Decisive Game Seven drew a vast American television audience of 30 million people on less than 24 hours’ notice. It was spectacular viewership for a baseball telecast in the age of specialized satellite and cable television, DVD players, and innumerable entertainment options for those who lack the attention spans to enjoy the cerebral qualities of the grand old game. Baseball was experiencing one of its periodic renaissances solely because of the drama provided by the 2004 ALCS.
If they did not already have enough inspiration, prior to Game Seven the Red Sox watched Miracle, the movie about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. No miracle was required; the game itself turned out to be no contest whatsoever. Even with grey-haired Bucky Dent on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and presumably invoke unfavorable doomsday mojo on the visitors, the Red Sox were up 6-0 before the top of the second inning was over and held a huge 8-1 lead by the bottom of the seventh.
Boston starter Derek Lowe, working on just two days’ rest, seemed unaffected by fatigue. He surrendered just one hit in six innings. The Red Sox launched four home runs into the Bronx night sky. David Ortiz cracked a two-run blast in the first inning to give the Sox momentum. Johnny Damon’s second-inning grand slam—the first of two homers he would hit on the night—was the death blow the Yankees could not overcome. New York only mustered five hits in the entire game in their 10-3 defeat. Three of the hits came off Pedro Martinez, who was as surprised as anyone when he was summoned to make an unexpected and totally bizarre relief appearance when Lowe left the game.
Boston writer Stewart O’Nan had fortuitously decided in February to chronicle the entire 2004 Red Sox season using a lengthy chain of email correspondence with renowned novelist (and die-hard Red Sox fan) Stephen King for a book titled Faithful. He had not expected to be chronicling the two men’s thoughts on a championship team, but instead another season without a pennant much less a World Series title. O’Nan’s description of the surreal atmosphere in Yankee Stadium as the game wound down to its inevitable conclusion was poetry to long-suffering BoSox followers:
I’m behind home with Steve as we nail down the last outs. We don’t even need our closer. It’s 10-3, and no one can hit a seven-run homer. Jeter looks sick. A-Rod and [Gary] Sheffield have both gone 0-for—complete and total justice. It’s as if the Sox have walked through the Stadium driving stakes through every single ghost’s, vampire’s and Yankee fan’s rotten, cobwebby heart. It’s quiet and the upper deck is half empty. The Yankees are cooked and their fans can’t believe it. In the biggest game ever played in this rivalry, the Red Sox have beaten the Yankees at [their] home, by a touchdown, on Mickey Mantle’s birthday.