The Big Dig
by Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports
October 20, 2004
It ends with a half-empty, fully depressed Yankee Stadium, with an infield celebration and the gleeful chant of "let's go Red Sox" echoing out past the Babe Ruth plaque in center field and deep into the cold New York night.
It ends with Manhattan as Mudville, with the nail somehow getting the best of the hammer, with a champagne and Bud Light shower in a visitors' locker room used to Red Sox tears.
It ends with Boston finally, at last, unseating the Evil Empire.
Actually, it was the greatest night for the Red Sox Nation.
Yes, Boston won five World Series before famously dealing Ruth to New York in 1920, but it stands to reason none of those titles made New England seriously wonder if there was enough whiskey on the shelf to handle the celebration.
Only ending an 86-year World Series drought next week could feel better than the double shot of 200-proof jubilation that comes from both beating and utterly humiliating the Yankees.
New York tried everything it could to resurrect the so-called curse, including bringing ex-Red Sox killer Bucky Dent out to throw the ceremonial first pitch on Wednesday. The problem was that Dent had better stuff than starter Kevin Brown, who was kicked around to the tune of five earned runs in 1-1/3 innings.
This game ostensibly was over by the time Brown got the second-inning hook to a rain of boos. So disliked is the right-hander that he received not a single handshake from a teammate as he departed the field and walked to the clubhouse.
It completely summed up these Yankees. George Steinbrenner spent a lot of money bringing in a lot of talent last winter, but he didn't get much heart or chemistry for his cash.
In a game the Yankees seemingly always have won in the past, Steinbrenner's three big free-agent acquisitions – Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Brown – combined to go 0-for-8 at the plate and post a 33.75 ERA.
In the biggest game of the year, the Yankees rolled over on their fans, their tradition and their legacy.
For long-suffering Red Sox fans, this simply couldn't have gone much better. There were empty seats at the Stadium by the fifth inning. Other than heckling Pedro Martinez and screaming drunken taunts at Bostonians in attendance, there was nothing Yankee fans could do but curse their own outclassed club.
Meanwhile, the Sox again dug deep, getting remarkable performances from all spots on their roster. It was the exact formula they had used throughout this dream comeback from what half a week ago looked to be a bottomless hole.
Here was Johnny Damon, mired in a 3-for-29 ALCS streak, starting the game with three hits, two homers and six RBIs.
"I don't care if Johnny is 0-for-30 or 0-for-50, I just always expect that," David Ortiz said.
Here was Derek Lowe, the oft-maligned starter who on just two days rest delivered a six-inning, one-run, one-hit bit of magnificence against a team that has pummeled him in the past. It was an effort that rivaled Curt Schilling's in-pain masterpiece of Game 6.
"It was a personal challenge for me to see if I could come back in the Stadium after the disaster I had in September [when I] gave up seven runs in one inning," Lowe said.
Here was Ortiz, the ALCS MVP, delivering his third backbreaking home run of the series. Only this time it came early, making late-game heroics unnecessary and allowing Sox fans a night of cardiac-free worries.
Here was a 25-man unit showing the franchise that has for decades been the definition of "team" how games and pennants and perhaps world championships are won. They closed out a four-game pseudo-sweep with a game that started on Mickey Mantle's birthday and ended on Whitey Ford's.
"I know [our fans] appreciate how hard this is because [New York] was the best team in baseball for a lot of years," Lowe said.
But not this year. Not against this Red Sox team.
"We won this as a ball club," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We'll celebrate as a ball club. And we'll move on as a ball club."
Move on past New York. Move on to the World Series. Move to one last date with destiny and one last mountain to climb to put it all behind them.
Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Thursday, Oct 21, 2004 2:19 am, EDT