October 20, 2004: The Red Sox–Yankees ALCS


This past week’s Sports Jeopardy, in the I SHALL TAUNT YOU A SECOND TIME category, had the following clue:
"Who's your daddy?" Yankees fans taunted this Red Sox ace during the 2004 ALCS

As luck would have it, Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS is one of the 18 excised chapters from my second book, “The Games That Changed Baseball: Milestones In Major League History”, now available for pre-order from McFarland!

So, inspired by that, here you are:

Date: October 20, 2004

Site: Yankee Stadium I

Teams: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

Significance: Game Seven of the ALCS changes the fortunes of two bitter AL rivals and storied franchises

Impact: The “Curse of the Bambino” crumbles in spectacular fashion and ushers in a new MLB kingpin

“We’re haunted by the possibility of living an entire lifetime—80 to 90 years, followed by death—without celebrating a World Series title. That’s not a curse; it’s an imaginary guillotine that hangs over us every season. We’re just waiting for it to go away, that’s all. See, this is about life and death. And not in the traditional sense. A Red Sox championship always felt like a race against time. When journalist Marty Nolan wrote, ‘The Red Sox killed my father and now they’re coming after me’ (later quoted by David Halberstam), he wasn’t kidding. I keep thinking about my dad, and my friend Walsh, and my buddy Geoff’s mother-in-law Neets, as well as every other over-50 person in my life who follows this team. Those are the people who passed a certain point in life and started thinking to themselves, ‘Wait a second, is this thing EVER going to happen?’ Obviously, I’m not quite there yet; but after three decades of following this team, I could feel the guillotine inching closer and closer. That’s what it’s like to be a Red Sox fan.” — ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, during the 2004 World Series

“For all those who doubted baseball’s mystic chords of memory, who did not believe that there could be any real connection between various collections of wealthy athletes who happened to be gathered in the same place and in the same uniforms—for all those who doubted the continuity of the sport, whether it was described as a curse or the faith and hope of those who had a shared love of the game over the generations—the Red Sox, and their fans, had proved them wrong.”— Geoffrey C. Ward (Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, Baseball: An Illustrated History, pp. 530-532.)


After the 1919 MLB season had concluded, George Herman (Babe) Ruth, the slugging pitcher/outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, was sold by cash-strapped team owner Harry Frazee to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox had been the dominant AL club during the 1910s, winning four pennants and four World Series. The New York Yankees had been perennial also-rans. Not only had they never once captured the AL pennant, they were only New York City’s second-favorite MLB club. The New York Giants, for the most part, were perceived as the greater baseball attraction in Gotham. The Ruth deal instantly reversed the fortunes of both the Yankees and Red Sox. The Yankees would win six AL pennants and three World Series in the 1920s and lay the foundation for the most successful franchise in MLB history. The Red Sox would not win another AL pennant until 1946. Their 1918 World Series triumph seemed destined to be the club’s last.

Boston fans, especially sports writer Dan Shaughnessy, irrationally liked to claim it was somehow all Ruth’s fault. He had hexed his former club with an unbreakable hoodoo. It was not true, of course. No mention of such a curse ever appeared during Ruth’s lifetime. Ruth’s daughter maintained he had never badmouthed the Red Sox or the city of Boston after 1919. (Such uncooperative facts didn’t stop Shaughnessy from penning a tome titled The Curse of the Bambino.) Still, the evidence was mounting that the baseball gods had it in for the Red Sox and their passionately devoted followers.