needs to be told and I’m thankful to have a public place that a story like this can reside. Yes it has been nearly a month since that glorious day, but this was something that I needed to take some time putting together, making sure that I didn’t forget to include anything. Funny that it was my wife Tammy, putting her fingers to keyboard, that beat to me to the punch in putting together a story that really captures things. The former Yankee fan has been tremendously supportive of my Red Sox fandom, wanting to switch alliances but not being able to. With the Sox winning, she’s now on board. I am still in awe of the words she put together, which can be seen here: Just an incredibly moving article that is worth a re-read for those that have already read it once. In any case, this is going to be a long read, but hopefully something that will be enjoyed.

The History
I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox. Always have been and always will be. I’ve been going to games since I was a wee lad, my Dad and I keeping score in the official program every time we went. I must have between 25-30 of these programs from over the years in a box at home. Though many of the games were attended before my teenage years, I can still remember a few scenes like they were yesterday. You never forget your first trip to Fenway Park, walking up the runway of this old, dark and dirty underground place to where the field literally appears right at your feet as you come up the runway. The smell of freshly cut grass mixing with hot dogs filling the air. I remember vividly a Jim Rice grand slam home run, a rocket belted into the screen above the left field wall. The runner on second base must have jumped up 10 feet in the air to celebrate the blast as the crowd went wild. I remember the days of the twi-night double header. One in particular where it was a rain delayed night and we tried to leave early since it was extremely late, only to find our car boxed in so that we couldn’t go home. We went back to the stadium to see if they would let us back in, and the person at the gate obliged our request and let us pass. It was a place that you didn’t want to leave.

I was lucky enough to spend my college days at Northeastern University, just a short walk from “The Fens”. Roger Clemens was at the height of his game and I never missed one of his home starts. I’d always get there early enough to see him warming up in the bullpen before the game, then as he would make his way to the dugout, I’d yell at the top of my lungs, “You’re THE MAN, Roger!!” I swear he’d look up and smile at me each time. I think I still have the Roger Clemens shirt that I used to wear somewhere in my basement. It was the year after 1986, the Sox having lost a well documented series to the Mets. While that loss was taken pretty hard, the distraction of being a senior in high school lessened the impact. After all, this was going to be the year. Then next year, then next year, etc.

Now I’m supposed to be grown up, having been a partial season ticket holder for the past seven years. Clemens was replaced by Pedro Martinez and hopes are high every year. Being in the season tickets gets me into Opening Day, which is a special treat. Who can forget the Red Sox seven run rally in the bottom of the ninth against Seattle in 1998? There weren’t many of us still in the park when it happened, but I was one of them, along with my wife and buddies Rick and Mike. No one believed me that the Seattle bullpen was suspect and could be touched, but my years of fantasy baseball frustration had finally paid off. There was no beer sold in the park on that opening day, and that was just too much to keep many of the other “fans” from staying until the bitter end. I still believed, and we were rewarded by being witness to a Mo Vaughn grand slam to win the game.

1999 brought about my first taste of the playoffs, a classic series against Cleveland where I witnessed a loss in person, but watched in ecstasy as Pedro came out of the bullpen in game 5 to win the series at Cleveland. I still believed. Then the Yankees finished the Sox season by winning in five games. I was there as New York celebrated the win on the Fenway Park infield. Extremely painful to watch, but there was going to be next year, that would be their year. The buzz returned with the 2001 signing of Manny Ramirez. His first swing in a Red Sox uniform was a blast over the monster in left. I was there, and I still believed. My less than a year old daughter Amelia’s first game in 2002 turned out to be a Derek Lowe no hitter. And like every year, we’d hold a playoff ticket “draft”, but those tickets would go unused. It was becoming difficult to still believe, but I still did believe.

Then came 2003. I don’t think I need to rehash what went on during the playoffs and how things ended. I covered everything here: The pain of that game endured for nearly an entire winter, I can still remember it now. They say it is better to have “…loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.” I wasn’t so sure. I will never forget trudging into work the Friday after that game, not being able to speak or even make eye contact with anyone that day. Certain songs on the radio would trigger the pain all over again even months after the fact. I was a grown man, and I cried many times. While I still believed, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to cheer with that same passion ever again.

Yet time heals all wounds and opening day this past year wiped away much of that pain – not all of it, most of it. Curt Schilling was in the fold and most of the players from the prior year were back for what might be one last ride. Pedro was looking healthy and playing for a contract, Manny was back after being put on waivers. Things were looking good. This was going to be their year!

This is The Year!
I still believed, but my daughter Amelia was well into her terrible twos and we were pregnant with unnamed baby boy set to arrive sometime in July. My attendance at my usual amount of games had dropped, but that didn’t stop me from watching from afar. The Sox swept the Yankees in an early season series, and expectations went thru the roof. But the summer saw the team begin to struggle and the Yankees were once again threatening to run away with things. A mid-summer series in Boston against the Yankees was going to be one last shot at giving the Red Sox any hope of passing them in the standings. New York then pushed their lead to nine and a half games, coming from behind to beat the Sox at Fenway Park on a Friday night.

Then the event that turned things around took place on Saturday, July 24th. My wife was in labor that morning, and she’d put it all on the table, whichever team won that night’s game is the team that our new son would cheer for. The pressure was on. The game was back and forth, but it was the Yankees that took a lead into the bottom of the ninth, all hope seemed to be lost. My wife wanted me to turn the television off, she couldn’t understand why I wanted to see the game to the bitter end when the result seemed already determined. I still believed. And so did the Red Sox, Bill Mueller clubbed a 2 run homer off Mariano Rivera giving Boston the improbable 11-10 win. And at the eleventh hour, 11:40pm to be exact, our son entered the world a Red Sox fan.

Fast forward to the end of the season, Boston has gotten their act together and look like they will get into the playoffs. They don’t get past the Yankees, but they close the gap enough to make New York play out the season. More importantly, we hold our “playoff ticket” draft. Choosing to forgo the division series, I concentrate on getting tickets to the World Series and potential series against the Yankees. I walk away with a ticket to games 1, 2, and 7 to the World Series, plus a pair to game 4 of the ALCS, and a ticket to game 5 of the ALCS. I still believe. Boston clinches the wild card!!!

Then a funny thing happens, I just can’t get into the opening series against the Angels as much as I should be. Perhaps I believe too much right now and I’m overlooking Anaheim? I watch more as a casual fan than anything else, and the Red Sox steam roll the Angels to advance to the next round. The clinching game is an exciting win, with Derek Lowe getting the win in relief, a huge confidence booster for him and his fans. We will need him in the next series. The Yankees do their part and it’s a rematch of last year’s series. Boston versus New York, Us versus Them, Me versus my In-Laws.

Boston Versus New York Part Deux
New York takes both games at home, Schilling is ineffective and hurt, possibly not to return for the series, and Pedro also can’t get a win. Thanks to a rain out in Boston, I’m there for the game three 19-8 massacre. I joke to my buddy Rick that the series will turn as John Olerud leaves the game with an injury. My wife is there with me for this game as well, and she is just as stunned. We wait for the Red Sox to show some sign of life, but after eight full innings, we’ve seen enough. Rick and I dread making the trek into the park for game four, but it must be done. The game is a strange one, the Red Sox keep it close and the crowd is very much into the game, doing whatever they can to will this team to at least one win. Joe Torre boldly puts Mariano Rivera in the game to start the eight inning with a one run lead, time is running out. In the ninth, Rivera walks Millar to lead things off, and the stadium is more alive than ever. Dave Roberts is off the bench to pinch run before Millar even gets to first, and despite essentially telling Rivera he will steal second base, he does so. Bill Mueller quickly drills a single to center and the game is tied.

The game rolls on and on, both teams having chances to end things. I always get nervous right around midnight, having seen too many Beanpot defeats for my Huskies happen right around that time, but the Sox escape without allowing the Yankees to score. It’s now well past 1am, not a single person has left the game, no one is even leaving their seats. Everyone now believes. When David Ortiz’ two run homer lands in the bullpen just over Gary Sheffield’s outstretched glove in the 12th inning, it’s pandemonium. No one wants to leave, and yet we all know, the Sox have a tremendous hill to climb. We don’t care, we believe. On the way out, pandemonium in the streets, finally people have something to cheer about. The Boston Police are out in force, we walk by a line of horses, someone has tossed a Yankee hat into, um, a pile of horse, er, um, well, you know, crap. That makes people extremely happy to see.

Game five I watch from the comfort of my home. Once again, the Sox rally for two late runs to force extra innings. David Ortiz is once again the hero, this time in the 14th inning fisting a single into center field. I can only imagine the feeling being there, it is well past 2am, I don’t sleep that night but knowing the series is going back to New York with Schilling back for game six, I believe now more than ever. Schilling is brilliant, stitches literally holding one of his ligaments in place. Game seven the following night, an entire region has come to a halt the past five days, all hinging on this. David Ortiz rips a two run homer in the first inning, effectively squashing the Yankees right there and then. When Johnny Damon’s grand slam lands in the seats, the celebration begins in earnest. The Sox go on to rout a New York team that just gives up, 10-3.

I sit on my living room floor with my three month old son Anthony as the final out is recorded, not sure what to do. He is his usual happy self at this hour, but I’m sure he has no idea what has just happened. This is the spot where about a year ago, my heart was ripped out by Aaron Boone. Five days and five LONG nights have come to an end, and this time the Red Sox have won. All the believing has paid off, and I can now safely begin to make arrangements to see the Red Sox play in the World Series!!!

The 2004 World Series
The Cardinals punch their ticket to the World Series, but I’m not concerned. I just don’t see the Red Sox finally getting past the Yankees and not doing well in the Series. That would be too cruel, wouldn’t it? For various reasons, getting to Game One is not going to happen for me. My daughter’s third birthday party is that day and things are otherwise just too complicated. I know, sounds crazy, but I work out a ticket trade with my buddy Rick so that he gets my ticket to Game One, I get his ticket to Game Two which gives us the opportunity to bring the wives with us. Corny as it may seem, it’s the right thing to do. It’s been 86 years since there has been a championship, no telling when we will get the opportunity to see it happen in person. Watching from home, I see Boston run up an early led in the first game, struggle to keep St.Louis from scoring in the middle, but in the end the Sox score a couple runs in the eighth inning to win 11-9. We’re 1/4 of the way there.

With a babysitter in place, we make our way into Boston to see Game Two of the World Series! The atmosphere is absolutely electric. People in the streets are fired up and you can feel in the air that the fans are going to will this team to another win. Of course, having Curt Schilling on the mound doesn’t hurt either! This game again goes the way of the Red Sox, a result that was never really in doubt. Schilling stuffs the Cardinals all game, making them look silly. While the Sox could have scored more, it ends up they get just enough to take the 6-2 victory. When it’s over, again, no one wants to leave the stadium. As we leave and walk back to our car, I simply put my arm in the air with one finger extended. I can feel it, we’re going to be number one and nothing can stop it at this point. Strangers in the street are high fiving each other, no one can wipe a smile off their face. We’ve done all we can on the home front, we’ve sent the Sox west with a two game lead.

Pedro is on the mound for game three, and he doesn’t disappoint. Boston scores in the first inning and never looks back. The Red Sox are on the cusp of winning it all, I still believe. Game four opens with Johnny Damon leading off the game with a home run. Game, set, and match. Derek Lowe does the rest as St.Louis never threatens. Keith Foulke is once again closing this one out, and again I’m in my living room with my young son. As the clock strikes 11:40pm, Foulke picks up a weak grounder and flips to first base. The Boston Red Sox are 2004 World Series Champions.

World Series Champions Go On Parade
The long journey has come to an end, we stare at the scene on the television for a time, tears of joy begin to fall. I go outside my house and let out a “whoop”! Most of the neighbors are also out, they return the call. Complete and utter ecstasy all over New England. More than a generation of Red Sox fans have waited for this moment and even as I write this, I’m not sure anyone realizes the ramifications are of this World Series Championship. The world has been changed, no longer can the Red Sox be made fun of by New Yorkers. Ever. And in any situation, personal or sporting, people can now have hope in even the most desperate of times. Boston was trailing the Yankees three games to none and came back to win, and then win the World Series. Anything is now possible.

The following day at work, no one can wipe a smile off their face. Folks have put on whatever Red Sox gear they own. Men in suit and tie enter the building wearing Red Sox hats. The upcoming Friday has been dubbed Red Sox Pride Day, I can finally wash the shirt I’ve been wearing while watching every game and wear it to work. Times aren’t good right now, they are great. Nothing can bring me down, the Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions!!!

A parade is planned, I’m going no matter what. The whole family is going, wife, 3 year old daughter, 3 month old son. Rain is in the forecast, I don’t care, we dress for it and bring the double stroller. Knowing the area we find a spot along the route where we are second from the police barriers, we set up camp an hour before the parade is to begin. It is a Saturday, I’ve had to wake up at 6am and to get the kids going, but I don’t care. This is something that can’t be missed.

As the parade gets near us, the rain stops, the sun pokes thru. Boston Red Sox, World Series Champions. Finally the players make their way to where we are standing. An incredible scene, fans cheering wildly, players and coaches pointing and waving. Then it finally hits me, I think of all the people that went before me that never got a chance to enjoy this. My grandmother fell two years short of seeing it happen, my other grandparents departing long before that. They are looking down from above. Hundreds, thousands, even millions of others looking down from the heavens and I swear I hear them all cheering just as wildly as we are. The tears begin to roll, this time there’s no where to hide. I look around me, there are people of all ages, many older, many the same age as I am, they are in the same boat. The tears roll, we all nod to each other as we continue to scream and clap as loud as we can.

And just as quickly as the parade got to us, within five minutes it is all over. It leaves behind a trail of confetti in streets that are lined by fans that always believed this team could win. Emotionally spent, it takes a half an hour or so to gather our belongings and strap the kids back into the stroller. As do most kids, my daughter loved the parade, if she only knew the reason it was being held. I hope that she and my son have an opportunity later in life to enjoy the ride that I’ve just been on. Boston Red Sox, World Series Champions.

So now a month has passed, but the emotion of what has transpired is still fresh. As was the case last year, there are certain songs on the radio that bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Tears of joy this time. Many people have already turned their sights to next year’s team. Not me. I could care less about what happens next year. Really. The Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions and this is something that I am going to enjoy for a very long time. I hear on the radio some people are already hot and bothered about the free agents that might be leaving. Others are looking forward to opening day next year in front of the New York Yankees. I don’t care about any of that right now, nothing having to do with the Red Sox can bring me down right now, they are World Series Champions. I hope this feeling never goes away. Let me type that one last time, 2004 World Series Champions Boston Red Sox. Wow.


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