If you’ve never experienced true heartbreak as a fan…and I mean the kind that can bring tears to a grown man’s eyes, then you, as sports fan, haven’t lived. Without the heartbreak, you will never taste the full sweetness of the victory to come later.
My favorite sports moment came only one year after my first heartbreak as a fan. I got off easy. I still remember the look of shock on my grandfather’s face when he told me, “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime.”
But he did.
I will share with you my first heart break, so that you’ll understand what the win truly meant for me and for fans like my grandfather.
It was game 7 of the ALCS and we were up against the Yanks. I was in Chicago that day and was set to fly into to Boston that night. Chicago Cubs fans were already in an uproar over a fan who reached out for a ball, possibly costing them a chance at a win. Perhaps I should have known it at that moment. Like the Cubs, the Red Sox were cursed.
But it was supposed to be our year. We had Pedro Martinez. We had Manny Rameriz and David Ortiz. Many were wondering if the Cubs and the Red Sox would face each other in the biggest series in baseball.
I didn’t get to see the beginning of the game, but the captain of the plane kept us updated on the score, and Boston fans in their seats heading for home, cheered. It was quite an experience. The moment I got off the plane, I grabbed my bag and ran to catch the mini shuttle heading to my hotel. Of course the driver had the game playing on the radio full blast so that I could hear too. I told him I needed to watch the game and he called in to make sure the front desk would take my luggage and immediately escort me to the hotel bar without needing to check in. As Boston fans themselves, they understood.
I sat at the small bar and it was the 7th inning. There was only one man sitting in a seat next to me, and coincidentally, he happened to be from New York on business and was a Yankees fan. Here I was, a girl born and raised in a town south of Boston, on a business trip to Boston with no time to find a local bar and I’m forced to sit next to a Yank.
But, I was nice to him. Why wouldn’t I be? The Red Sox had the lead 4-1 in the 7th….until Jason Giambi hit his second home run off Martinez. It then brought the game to 4-2. But we still had a chance.
Then the 8th inning happened.
I leaped from my chair during Big Papi’s homerun, pushing the score up to 5-2. This was it! This could really happen. We could go to the World Series!
But then Jeter stepped up to the plate. The moment he hit that deep ball into right, my heart sank. A part of me knew. They had three runs in that inning, tying it to 5-5. It was an inning that would haunt Pedro Martinez. With the score at 5-3, the pitching coach asked Martinez if he wanted to call it a night, but Martinez said no. He thought he had more gas in the tank. But he was only running on fumes.
This was when I resorted to prayer. I prayed through the 9th inning. I prayed through the 10th inning. And then came the 11th. Wakefield, who did well in the 10th, threw the first pitch in the 11th to a Yankee named Daniel Boone…who had only a .125 batting average during the post season. It would be this man who sent in a home run and the Yankees were on to the World Series.
I sat in shock, absorbing what just happened. I watched them running onto the field in celebration. The guy next to me cheered and immediately picked up his cell phone to call friends. I remember him saying “You just can’t stop those Yankees!”
A small part of me thought of picking up his fork and jabbing into his eye, but I didn’t have the energy. When the Yankee fan realized what was happening to my insides, he gave a sincere apology and said “Better luck next time”. It only made me feel worse. A single tear spilled down my cheek, the realization sinking in…we were cursed. This was our chance and we blew it.
And that my friends, was my first heart break as a Boston fan.
Now fast forward to 2004. : )
The last 4 games of the ALCS would become my all time favorite moment in all of sports. The Patriots fourth Super Bowl win would be my second favorite moment, but that’s a story for another time.
Fans throughout Red Sox history endured years of a rivalry that started when Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees for No, No Nanette….the worst trade in all of sports history. No matter how many times the Red Sox were contenders, it was those damn Yankees that got in our way, only cementing the Curse of the Bambino into Red Sox culture.
But it was my heartbreak during 2003 that made 2004 more than surreal. You just can’t make this stuff up. You really couldn’t write a better script. After years of torment, there was no way that we could ever appreciate a World Series win without beating the Yankees to get there….and to do it with a historic win after being down 3-0, well it put the heartbreaks of people like my grandfather and his father before him all into perspective.
It was as if every true Red Sox fan that had passed on, parted the clouds over Fenway Park. This was our moment, and it was going to be the best story ever written in the game of baseball. It wasn’t just the 2004 moment, it was the whole history of the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry. The ending of that story was more than perfect.
I don’t want to tell you my personal experiences through each of those four games. As Boston fans, we all have our story of those times. We remember where we were and who we were with. We remember Dave Roberts’ second base steal and Schilling’s bloody sock. We remember the cheers and honking of cars out our windows. We remember the infamous ‘Reverse the Curse’ signs throughout Boston.
That’s what it means to be a Boston fan. We had our hearts broken the year before, but we get up and we back our teams. We pray and hope that one day we will have our moment, despite knowing that moment hadn’t happened in 86 years.
So instead of telling you how it went down, I send you back to a memory that will forever live in a Red Sox fan’s heart. The legend of the 2004 ALCS.
Here’s the game 4 moment that started it all…and the fans cheered as if it were game 7. I love Boston!
This video, Four Days in October, is about an hour long, but well worth the watch