Ten Years Gone: 2004 Red Sox win it, for all of us


"Then, as it was,Then again it will be.And though the course may change sometimes,Rivers always reach the sea.– Led Zeppelin, “Ten Years Gone”"

On October 27, 2004, beneath a lunar eclipse, the Boston Red Sox clinched their first World Series victory in 86 years with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Though pundits had predicted a classic confrontation between two evenly-matched opponents, the series merely resulted in a victory lap for Boston after vanquishing the Yankees in a brutal ALCS.

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Derek Lowe, an afterthought when the postseason kicked off three weeks prior, scattered three hits over seven innings for the win and became the first pitcher to earn a decision in three straight series-deciding games.

It would be Lowe’s Boston  swan song, as he jetted for L.A. and a $36 million free agent purse that winter.

Game 3 had been Pedro Martinez’s Boston swan song. Like Lowe, the ace also scattered three hits over seven as the Red Sox rolled to  a 4-1 win. Following the parade and a feeble attempt by management to re-sign the righty, Martinez headed down 95 to the Big Apple and the Mets, where he went 15-8 in 2005 but failed to sustain the brilliance he brought to Boston over seven seasons.

Keith Foulke, who might’ve pitched his arm off that postseason, recorded the final out of the series. The closer would never be the same.

Curt Schilling would certainly never be the same, as he unloaded whatever he had left in a brilliant Game 2 performance. Schilling was a mess in 2005 before rebounding in ’06 and helping the Sox to a second world title in 2007.

And you’ve already read about Bellhorn off the foul pole in Game 1.

There were  many heroes that autumn, an autumn when absolutely everything mattered and then, all of a sudden, the Charlie Brown rain cloud evaporated and the weight was lifted. For once, Red Sox fans could smile without fearing repercussion. Manny Ramirez collected the series MVP trophy (despite being an absolute butcher with the glove) and delivered a malapropism that encapsulated the new attitude.

“I don’t believe in curses; I believe you make your own destination.” – Manny Ramirez

So many moments. Big things and little, some remembered fondly, others forgotten in the years that followed, to be refreshed by the scribes and the DVD viewings on winter nights that would never seem so cold again.

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The next day, I found myself thinking not about the team and its players, who’d be lauded as folk heroes in the ensuing months. I thought about the fans and the collective sigh of relief whooshing off the coast of New England and over the Atlantic Ocean as Foulke flipped to Mientkiewicz for the final out.

I thought about those who didn’t get to see it: my great-grandmother, who used to visit when I was a child. Every kid had a Nana Dolan: she watched all of the games and knew it down to the names of the players’ wives. According to my parents, when she was in town, my dad would get home from work at night to find Nana Dolan perched on the couch with the ballgame on. She’d insist my father watch the game with her, then doze off. But if Dad tried to change the channel, he’d be apprehended by a suddenly very alert Nana Dolan.

I got a phone call from my neighbor, Mr. Young, with whom I had spent many childhood afternoons talking baseball at his kitchen table as he smoked his pipe and patted his Siamese cat, Nicky. Mr. Young, a Red Sox fan and lifelong student of the game, a sharp tack who worked in the Cape League for several years, had waited a long time for this: to pick up a phone receiver and say, “they finally did it.” There was a smile in his voice. It was a conversation I never thought we’d get the privilege of having, but we did. Mr. Young passed away the following year.

And then, there was Ellis Burks. If anyone knew what this meant, it was the 40-year old, 18-year MLB vet who started his career in Boston, went on to slug most of his 352 career homers into the thin air of Colorado, the gusts of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, and as part of a modern Murderer’s Row in Cleveland, never winning a title, before coming back to Boston for the ’04 season. Burks managed a meager 33 regular season at-bats, his knees finally giving out, but I’ll never forget the look on his face as the championship parade rolled through the city.

When the ninth inning of Game 4 rolled around, 21-year old me sequestered myself in my dorm room, alone, eschewing Buck and McCarver and the company of friends for solitude and the radio. I didn’t know it yet, but my generation would see the Boston Red Sox re-write history. How sweet it would be. But even if this was to be the only time, Nana Dolan, Mr. Young and Ellis Burks, in one way or another, were vindicated. And that was all right by me.