Sunday, April 03, 2005

10/16/03 - 10/27/04 : My story

I still remember October 16th, 2003 as if it were yesterday. It was Game 7 and every Sox fan knew that after 85 years this was really The Year. Things were sounding so good too. I work in a very loud warehouse environment, but there were several radios positioned about the place, all blasting the game as loud as they'd go so that you could hear the game from most places. The Red Sox got out to an early lead and Pedro was on the mound. We were up 5-2 in the 8th and our bullpen was lights out for the post season. We had the game! World Series here we come!!! But wait...what the hell is Pedro doing out there? Umm...he's already thrown 100 pitches. Grady, get him out. Come on now, he's getting hit hard. Grady, get him out. HE'S LETTING THE TYING RUN CROSS THE PLATE!! GRADY, GET HIM THE FUCK OUT! But it was already too late. The game was tied and going into extras. The bottom of the 11th...what little of it happened, is something that will always be etched in my mind. Just as the game came back from commercial the conveyor belts in the warehouse went down as they often do. The place was dead quiet besides the radios blasting the game. First pitch and BAM. You could tell by the radio announcer's home run voice that the ball was gone. People hung their heads, crushed. I had to fight back a tear. One of the few Yankee fans in the place (the stereotypical fan...the type that loves the Yankees and Deter Jeter is hot OMG and wait...who's Gary Sheffield?) began cheering as soon as someone explained to her what just guy had to be held back from hitting her. It was over. It wasn't supposed to end that way.

The following weeks Red Sox Nation walked with their heads down, shuffling their feet, at a loss inside. We didn't know what to do or how to feel. It wasn't supposed to end that way. It was supposed to be The Year. We had it!!! And it was lost. The Yankees losing the World Series was a small comfort. Very small. I personally didn't give a damn what the Yankees did at that point. It was just a bad time to be a Sox fan. A bad time to even be alive.

As time went on Red Sox fans started talking about it. They started talking with other Sox fans. There was no way to comfort a Sox fan and no way to tell him or her that it would be ok. We'd never forget the pain. But somehow things started looking better. Once we took a step back and realized that we almost did it, things started getting better.

We came so close to beating the Yankees. The two teams were even, all year! We faced them 26 times in 2003 and went toe to toe with them, often beating them. With a little bit of bad luck and bad management we ended up losing in the end. But that year was different. We were actually getting calls that fell our way. It almost seemed like lady luck was on the side of the Red Sox. When it was all over and I took a step back I realized that the balance of power was tilting. For a scale so lopsided it takes a while to tilt, but in 2003 things were even. The Yankees won the final game, but after a month of mourning Red Sox Nation was able to raise their heads and say with confidence for the 86th year in a row...Next year. Next year is The Year!!!!

Thanksgiving was rolling around and as the Game 7 funk wore off, there were rumors. Curt Schilling??? You can't be serious. No. I won't get my hopes up. The deal is done, we just have to convince Schilling that it's a good idea? No, I can't believe it! Theo Epstein is having Thanksgiving dinner with the Schillings!? Holy shit, we might have him. The deal is done. We have him. That sealed it. 2004 officially became The Year. I don't believe in fate, but in this instance I think I almost did. From that moment it was written in stone that in October 2004 the Yankees and

the Red Sox would meet again. Once again they would take it to 7 games. This time it would end different. The Year was coming. I don't even know why the other 28 teams bothered. 2004 wasn't about them. They didn't have a shot. It all came down to the Red Sox and the Yankees. It was going to come down to a game 7 and when the Red Sox won that they were going to win it all.

The rest of the offseason hardly seemed to matter. We got Keith Foulke and that only re-affirmed that this was The Year. The Yankees passed on Vlad to sign Sheffield, what a joke. We tried to get A-Rod, but failed. So what? It was a win-win situation. Which duo of all stars did you want, Nomar and Manny or A-Rod and Ordonez? Either way we were set (and in hindsight we got the right duo). The Yankees ended up with A-Rod. But the Nation did not falter. I can't say it enough. We knew. It was fate. It was written in stone. It was going to happen. 2004 was going to be The Year.

The season started. We all know how that went. They started off with a bang in April. Everything was going right and everything looked like it was supposed to. Then once the weather got warmer, the team got colder. A lot of people paniced after what seemed like 6 years of .500 ball. Fire Francona! Screw Theo! Trade Nomar! All kinds of crazy stuff. Well...the Nomar thing wasn't so crazy. A lot of people say that the reason they got hot was because they traded Nomar. That obviously wasn't the reason. A lot of people say that the reason why they got hot was because the team was fired up after the fight between A-Rod and Varitek. That obviously wasn't the reason. Hell, I even take credit for them getting hot. I went under the knife for surgery in mid-August. They won that night. I was too heavily medicated to remember even asking the nurses what the score of the game was...but apparently I did. In the three weeks that I was out of work I believe the team lost twice. But obviously that wasn't the reason they got hot. The 2004 Red Sox were a damn good team. They were underachieving for a while and it was only a matter of time before they went on a streak like that. It wasn't because of a trade that didn't actually improve the team that much. It wasn't because of a fight that only the fans got fired up about. And it wasn't the fact that I wasn't working or shaving and had my playoff beard going on. They were just a damn good team. They fell short of the Yankees even after a late season surge, but they made the playoffs. The stage was set. This was The Year.

They made quick work of the Angels. I don't think the team even broke a sweat. I was in Pittsburg for a wedding when the Yankees clinched their series victory over the Twins. I celebrated that night along with some Yankee fans and a few other Sox fans. The Yankee fans had their team making it to the ALCS and the Sox fans had the rematch that we had been waiting for since October of the year before. The match up that was destined to happen was about to go down.

Games 1 and 2 were a blur. They were close, but they were losses. No one lost faith. It was The Year. A 2-0 deficit was nothing. Things weren't so great after game 3. I've never witnessed such a crushing. earth shattering defeat. 19-8. That game zapped the energy out of my friend's place filled with Sox fans. It was over. No team had ever come back from a 3-0 defeat before. Like nearly every other member of Red Sox Nation, I lost faith. We were humiliated by the team that we hated more than any other. It was every bit as crushing as 2003 and things weren't even over yet. For 24 hours for the first time since Thanksgiving of the year before, I didn't believe.

I didn't even want to watch game 4 that Sunday. Why bother? I saw bits and pieces, checking the score while at the girlfriend's house. They were losing. We were going to get swept. I was driving home during the 9th inning. Rivera was on the mound and he was about to shut us down. Millar walked and Roberts came on. Every person in the stadium, every person watching at home, and every player on that field knew what was about to happen. Roberts was going. He did....I nearly blew the roof off my car screaming at the radio. They had a chance. Mueller...single...TIE GAME! Were they toying with us? Were they delaying the inevitable? It didn't matter. They were back in it. With one swing in extra innings David Ortiz brought it all back. After seeing his shot and hearing Dirty Water blast over the Fenway sound system, just like magic, all faith was restored. I felt and still do feel shame for doubting them even though game 3 was so crushing and even though history and everything in the world was against them.

Games 5 and 6 were torture. I didn't want to die of an ulcer at the age of 24. I listened to both games at work, the entire time my stomach tied in a knot, feeling like I was going to puke. Both games they won and just like that, fate comes true. It was all about to come down to game 7.

This time it was different. Right from the begining the Yankees didn't have a chance. Thanks to the memories of 2003 it was impossible to feel comfortable even once during that game, but it was actually going to happen. And it happened. I watched the final two innings of game 7 in a packed break room, the work that was supposed to be getting done was getting ignored and no one cared. It was unbelievable. Unimaginable. It was every adjective that I'm not good enough of a writer to be able to come up with. I'm not even sure if the best writer in the world could even describe it. And the best part was it was going to get better.

St Louis was a tough team. They won more games than any other ball club in 2004. But no one in Red Sox Nation seemed worried. The entire series passed without a close game. The Cardinals never even held a lead in the series. Was it boring and anti-climatic like some of my non-sports friends somehow call it? Fuck no. It was still edge-of-the-seat, still feeling like I was going to puke action.

It ended. I celebrated. That's about all I can say about that. The feeling of a Red Sox World Title victory is indescribable, but every Sox fan out there reading this knows exactly what I mean. That amazing feeling of ecstasy, shock, and awe that still hasn't gone away. It was The Year. My grandfather, a man who was buried wearing his Red Sox hat, lived 60 years never having saw what I witnessed. Ted Williams, the biggest legend in Red Sox history went his entire life without having saw what I just did. I can't even fathom the number of Red Sox fans that lived between 1918 and 2004 and never saw what I saw. The Sox won it. They won it for everyone. The fucking won it.

Tonight, for the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox are starting the season as the defending champions. Tonight 2004 is history. Tonight we start the wild ride again. The Sox roll into New York with their heads held high looking to take it all again. Tonight it starts. Tonight the celebration ends (although the feelings will never grow old). Tonight. Opening day.

As much as I wanted Nomar gone last offseason, and believe me I did, I didn't want to replace him and Manny with ARod and Ordonez. Not a chance. With all the time we were spending accumulating infielders in the minors it seemed silly to grab ARod and his monster contract, and swap out a player in Manny I would rather have than ARod himself on occasion (well maybe not defensively, but still). It just wasn't meant to be, and I'm glad things went the way they did, whether we had won a World Series or not.
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