Red Sox: Remembering the series that changed everything for Boston

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20: Johnny Damon #18 of the Boston Red Sox hits a grand-slam home run in the second inning against the New York Yankees during game seven of the American League Championship Series on October 20, 2004 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20: Johnny Damon #18 of the Boston Red Sox hits a grand-slam home run in the second inning against the New York Yankees during game seven of the American League Championship Series on October 20, 2004 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

Today is the 15 year anniversary of the night that changed Boston when the Red Sox completed the greatest comeback in sports history.

This season was an absolute nightmare for the Red Sox but we do have some good times to remember as we approach the World Series. It was on this night, 15 years ago, that the Sox completed the greatest comeback in sports history. Once again, just as they had countless times before, things seemed to be going against Boston.

A year removed from having their hearts ripped out by Aaron Boone, the Red Sox again found themselves in the ring staring at the Yankees. As if we were watching a movie we had seen a hundred times, New York imposed their will from the get-go. Boston put up a fight in the first two games in losing efforts, seeing scores of 10-7 and 3-1, respectively. Then came game three and the worst loss in Red Sox postseason history, 19-8.

I was 16 in 2004, a third-generation Red Sox fan, and living in Upstate New York. Things weren’t the most fun going into game four but the tables would turn in a very favorable way. Longtime Boston reliever turned starter, Derek Lowe would get the call for game four with all the pressure on his shoulders.

Lowe would go 5.1 IP while giving up three runs and striking out three while walking none. The Boston bullpen would give up just a single run the rest of the night. The Red Sox offense didn’t shy away from the challenge and would score three early on but would fall behind 4-3 later on. Then came the greatest stolen base in the history of baseball.

Kevin Millar expertly worked a walk in the bottom of the ninth off of Mariano Rivera and would soon be replaced by current Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts. Millar said it best in the ESPN documentary “Four Days in October,” when talking about what Roberts would do that night.

"“We knew he was going. The Yankees knew he was going.”"

When Roberts was called safe at second it was like a breath of life had filled the lungs of Red Sox Nation. Bill Mueller would soon smack a single up the middle to tie the game as Roberts came charging home from second. The game would go late into the night until the man we all know and love, “Big Papi” David Ortiz came to the plate. With Manny Ramirez on first base, Ortiz would send a moon bomb to the bullpen and send the ALCS to another night.

With one more game in Fenway Park, the ghosts of Red Sox past would show their faces once again. Boston would tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with a pair of runs and then the chess match would begin. Neither team would budge until the game reached the early morning hours of the next day, and Big Papi said it was time to go home.

Ortiz would step to the plate with the game on the line for the second night in a row and once again he would be the hero. A single would allow Johnny Damon to score the winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning and send the ALCS back to Yankee Stadium for a game six.

Game six will forever be known as the “Bloody Sock Game.” If you mention that phrase to anyone that knows a damn thing about America’s pastime, they’ll be able to tell you all about it. Red Sox ace Curt Schilling hadn’t been himself in the postseason and he would be diagnosed with a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle. Some mad scientist surgery prior to the game from the team’s medical staff would allow Curt to take the mound that night.

Schilling would spin a web around the Yankees for 7.1 innings while giving up just a single run and striking out four. As the game progressed you could see the blood from the sutures spread through his sock.

With each throw, you could see the pain on his face but there was never an ounce of quit in him. It was clear he was beyond immobile and yet the Yankees never thought to attack him with bunts, a very confusing gameplan to say the least.

Boston would score four pretty early on in the game and caused the Yankees to play catch up. New York would tally a pair of runs and that would be all on the night. Keith Foulke will always be an unsung hero for the 2004 season but he was the man the Boston needed for the job. Foulke would come in and close out the Yankees, and just like that, the ALCS was all knotted up and we had ourselves a game seven.

There are no sweeter words in this world than “Game Seven.” Yeah, I capitalized it, that’s how awesome they are. Up until this point, I have stayed away from the “Cure of the Bambino.” Red Sox Nation is broken into two factions: Those who believe in the curse, and those who don’t.

At different times in my life, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. With Boston erasing a three-game deficit and forcing a game seven, it felt like we may see George Herman Ruth rear his ugly mug.

Boston may have called the Ghostbusters because they jumped out to a massive 6-0 lead within the first two innings. In that short span of time, it felt like the demons of Red Sox past had been exercised and it was a new day.

Damon smacked a grand slam dinger into the heart of Yankee Stadium in the second and would add a second two-run shot in the fourth inning the put the nail in the coffin. A Mark Bellhorn homer, yes THAT Mark Bellhor, and an Orlando Cabrera sac fly would bring the score to 10-3.

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A ground ball to Pokey Reese would officially send the Red Sox to the World Series once again with a chance to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy. The greatest comeback had been completed. Never before in the history of the four major sports had a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Boston wasn’t done though as they had a date with the Cardinals coming up quick.

Just a week later, the Curse would be broken, the 86 year drought would end, and the Boston Red Sox were the 2004 World Series champions. It was such an amazing time to be a Red Sox fan and it changed everything.

During the drought, we had seen the Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins all hang banners while the Sox fumbled their way to misery. The sun shined a bit brighter, food tasted a bit better, and I think we all slept a bit better each night.

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Winning it all in 2004 wouldn’t become a fluke either. Red Sox Nation would see a wave of success like we haven’t seen since the birth of the franchise. Boston would add three more World Series banners after 2004 with the most recent coming after a historic season in 2018. With the offseason right around the corner, the Red Sox will be looking to once again build a team to contend in October, and rightfully so.