Friday, September 25, 2009

ON SPORTS ~ Redemption...



where previously Molly about had a heart attack in the ALCS...

Oh the drama! In the ALCS of 2004, the weather was chilly and the fans in New England were anxious. I know this, not just because I lived there, but because Fox's cameras felt the need to provide the viewing audience with incessant shots of fans in the stands bundled in jackets, hands clasped in front of their face, eyes riveted to the field as games went on and on and on between the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Game 4 in Fenway had ended in dramatic fashion thanks to two guys named David. Game 5 went much the same way. Except instead of taking a measly 12 innings and 4 hours, this one took 14 innings and 6 hours before Big Papi hit a game winning homer for the second night in a row to keep the Sox alive. Yankee Closer Mariano Rivera blew his second save in as many nights as well. As nicely as Pedro performed against Mussina that evening, the Relief Staff was coming up huge to tow the line and wear the Yankee hitters down.

So the Sox bid farewell to Fenway, knowing that if they were going to return that season, they would have to accomplish something that had never been done before in baseball - come back from being down in a 7 game series 3-0 and win the final 4 games. They were halfway there, but they would have to finish the job in enemy territory, in New York, relying on Curt Schilling, who failed miserably to begin this series there when his ankle blew up on him.

You see, Schilling's ankle tendon had dislocated from its stabilizing sheath and the team doctor, Dr. Morgan, had played around with a cadaver and figured out a way to surgically attach that tendon to the tissue to immobilize it and keep it from wiggling around. Schilling thought this was a brilliant idea and had no qualms about surgery on a table in the locker room. After it was taken care of, he was cleared to pitch. It was a temporary solution to a massive problem and much ado was made of it. Fox yammered on endlessly with all the gory details, all the while showing extreme closeups of his ankle which began to bleed through his sock during the game.

Scruffy little Second Baseman, Mark Bellhorn, helped his pitcher out by hitting a 3 run homer in the early goings. Only it was originally ruled to have hit the wall and stayed fair rather than leaving the yard. For the first time ever in the history of mankind, the Umpires on the field actually agreed to get together and discuss it for a few gut wrenching minutes before reversing the call and ruling it a home run after all. Which it was, as shown by the replays and admitted to reluctantly by a young Yankees fan in the stands during a silly interview. Another call was reversed in the 8th when they took a run away from the Yankees because despised A-Rod interfered with his nemesis, Pitcher Bronson Arroyo, by slapping the ball out of his glove on his way to 1st Base. Arroyo was the same Pitcher who had hit A-Rod back in July, leading to the legendary fight with Jason Varitek. Curt lasted 7 innings which was in and of itself a miracle considering and belatedly made good on his Game 1 vow to shut up Yankee Stadium by getting a close victory in a paltry 9 inning game. Not without stress however as the Yankees left the tying run at the plate to end the game, making the Sox the first team to force a Game 7 after being 0-3. The Yankees looked stunned. They should have. They were about to be run over by Johnny Damon.

The next day was utter torture while waiting for the final game to be played and decide who would advance to the World Series. Just like the previous season. Except this time our nerves were so fried we really just wanted the game to be decided early - by either team. No more nail biting. No more torturous losses by slim margins or heart pounding victories by the skin of our teeth. Make history or be history - just do it quickly.

David Ortiz hit a 2 run homer in the 1st inning. Johnny Damon hit a Grand Slam in the 2nd and a 2 run homer in the 4th. And that settled it. Not even the Red Sox would blow an 8 run lead. Derek Lowe started the game and Pedro came in as a Reliever just to mess with our minds which were still not over the jarring disaster of his late inning melt-down in last year's ALCS Game 7. It was as if Sox Manager Francona wanted to put us through unneccesary stress to shake things up a little. Cruel but forgiven. Because in the end, the Sox won 10-3. And turned the proud Yankees into the answer to one of sports' most embarrassing trivia questions. Who is the only baseball team to lose a 7 game series after winning the first 3 games? In fact, in all of sports, only 2 hockey teams have ever suffered the same fate. It has never happened in basketball. That wasn't exactly the kind of entry into the record books the 2004 Yankees were looking for. It was very kindly dubbed the biggest collapse in the history of sports.

So I didn't sleep that night. And I didn't do anything at work the next day. No one did. The entire region was exhausted and floating on Cloud 9. To finally be back to the World Series. To have beat their rival to get there. To have humiliated them in the process. To have finally avenged last season's collapse. It felt like we'd just won the whole thing. But the St. Louis Cardinals were next up. And the last time the Sox faced them in a World Series, guess how that turned out? That's right. They lost. In crushing fashion. In Game 7. Optimism was really hard to give in to when such unhappy history kept haunting you. The euphoria of beating the Yankees dissipated as soon as you remembered they hadn't won a World Series in 86 years. But maybe, just maybe, a reverse sweep would lead to a reversed curse.

next week, CURSE REVERSED, in which the Sox git 'er done...

1 comment:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I never heard about that ankle surgery in the locker room. OMG. That is dedication! I love this story. And I think maybe it came as a sign from the redemption God. This morning, my son has a football game in which we need some serious redemption. They are playing their biggest enemy...a nasty, trash-talking one...and they need to crush them. Not that I'm competitive or anything.