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Reverse The Curse: The story of the 2004 Boston Red Sox Playoff Run (Fall 2012)

            The 2004 Boston Red Sox are still to this day regarded as one of the most influential teams in all of Boston sports.  Their triumphant journey throughout that October captured the hearts and passions of nearly everyone in New England. The 2004 World Series win was the first for the organization since the year 1918, when they still had the highly talented Babe Ruth.  Two years after this 1918 World Series win, current owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the rival New York Yankees. And thus the “Curse of the Bambino” was born. The Red Sox were said to be cursed with bad luck forever thanks to one greedy owner.  The Curse of the Bambino ran deep in Boston sports tradition up until the 2004 Playoffs.  Here it was said that the “curse was reversed” after the completion of the impossible comeback against (you guessed it!) the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series (ALCS).  After defeating the Yankees, The Red Sox went on to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.  They sealed their place in baseball history by completing the 4-game sweep while having a hell of a time along the way.  

            This segment will explore the influence this one particular team had on not only Boston, but all of New England.  Detail will be paid to Impactful players like; Kevin Millar, David Ortiz and Curt Schilling, for the roles they played in restoring the faith of Red Sox Nation.  Each series will be summarized, with particular attention paid to the Yankees series due to its emotional importance to both the team and its fans.  Finally, in conclusion there will be a summation of a few history forces that were in play during these Playoffs.  

            Entering the Playoffs, the Wild-Card winning Red Sox drew the Los Angeles Angels for the first round.  This was not how the Sox hoped to start their run.  The Angels were season rivals, playing the Red Sox to a close game each and every time they faced each other.  If good competition in the first series wasn’t enough, the Red Sox had to play the first two games on the road.  All of this buildup thankfully turned out to be for not, since the Red Sox won these road games with ease, 9-3 and 8-3.  This was a promising sign for fans; a 2-0 series lead coming back to Fenway was almost a guaranteed win in this short first round series.  They closed out the sweep, taking 10 innings to do so, with a 2-run David Ortiz Homerun.  This was only the start of Ortiz’s 2004 heroics, but we will cover that later during the Yankees series.  Ultimately, the Red Sox closed out the Angels without much trouble and had to sit eagerly awaiting the victor of the Yankees vs. Twins series.  

            The Yankees closed out the Twins not long after, winning their series 3-1.  This set the stage for a matchup of epic proportions in the ALCS.  Facing the Yankees in October was no new thing for Red Sox fans.  Only one year prior, in the 2003 ALCS, the two teams were matched up and saying there were fireworks would be an understatement.  The one game that really summed up the whole series was Game 3 at Fenway Park.  The scene started with Boston star pitcher allegedly throwing intentionally at the Yankees Garcia.  With this, tensions began to grow.  During the next at bat, Garcia sole second base; sliding hard into the defender.  This started a shoving match between the two and both benches cleared.  In the scuffle, Yankees bench coach, Don Zimmer, made a charge at pitcher Martinez.  Pedro gracefully sidestepped Zimmer and tossed him to the ground.   It’s no surprise that both teams got out of hand after this and it took a 10-minute delay to get things back in order.  The series went on dramatically with the Yankees taking a 3-2 series lead with the remaining games at Yankee Stadium.  The Red Sox managed to square the series at three and force Game 7.  Emotions were high on both sides, one game decided the season for both of these teams and the victor not only went to the World Series but had bragging rights for the year. The game was close all the way through and required extra innings.  You could imagine the feeling in both New York and Boston, one swing of the bat could make or break the entire year, and that’s exactly what happened.  The video of then Yankee Aaron Boone hitting that homerun and dancing down the first base line in celebration still makes a lot of Red Sox fans sick to their stomach.  The rivalry between these two teams needs no explanation and any playoff matchup between the two is guaranteed to be a show.  

            The reaction of Red Sox fans after this loss was anything but positive.  The general feeling of Red Sox Nation was summed up perfectly by a fan in a local bar.  She said, “If the Red Sox were a person, they would be that date that keeps doing you wrong but does that one extra little nice thing to keep you going” (Waksman, Four days in October) This was the feeling of most Red Sox fans. The team would build them up year after year, and continually leave them in heartbreak.  What else could a fan do but blame it on “The Curse”?  This is why the mood before the 2004 Yankees series was one of extreme hesitation.  Director of the ESPN special, 4 Days in October, Gary Waksman commented on this feeling during the introduction to his film.  He sympathized with fans by saying, “It must be tough waking up expecting things to go wrong.” The first three games went exactly as expected.  

            Riding the momentum of their extra inning series win over the Angels, the Red Sox went to New York for the first two games of the series.  The Yankees won both games and sent Boston back to Fenway in serious trouble.  At this point, fans still held onto little hope that they could come home and even the series.  Soon after the first pitch, this hope was stolen away as the Yankees jumped to an early 3-0 lead after the 1st.  It didn’t get any easier for Red Sox fans as the game went on.  The Yankees took a 3-0 series lead with a commanding 19-8 victory.  Now fans had lost all hope.  They had essentially given up on the season because not only has a team never come back from a 3-game deficit, but they had to do it against the team that beat them in the same spot one year ago.  I’ll admit it; I was one of those who thought the series was over.  I remember specifically having a conversation after Game 3 saying there is no way they even have a chance. As much as it killed us kids, we had given the series to the Yankees. 

            Just because the fans called it a season doesn’t mean that’s how they felt in the Red Sox clubhouse.  One player in particular is remembered for his quote on the field before Game 4. Infielder Kevin Millar kept saying “Don’t let us win tonight” (Waksman, Four days in October).  His theory was if they could win Game 4 then have both their top two pitchers, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, take care of business in their starts, they would be in Game 7 and all sports fans know anything can happen in a Game 7.  Things were looking grim for the Red Sox towards the end of Game 4.  They were headed into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 4-3 when Kevin Millar stepped to the plate.  Facing the Yankees star closer, Mariano Rivera, he was able to draw a walk and get the buzz back in Fenway Park. As soon as he got on base Dave Roberts came in to pinch-run.  This set the stage for one of the most memorable moments of the entire 2004 season.  With Roberts on first, Bill Mueller came up to bat.  On the first pitch, with no surprise, Roberts took off for second sliding in safely.  This left Mueller at the plate with the tying run on second base.  After fighting off the next couple of Rivera’s offerings, he finally connected with a line drive base hit which scored Roberts from second.  The fireworks didn’t end here though, flash to the bottom of the 12th.  ALDS hero David Ortiz comes up to bat with one runner on base.  The walk off hero from the week earlier did it again, he sent one over the right field fence for a 2-run walk off homerun.  The Red Sox won and their historic comeback had officially begun.  

            Next was Game 5, the last game in the series at Fenway Park.  Looking like the Red Sox of old, they fell again to an early deficit, surrendering a 4-2 lead.  One more time they had to call on Big Papi (David Ortiz) to get them back in the game.  In the bottom of the 8th inning Ortiz hit another homerun to bring the Yankee lead down to 4-3.  Later in the inning, catcher and Captain Jason Varitek sent a sac fly to center and scored Roberts from third to tie the game at 4.  Just like the night earlier, the drama went late into the night with another extra innings game.  This time it took all the way until the 14th when, guess who, Ortiz comes back to the plate.  With runners on first and second base all the Red Sox needed was a base hit and they had won.  This is exactly what they got when Ortiz sent a ball up the middle and rolling into center field.  The ball rolled just deep enough for Johnny Damon to score from second and give the Red Sox a 5-4 win.  

            In terms of momentum, this win was by far the most important. Not only did it bring the Red Sox one game closer to the World Series but it rekindled the fire back on the streets of Boston.  Fans spent the entire night in the streets outside of Fenway partying and celebrating the fact that the series was going back to New York.  

            Game 6 introduced us to yet another key player in this improbable comeback, Pitcher Curt Schilling.  Shilling also started Game 1 but the results were less than spectacular.  If this wasn’t enough to worry about for Red Sox fans, Schilling also had surgery on his ankle between the starts.  Sportscasters all around the nation doubted Schillings ability to go out and perform successfully.  They were all predicting that Schilling would be pulled early in the game and the exhausted Red Sox bullpen would be forced to take over.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.  Schilling went out and threw 99 pitches over 7 innings while only allowing one run and four hits.  After the game the same sportscasters that were tearing him down were praising his efforts and gutsiness for fighting through 7 innings with intense pain.  Schilling later admitted that throughout the game his entire shoe was filling up with blood.  He said at points he was constantly readjusting his footing to make sure his shoe was tight.  All the blood pooling up had caused half his foot to go numb.  The team rallied behind Schillings performance sealing the victory 4-2 and forcing Game 7 the next night back at Yankee Stadium.  

            Game 7 brought back all those feelings of doubt for Red Sox fans.  This was the exact situation the year prior where the Red Sox were eliminated by the Aaron Boone homerun.  Red Sox nation was conditioned to expect the worst.  Just when they were getting close they would shoot themselves in the foot and lose the series.  These worries didn’t last long however, thanks to another Ortiz homerun and a 2-0 Red Sox lead after the first.  The rally didn’t stop there, in the second Johnny Damon hit a grand slam to extend the lead to 6-0.  Form here the Red Sox never looked back, going on to seal a commanding 10-3 victory and s spot in the 2004 World Series.  

            The Red Sox handled the World Series much as they did Game 7 vs. the Yankees, with convincing victories.  They Swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games, winning each by two runs or more.  This sweep marked the first time in 86 years that the Boston Red Sox organization had been crowned the World Series Champions.  This championship also marked the breaking of the “Curse of the Bambino”.  The years of bad luck had finally left and a new age had begun for Red Sox baseball.  Three seasons later in 2007, the Red Sox again went on to win the World Series, but not quite so dramatically.  These two championships, along with the recent successes of other Boston programs (Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots) began to foster a new attitude around New England sports.  One of success and a decade full of championships.  

            There were multiple history forces in effect here, one of them being the Role of specific individuals.  Specific players like David Ortiz or Curt Schilling had a very visible impact on the success of the team.  Ortiz did his damage with his bat while Schilling did it on the mound.  Both these men had an influence on not only their teams but also on the fans.  They were responsible for some of the big plays that allowed the fans to get back in the series and make a difference.  The second History force is Interaction and Exchange.  This came with the attitudes of the Red Sox fans.  Before this playoff run there was an atmosphere of distrust between the Red Sox and their fans.  The fans always knew in the back of their minds that when it got to crunch time the Sox would let them down.  This playoff run rekindled the spark of the fans.  The final History force is Arts and New ideas.  This history force walks hand in hand with the previous in the way they both relate to the changes in the attitudes of the Red Sox fans. The drama and emotion throughout the entire Yankees series brought fans together all around New England and allowed them to rally behind a goal that even some of our parents’ parents weren’t able to see.  This team left a mark on baseball fans all throughout the United States by accomplishing the 3-0 series comeback, and to this day they are the only team to do so.   


Sources
  1. "2004 American League Season Summary - Baseball-Reference.com." Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Baseball Statistics and History. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2004.shtml>.
  2. "2004 League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees (4-3) - Baseball-Reference.com." Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Baseball Statistics and History. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/2004_ALCS.shtml>.
  3. BROWN, GARRY. " Boston Red Sox regular-season record against Angels has nothing to do with postseason | masslive.com." Western Massachusetts Local News, Breaking News, Sports and Weather - MassLive.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://www.masslive.com/sports/index.ssf/2008/09/boston_red_sox_regularseason_r.html>.
  4. "Boston.com / Sports / Baseball / Red Sox / 2004 World Series." Boston.com - Boston, MA news, breaking news, sports, video. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/playoffs04/2004_world_series_archive/>.
  5. "Curt Schilling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curt_Schilling>.
  6. Four days in October. Dir. Gary Waksman. Perf. Boston Red Sox. ESPN Home Entertainment ;, 2010. DVD.

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