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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Historic Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004

While I'm usually more inclined to be a strong critic of professional sports and the largely harmful and destructive role they play in modern societies, from time to time, I still find myself struggling with nostalgia for the old days. So, with one foot in the past and one foot in the present, and temporarily forgetting the future, I wrote this article a couple of years ago. 

With the 2014 baseball season looming on the horizon, it seems like an appropriate time to share it with the public again. I'm not one given to raining on the parade and happiness of others, however harmful it may be for our society, so with that in mind, I hope you enjoy this small piece.

Readers may find it interesting to discover that I watched this game from my prison cell at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, New Mexico, which was packed with friends at the risk of punitive disciplinary action being taken against us if caught, while serving an 18-year prison sentence for crimes that were 100% fictitious in nature. This year marks the ten-year anniversary of this event in baseball history.


If memory is correct, the Boston Red Sox strategically acquired Dave Roberts late in the 2004 regular season looking ahead specifically for a base-stealing threat to bolster the team’s position in the 2004 Major League Baseball playoffs.

After Kevin Millar drew a leadoff walk in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, Red Sox skipper, Terry “Tito” Francona, had to manufacture a run to tie the game in a last-ditch effort by sending Dave Roberts in the game to pinch-run for Millar, universally recognized by almost every Yankees and Red Sox fan as slower than molasses in January on the base pads.

It was just as he (Millar) described it during a studio interview about the series nine years later; everyone knew what Roberts was there for, and arguably the greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera, with sinister intentions of picking Roberts off, threw over to first base three times and came close to hanging him out to dry on the final attempt.

Mariano, to the relief of Red Sox fans, delivered home on the next pitch and Roberts made a break for it, getting a good jump. Posada's throw to second was on the wrong side of the bag, forcing Yankees shortstop and future Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter, to make a hurried attempt to tag Roberts out from across his own body, and, as a result, the tag wasn’t in time and Roberts made it into second safe by not much more than an eyelash.

A better throw by Posada would have gotten him out and more than likely changed American baseball lore forever. Moreover, if Roberts had gotten a bad jump or would have faltered in any way and lost just a fraction of a second on the way down to second, he would have been thrown out and baseball history again, in all likelihood, would read much differently today.

Down one run with three outs left in the game and the Red Sox season on the line, Roberts' stolen base put him conveniently in scoring position for the Red Sox (but a threat to the Yankees on the other hand), so that when Bill Mueller came through with a clutch hit up the middle of the diamond a few minutes later, Roberts sped around third base hitting on all cylinders and slid into home to tie the game in dramatic fashion. This heart-pounding sequence of events not only turned the game around but proved to be the pivotal point of the entire series.

All of this excitement proved to be a precursor of what was yet to come, as there were too many dramatic moments—where the tension would be palpable—left in the series to even try to keep track of them all. Game 4 lasted twelve innings and was contested at Boston’s historic Fenway Park and ended in the early hours of the morning with the next game in the series scheduled to start later that night.

Game 5, another epic battle between the two teams, would prove to be another knock-down, drag-out, epic brawl that actually went longer into the following morning than Game 4 did—lasting fourteen innings in all—and went on for nearly six hours before the final outcome was decided.

The American League Championship Series in 2004 between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, arguably the most bitterly-contested rivalry between any two teams in all of sports, was the greatest postseason comeback by any team in the storied and time-honored tradition of Major League Baseball.

Up to that point in the history of the sport, dating back to the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869, no team had ever made a comeback to win a seven-game series after being down three games to none—a feat that has only been accomplished just three other times in the history of major professional sports in North America—with all three occurring in the National Hockey League.

After the series was over, the Boston Red Sox never looked back, going on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-0, to win the 2004 World Series and earn the club’s first World Series title (Titletown’s 7th overall dating back to 1901) in 86 years (1918) to finally put an end—with extra emphasis—to that dreaded, age-old “Curse of the Bambino,” once and for all.

With a pronounced and even blatant disregard at times for tradition and an indomitable will, they called themselves “The Idiots.” Yet, this unseemly and unsightly ragtag bunch of extraordinarily gifted misfits somehow managed to win baseball’s most prestigious, most coveted prize to crown themselves as "Olde Towne" champs mostly because they just weren’t bright enough (conformist enough) to know when it was appropriate to throw in the towel (say I give) and concede defeat (let’s forget this and all go fishing next week). 

Maybe it was because the chemistry was just right and as a team they were made up of all the right stuff, the stuff legends are made of. Who knows for sure?

Or, could it be that those seemingly incompatible characteristics are all one and the same, universally rejected as those pesky, bothersome, troublesome character flaws, behavioral problems, damned nuisances, and otherwise downright irritants, deviations, and mutations that are a vital and necessary prerequisite for the overthrow of any established order that’s ever been--or probably ever will be--devised anywhere in the Universe?   
(Dave Roberts' Stolen Base, Game 4, 2004 ALCS)   
(Derek Lowe Recalls Having Shoes Stolen for Game 7)   

(2004 World Series Game 4 - Red Sox Sweep!)