Ten Years Gone: Yankees go up 3-0 in ALCS, beat down Red Sox at rainy Fenway
In the autumn of 2004 I was a senior at Stonehill College, a liberal arts school of 2,000 or so students 25 miles southwest of Boston in a town of old buildings and tall trees: Easton, MA.
The New England enclave, plunked on a map between Boston and Providence, sat just beyond the reach of the snarled traffic that extended from the epicenter of the region, the home of its beloved baseball team. A sheep pasture was across the street from campus (I won’t get into the time some clown kidnapped a sheep and brought it back to his dormitory; just know it wasn’t me). Stonehill itself was basically a bubble, inhabited mostly by New England kids with a cluster of tri-state irritants tossed in. In ’04, with the Sox playing the Yankees in the ALCS for the second consecutive year, the fall colors of campus were yellow and orange and Red Sox crimson and navy.
With the determining factor of “who has the biggest, heaviest tube TV?” seven of my friends gathered in our townhouse to watch Game 1, with a banged up Curt Schilling on the mound for Boston.
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I was studying for an economics (or was it marine ecology?) test and brought Joe and Jerry with me to the study room. My penchant for procrastination and need for camaraderie being what it was, I took a couple of “breaks” and joined my friends upstairs. When I did, odd things happened. Whenever I walked into the room, the Yankees scored. Hideki Matsui with an RBI double. Matsui again. A Kenny Lofton homer, for God’s sake. Matsui again.
With the contest seemingly out of reach, I permanently relocated to the study room and dove into a textbook. And yet, as I tried to concentrate on Keynesian theory (or was it the effects of nitrogen loading on estuaries?) the Sox came back. They chased Mike Mussina, who had been pitching a perfect game, in the seventh and plated five runs as Jason Varitek shook off an 0-for-36 skid at Yankee Stadium with a two-run bomb. They got two more in the eighth and had two men on in the ninth, but when I headed upstairs again to share in the excitement, Bill Mueller bounced into a double play to end the affair.
For Game 2, another upcoming test commanded my attention – mid-October is of course mid-term season and I needed to make up ground for all the reading I neglected playing wiffleball and chasing girls the previous six weeks – so it was again to the study room with the clock radio and the dial that didn’t indicate the station – I arrived on 850 AM by patiently turning the knob until I heard familiar voices. Pedro gave the Red Sox a shot in this one, but the bats snoozed under the spell of the immortal Jon Lieber.
And again, when I took a break to watch an inning with my buddies, John Olerud went yard for the Bombers.
“Whenever Sylver walks in, something bad happens.”
In this age of ball-busting, with a group of college friends for whom the narratives of their entire baseball childhoods were based on a curse, the solution was an easy one.
I was banished from the main viewing area until further notice.
So I made alternative arrangements for Game 3 on Friday night. Beer and booze would be on hand if anybody wanted to come by my place. But with the table set at Fenway Park, the fog came in on Sandburg’s little cat feet, the grey haze keeping temperatures steady. Mercifully, the skies opened and gave the scuffling Sox a break. There would be no baseball that evening.
“Well, they didn’t win tonight,” mused an increasingly prickly Terry Francona.
The rain dumped soggy piles of leaves in the path of my Stan Smiths on the lurch to the dining hall the next morning and lingered in true October fashion as Game 3 began in earnest on Saturday night.
It was a beat-down that bashed down the door of the Beat-Down Hall of Fame, beat down Bucky Dent and the ’78 Bombers and bolted itself into place as the main attraction in time for Sunday business hours.
I remember very little of that game. It was a Saturday night, people filtered in and out of the room, and when the rout was on, our elixir of choice became a bottle of tequila. The lasting image (baseball-related – not the rounds of shots or my roommate tumbling from his desk chair to the floor) is a lonely Manny Ramirez against the outfield green, his dreadlocks and the baggy pant legs of his uniform both at rest as the last of four New York home runs sailed high above his head, eventually bouncing somewhere off the Mass Pike pavement. That might not be an exact description, but again, my memory is hazy of what I reportedly, repeatedly deemed, “the worst Saturday night of all-time.”
The next morning, I slowly gathered sore limbs and picked my head up off the futon to face reality. It was not pretty. And at some point that Sunday, I read the words of one of my heroes, Bob Ryan:
"“They are down, 3–0, after last night’s 19–8 rout, and, in this sport, that is an official death sentence. Soon it will be over, and we will spend another dreary winter lamenting this and lamenting that.”"
It undeniably made sense. It was over. But, as I had so many seasons before, on perfect late-September days and cold, unforgiving October nights, I would be there for the last game of the season, staving off winter if only for a few hours.
I had no idea summer would last a bit longer that year.