October 20, 2004: The Red Sox–Yankees ALCS

Miffed Yankee fans, who were apparently under the misguided impression that all was fair in love, war, and baseball games versus Boston, showered debris onto the stadium turf as Rodriguez comically feigned innocence. The game was delayed—but the Yankees’ momentum was stopped. When a close call went in favor of Boston in the top of the eighth, more debris cascaded onto the field. Crew chief Joe West consulted with New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Riot police were ordered to surround the playing field for the remainder of the inning. It was an unprecedented scene at a major American sporting event. The ninth inning was a bit of an adventure for closer Keith Foulke, but Boston survived for a 4-2 win. Against all odds, the ALCS was level at three games apiece. Until the 2004 ALCS, none of the 26 teams in MLB history that had trailed 3-0 in a post-season series had ever forced a sixth game, much less a seventh. History had already been made. More was to come.

There had to be a Game Seven—an utterly unthinkable prospect for Yankees fans just 100 hours earlier. In the tense afternoon leading up to the climactic contest, it seemed that the compelling ALCS was the only thing that people were discussing. Its magnitude was enormous. On ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption a debate co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon seriously focused on whether that night’s Game Seven could be ranked the biggest game in the history of baseball! It was conceded by the panel that it was at least the biggest sporting event in the history of New York City, surpassing even the 1938 Louis-Schmeling heavyweight title fight or even the much anticipated Ali-Frazier tilt in 1971. Boston’s city council briefly considered whether or not to invoke a ban on the sale of alcohol in the interest of public safety. There was a bylaw already on the books that allowed for a temporary return to Prohibition in the event of “great excitement” within the municipality. With most Red Sox fans’ nerves on the breaking point, win or lose there would definitely be a mob scene in the Hub once the game concluded. Adult beverages were allowed to flow as everyone in the Massachusetts capital hoped for both civility and victory, with the latter far more important than the former.


That day, during a spare period, a teacher named Shaun Kelly from Greenwich, CT, made a stirring, heartfelt post on a Red Sox internet message board called “Sons of Sam Horn.” Kelly implored his beloved team to win Game Seven for his father who had passed away in 1986. “It’s our next-door neighbors and our baseball coaches and our aunts. Those are the ghosts that matter to us,” wrote Kelly. Although the website only permitted posts from its restricted membership, Kelly’s initial message began a thread that—with the assistance of helpful, deeply touched SoSH members—grew to dozens of pages of absolutely tear-jerking elegies from hopeful Red Sox fans everywhere. “I got maybe four or five emails an hour,” said SoSH member Adam Landau. They said, ‘I know you’re busy, but could you post my message?’ How could you not?” Posts came flooding in from Boston fans in such far-flung locales as England, Thailand and Australia. Here is a random sampling:

• “Win it for my dad, James Devlin (1933-1999), and all of the other departed Sox fans who gave their all for this team and never were able to see their beloved Sox win it all.”
• “Win it for my buddy Jamie who flew in from India just to be in Boston when it happens.”
• “Win it for Tom and Jean Yawkey. Say what you want about how they ran the team—all they ever wanted to do was win.”
• “Win it for my 73-year-old dad. His faith in the team has often been bent but has never broken. After Game #5 [of the ALCS] he told me, ‘I’m so damn proud to be a Red Sox fan.’”

In the days that followed, Kelly’s thread was mentioned on newscasts in countries where MLB was barely on the radar screen. This was clearly no ordinary baseball game.

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