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Game Three, 2004 ALCS — The Lowest of the Low
Final score: Yankees 19, Red Sox 8
The Yankees had administered a crushing, demoralizing 19-8 thrashing in front of what remained of a thoroughly disheartened Fenway Park crowd and what remained of an equally deflated TV audience that extended throughout Red Sox Nation, from Nova Scotia to Nantucket and well beyond. Over the three games, the Yankees had a team batting average of .377, while the Red Sox pitching staff was embarrassed by an ERA of 11.52. The Red Sox were teetering on the brink of a humiliating Series sweep. By the time the final out was recorded, Fenway Park was all but empty. Those disillusioned fans that remained showered their former heroes with vitriol that would almost have made Yankee Stadium look welcoming.
The latest battle in the ancient blood feud between the two venerable American League franchises from New York and Boston seemed destined to end with a whimper and not a wallop.
The talk shows in Boston were alive with invective, venom, finger pointing, and defeatism. There were calls for Terry Francona’s head on a platter. He was being called another Grady Little, a name tantamount to Benedict Arnold in its infamy throughout these benighted colonies. In New York, radio stations and tabloids were crowing loud and long about yet another Boston choke . . . like the one in 2003, the one in 1986, the one in 1978 . . . and on and on. The only Sox fans heard from, though, were those who still had enough energy left.
Most fans were beaten down, subdued. There was no chance now.
Again and again, we were reminded that no team, ever, had come back from a 0-3 deficit to win the final four games. For the second year in a row, it looked like the Yankees would whip the Red Sox and go on to represent the American League in the World Series, but this time without even a respectable challenge by the Sox.
And so Game Four of the 2004 American League Championship Series was poised like a rusty guillotine above the bowed necks of Red Sox Nation. With the New York Yankees leading the ALCS three games to none—the last game a disheartening, embarrassing, soul-destroying slaughter in front of their own fans at Fenway Park—the only thing remaining was the final, fateful blow. At least the end would be quick.
It wasn’t as if the Red Sox had not lost before, but they had always managed to make it excruciatingly close, to come within five outs—or even one strike—of victory. This time was embarrassing. Humiliating. This time it was nothing but a rout. Could anything conceivably be worse for a Sox fan? We’re used to defeat, but this was shameful. 19-8. A sinking feeling that could sink no lower. Boston had bottomed out. We were reminded time and time again that no team had ever come back from such depths. We were condemned to another long winter, and another spring and summer of “19-18” taunts and T-shirts. The next season would find us all bewildered, groping to find any semblance of self-respect as Sox fans. At least there was some healing over the months after 2003’s Game Seven. If the 2004 Sox were swept by the Evil Empire, the wound was going to sting and fester and might never heal. If it scarred over at all, the scars were going to run deep.
How did it all come to this? Let’s step back and review a little of the history between these two teams, before resuming the story of the 2004 American League pennant race…
What forces drove two grown men to write an entire book on the Sox/Yankees rivalry from the Sox point of view? Is God a Red Sox Fan? Find out next week, in another Boston Dirt Dogs exclusive excerpt from Blood Feud: The Red Sox, the Yankees, and the Struggle of Good versus Evil. And to get the full story, pick up your copy of Blood Feud, available this March at fine bookstores everywhere and online at www.rounderbooks.com.