BOSTON (CBS) — One of the few benefits of living in a sports-less world is getting to relive some of our favorite memories. And for Boston fans, 2004 ranks at the top of the list.
Not only did the Red Sox break their 86-year World Series drought, but they embarrassed the Yankees in the process. Sure, Boston’s World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals was fun, but it was almost a formality after the team made its epic comeback from down 3-0 against the Yankees in the ALCS.
Terry Francona led the Red Sox to that World Series title in his first season on the Boston bench, though he admits that he’s only given the comeback over the Yankees a rewatch a couple of times over the last 16 years. Like many around the country, he’s enjoyed reliving the past during these uneasy times, and he’s still amazed at what his team was able to do with their backs against the wall.
“I actually texted Theo [Epstein] because when I’m watching Game 4 and 5, you’re watching it an you’re thinking, ‘We’re going to win, aren’t we?’ It looks like you’re going to lose and it wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be,” Francona told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche. “It seemed like there were so many ways to lose and, fortunately, we never did. Theo and I both had a good chuckle because he felt the same way.”
How Boston’s comeback played our remains one of the greatest sports stories of all-time. It all started with Dave Roberts’ steal in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4, with the Red Sox trailing 4-3. Everyone in the world knew that Roberts was going to try to swipe second, and that dramatic moment sparked Boston’s magical run. Bill Mueller drove in Roberts with an RBI single up the middle off of Mariano Rivera to tie the game, and David Ortiz propelled Boston to its first win of the series three innings later with a two-run bomb in the bottom of the 12th.
The Red Sox had life, and all the pressure was on the Yankees to finish off that group of self-proclaimed idiots. Ortiz delivered again the following night, first with a solo homer in the eighth to cut Boston’s deficit in half (the Sox tied it 4-4 on a Jason Varitek sac fly later in the inning) and ended the 14-inning marathon with another walk-off hit, this time an RBI single to give Boston a 5-4 win.
The series then shifted back to New York, where Curt Schilling and his bloody sock gave Boston seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-2 victory in Game 6. The Red Sox absolutely pummeled the Yankees in Game 7, with Johnny Damon driving in six runs in the 10-3 victory.
Series over. Comeback complete.
“Those are my four funnest baseball days of my life,” said Francona. “To watch a team be that in sync, my goodness it was just fun to watch. From the day Roberts stole the base to David Ortiz coming through in every clutch spot he could. Schilling pitching when he had no business pitching. Derek Lowe — who hadn’t had the best of years — putting us on his back. Keith Foulke pitching three innings [in Game 4]. Everybody went above and beyond and that’s what made it so special.”
As nerve-wracking as the comeback was at times, Francona wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Maybe that’s the way it was supposed to happen, after all the years when people thought they were going to win and it got yanked out from beneath them. Then when it looks like we’re in the doldrums and we’re not going to win — maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be,” he said.
The World Series was pretty fun too, of course. While there were some tense moments in Game 1 of the Fall Classic, with the Cardinals storming back to tie the game twice, the Red Sox never trailed in the series. They captured their first World Series since 1918 with a 3-0 victory in St. Louis, and one of the biggest celebrations in Boston history commenced.
“It hit me when we got home from St. Louis,” said Francona. “We got off the plane and onto the bus, seeing the people who were stopping on the highway — it really hit me then. I was exhausted, it was 5 a.m., but I remember thinking ‘You gotta be kidding me. This is unreal.’ I think it hit everybody that way.”