Mark Loretta had one of the greatest moments in Patriot’s Day history in 2006 when his walk-off home run gave the Boston Red Sox a thrilling victory.
I love Marathon Monday Boston Red Sox baseball games. The rising early. The eleven o’ clock start so one can meander down Boylston Street to catch some of the runners crossing the finish line after the game. We all remember what happened in 2013. But what happened seven years prior was one of the greatest games I have ever attended in my life as a Red Sox fan. On a gray, overcast Monday morning, a light hitting second baseman brought the crowd to its feet and delivered them one of the greatest moments in Marathon Monday history.
On December 7, 2005, Mark Loretta was traded to the Red Sox from the San Diego Padres for catcher Doug Mirabelli. It seemed like a great trade at the time, since the Sox released Mark Bellhorn in late 2005, and needed a competent player to bridge the year before unleashing Dustin Pedroia unto the baseball world as one of the best second baseman in team history. (Later that season, we remember Dougie No-Batting Gloves was re-acquired because Josh Bard couldn’t catch a Wakefield knuckleball…police escort and all).
When the Sox brought in Loretta, he was a career .301 hitter with decent defensive stats. From April 3 to April 16 of 2006 he was hitting a pedestrian.267 with zero home runs and a measly .356 SLG percentage. It wasn’t like Loretta wasn’t a good player, he just wasn’t making a name for himself in the echelon of bit players who had become heroes for the hometown team.
But on Marathon Monday, April 16, 2006, Loretta did the improbable. The Red Sox were trailing the Seattle Mariners 6-5 in the 9th inning of a back and forth game. There were seven lead changes throughout this game, and the crowd was getting restless.
My buddy Bobby and I had attended every Patriot’s Day game for the past six years. It was one of those games that made you feel deep pride for the city of Boston. Not being a runner myself (I played baseball…I shouldn’t have to tell you how much I don’t like to run), my whole day hinged on what the local nine did that day. If they won? Celebratory shots at the old Ground Round in Cleveland Circle. If they lost? Commiseration shots at the Ground Round in Cleveland Circle.
But on this day, in the bottom of the ninth on Marathon Frickin’ Monday we got a miracle, where celebratory shots were in order. With the Seattle Mariners up 6-5, they had their closer Eddie Guardardo in to close it out. “Everyday Eddie” was a stud from 2002-2005, collecting 140 saves. But today was not his everyday performance.
After striking out the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth, Eddie gave up a single to The Greek God of Walks, Kevin Youkilis. With the winning run coming to the plate and no outs to spare, I thought Loretta had zero chance of sending us all home happy. And then this happened…
Now, a quick aside…When the ball left Loretta’s bat I thought it had a real chance. Then it hung up. I thought, “well, at least they’ll tie it up.” And then that thing found some wind and cleared the wall. Celebratory shots at Ground Round Y’all!