Looking back to the deciding game of the legendary 2004 ALCS, where Johnny Damon pushed the Boston Red Sox within touching distance of their destiny.
Whatever you think of Johnny Damon now, there’s no denying that his baseball abilities were key components in the sacred 2004 Red Sox campaign. Damon and the class of ’04 will long be remembered as one of the greatest teams in the history of this storied franchise. They broke the 86-year curse and did it in wild fashion.
The ALCS that season is the most important series in this ball club’s history – a series that absolutely had it all. One part that is often forgotten about in all the madness that October, however, is Damon’s Game Seven heroics.
Damon is definitely a controversial character – as is anyone who has played for both the Sox and the Yankees. Joining New York in 2006 undoubtedly destroyed the portrayal of Damon that countless Red Sox fans had of him. Today, some will still have strong feelings against him, but when it’s all said and done, his production while in Boston, and in 2004, should earn him Red Sox Nation’s utmost respect.
The comeback in the 2004 ALCS produced one of the most memorable moments in Red Sox history. Those four nights turned everything around for this franchise, and without which who knows what the situation could be today. The Sox have added three other titles since 2004, but it could’ve been a lot different.
After coming back from 3-0 down to tie the series, and the deciding game at Yankee Stadium, it looked like all the stars aligned for the Sox. Although this did turn out to be the case, it wasn’t as easy as that. This was still the Yankees. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez headlined an absolutely stacked line up.
The Red Sox needed to get the runs on the scoreboard early to settle themselves in and get the job done. David Ortiz will always be remembered as the hero of this side, and rightly so. He himself chalked on a two-run homer in this one, after what was already a sensational series.
All of these players are heroes for their efforts, but they needed another guy to step up on this night. Johnny Damon was that guy. Against his future squad, Damon had a 3-6 night when it mattered most, batting in six runs on two homers.
After Ortiz’s two-run shot in the first, Damon stepped up to the plate with Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller and Orlando Cabrera loading the bases. Javier Vazquez came in to face his first hitter and….bang. Damon hits one deep to right field and before ya knew it the score was 6-0 Red Sox. Although it was the Yankees in the Bronx, and the fact that the Red Sox were extremely hot and on the comeback they were, it was unassailable.
Damon did the same thing to Vazquez in the fourth. As Cabrera and then himself crossed home plate, Damon had given the Sox an 8-1 lead. It was never to be for the Yanks on the night, and ever since Dave Roberts crossed home plate in that astonishing Game Four matchup.
From here everybody knows what happened. Breezing past the Cardinals in the way that they did was the only fitting ending to the unbelievable 2004 campaign. Damon was a huge part of this side. He went on to earn his second All-Star selection in the 2005 season before joining the Evil Empire in December of that year. There will always be a love-hate relationship for Sox fans towards Damon, but you can’t knock him too much after all that happened prior to his departure.