Kevin Millar remembers former teammate Mark Bellhorn as the hero of the Boston Red Sox postseason run in 2004 that delivered a World Series championship.
The postseason stage is where legends are born. Everything is magnified under the bright lights of October when a championship is on the line. It’s hard to fly under the radar when you come through in the playoffs yet Mark Bellhorn somehow doesn’t get enough credit for his production during the Boston Red Sox 2004 postseason run.
The Red Sox have been the most successful team of the 21st century with four World Series titles so we almost forget that this franchise suffered through an 86-year title drought. A special place is reserved in the hearts of Red Sox Nation for the ’04 championship team that reversed the curse.
We fondly remember the highlights of that remarkable run that included the greatest comeback in history against the New York Yankees in the ALCS followed by a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Dave Roberts steal. Curt Schilling‘s bloody sock. David Ortiz‘s walk-off hits. There was no shortage of dramatic moments during that thrilling postseason but we can’t forget about Bellhorn.
Kevin Millar certainly hasn’t forgotten. In a promotional video for MLB Network, Millar called Bellhorn the hero of that championship team and stated that the Red Sox wouldn’t have won the World Series without him.
He has a point. Bellhorn hit a meager .191 during the 2004 postseason but he made his hits count.
A hobbled Schilling gutting his way through Game 6 of the ALCS grabbed the headlines but the Red Sox don’t stay alive to force a Game 7 without the bat of Bellhorn. His three-run home run with two outs in the fourth inning opened up a 4-0 lead. Boston’s lineup would be blanked by the Yankees the rest of the way while New York tacked on a pair of late runs to pull within two. If Bellhorn recorded an out to end the fourth-inning threat then the Red Sox would have likely been eliminated that night.
Bellhorn’s eighth-inning home run in Game 7 helped put away the Yankees to complete the epic ALCS comeback.
He would do it again in Game 1 of the World Series. Bellhorn swatted a hanging breaking ball from Julian Tavarez that clanged high off the Pesky Pole for a two-run homer in the eighth inning that broke a tie and would prove to be the winning runs. That made Bellhorn the first second baseman in MLB history with a home run in three consecutive postseason games.
That World Series goes a bit overlooked since the Red Sox rolled through the Cardinals and it came on the heels of a historic ALCS against their bitter rivals from the Bronx. The series wouldn’t have been won so easily if not for the late-inning heroics of Bellhorn though.
Postseason heroes are often rewarded for their efforts. The Red Sox overpaid Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce because of what they did in the 2018 World Series. Jon Lester isn’t quite an ace-caliber pitcher based on his regular-season resume but he got paid like one because of his postseason dominance and fans still haven’t gotten over the disappointment of him leaving.
The same can’t be said for Bellhorn. He struggled to keep his batting average above the Mendoza Line in 2005 before the Red Sox released him in August. The Yankees scooped him up hoping the revenge narrative would work in their favor against their division rivals but the move backfired when Bellhorn’s production cratered. Bellhorn spent short stints in San Diego and Cincinnati before retiring after the 2007 season.
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He was never a big name but the Red Sox didn’t need him to be on their star-studded roster. Bellhorn was a role player with a solid glove who came through in clutch situations. Every winning team needs a player like this to complement their stars. An unsung hero. Bellhorn was that guy for the 2004 Red Sox. Millar was right about his former teammate – the Red Sox don’t win the World Series that year without him.