Lots of other professional writers will wax poetic about what the Red Sox have done over the past week much better than I will, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such exhaustion, nerves, elation, amazement and excitement around this team as I have experienced during these playoffs. I couldn’t have possible imagined a sweeter ending to this series that what we witnessed last night – to see that group of Red Sox in a smiling, celebretory pile – right there on the pitchers mound at Yankee Stadium – the exact same spot where Mariano Rivera fell to the ground in exhaustion and prayer last year after Aaron Boone’s HR did in the Sox.
As if that wasn’t sweet enough, though, to do it the way they did it is another matter altogether. Forget that no team in the history of baseball has ever come back like this. Forget that everyone (including yours truly) had written them off. I mean, that kind of stuff just doesn’t happen here and I’ve never been so glad to have been proven wrong.
Look beyond the obvious heros – David Ortiz clearly came up big. Curt Schilling was on another planet to do what he did in game 6. The real heros of this series are on the fringes – Dave Roberts stealing second in Game 4 – maybe the single most important moment in the past week. Keith Foulke pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Bill Mueller’s single up the middle to tie the game. Jason Varitek’s sacrifice fly. Doug Mentkiewzeiizixiouxzzzzz, who only played a few innings, making some very difficult plays look routine. Bronson Arroyo. Mike Timlin! So many of these guys contributed in ways that might be forgotten in a few months, but they would have never, ever gotten to this point without those guys. They wouldn’t have had a chance. For years and years, beyond my lifetime, these players, past and present, have never stopped hearing the whispers about the Yankees. Finally, they can brush those aside. Finally, they can breath. Finally.
Last night’s game, though, despite the score, was a real exercise in nail-biting. I suspect that everyone from New England who was watching that game last night didn’t even feel one celebratory pang until that final out. I certainly didn’t. I didn’t think for one single, solitary second that the game was won until Pokey Reese threw it to first. Each time the Yankees came up to bat, that biting anxiousness bubbled right up. Even though it was 6-0 or 8-2 or 10-3, I felt like a New York solo home run would have tied the game. I spent the whole night feeling like it was 1-0, knowing how quickly the Yankees can strike. I don’t even want to talk about the 7th inning when Terry Francona must have done some crystal meth when he decided to bring in Pedro Martinez. I mean, what was he thinking there? Lowe’s got a 1-hitter going, the crowd is literally asleep and the Yankees are befuddled. ‘Ol Terry’s basically invited 55,000 people back into the game (and boy, did those fans respond). I could only sit there, my eyes wide in fear, repeating the same phrase over and over and over again: “get him out of there NOW.” But even Pedro reached back and zipped some 95-96 MPH bullets and got out of the inning. The Red Sox answered. Finally.
To think that this is just step 2 out of the 3 steps needed to win a World Series is something I need to come to grips with in the next couple of days. I’m not even sure me or my stomach can handle another series. But I’ll be ready when the bell rings. For now, I can’t think of a sports moment more sweet than seeing that team celebrating as American League Champions on the grass of the place where ghosts have haunted them for decades. It’s over. Finally.