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The Boston Red Sox seemed destined for their second straight defeat to their hated rivals the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series. Having been blown out 19-8 Game 3 of the ALCS to fall behind 3-0, there was no way this forever-cursed franchise would even force a game five.
But then they did.
And then a game six.
And a seventh.
Then they actually won the series.
But how? This was the same Red Sox team that hadn’t won the World Series in 86 years, had only appeared in it four times in that span. The fans had suffered through “The Curse,” which was immortalized by Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, and Aaron Boone. The best players in Red Sox history never won a World Series: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Pesky, Carlton Fisk. The Red Sox weren’t as talented as the Yankees in 2004, they simply wanted it more.
That Red Sox team was also hard not to love. Whether you watched all 162 games in the regular season or you picked them up in the playoffs, it was hard not to smile when you saw them play. Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Orlando Cabrera, Kevin Millar. You never knew what to expect because that team that broke the Curse was just so much fun.
Fast forward to this season. After one of the worst seasons in Red Sox history in 2012 in which they won just 69 games, Boston fans settled in for a rebuilding year back in April. New coach, new attitude, and an ugly scar that had to be covered up from a last place AL East performance last season. If on opening day you were to say the Red Sox would finish .500 this season, they would have been satisfied. Told them the Red Sox would appear in the playoffs, they would have raised an eyebrow. Made it to the World Series? Impossible.
Around June or July people began to realize this team was no fluke. As the wins kept piling up, the clubhouse began to embrace the slogan “Blood, Sweat, and Beards.” Guys like Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino, all offseason acquisitions, added character to the team. The Red Sox were fun to watch again, and the city, feeling let down after last season, quickly hopped back on board.
After breezing through Tampa Bay in the ALDS, the Red Sox seemed, just like in 2004, to be down and out in the ALCS against Detroit. It was the bottom of the sixth inning of game 2, they trailed the series 1-0, trailed the game 5-0, and had mustered only one hit in the entire series so far. A Dustin Pedroia RBI double in the 6th gave the Red Sox hope, but they still had to make up 4 more runs just to tie it.
But then David Ortiz got a chance to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. The only member of the 2004 Red Sox still on the team, Ortiz had proven how clutch he was then with multiple walk-off hits against the Yankees.
So of course he teed off on the first pitch he saw and put it in the bullpen to tie the game.
It was destiny. Everyone knew Ortiz was going to hit it out of the yard. The Red Sox went on to win the game on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia single in the 9th to tie the series. The Red Sox went on to win 2 out of 3 in Detroit, giving themselves two chances to advance to the World Series at Fenway Park.
Down a run in the bottom of the 7th, Victorino stepped to the plate, too with the bases loaded. Struggling all series, there was a little more doubt than the fans experienced with Ortiz in game 2. On an 0-2 curveball however, Victorino found the Monster Seats, all but punching the Red Sox’ ticket to the World Series.
A team that had no expectations for success in April, a team that embarrassed the city just a year before, is now in the spotlight: baseball’s biggest stage.
A city marred by a devastating tragedy has found hope and healing in its baseball team. A team that reminds us so much of the one that brought this city, this state, and all of New England incredible memories almost a decade ago.
This is our city. These are our Red Sox.