The Evil Empire Collapses!

For 86 years, the "B" on the Boston Red Sox cap could have stood for "Babe," "Bucky," "Buckner," or more recently, "Boone." On Wednesday night, Oct. 20, 2004, the Red Sox had enough of the references to failed attempts at a World Series by disgracing the New York Yankees, 10-3, in the Bronx to capture their first AL pennant since 1986. That "B" on their cap now stands for "Believe!"

For 86 years, the "B" on the Boston Red Sox cap could have stood for "Babe," "Bucky," "Buckner," or more recently, "Boone."

On Wednesday night, Oct. 20, 2004, the Red Sox had enough of the references to failed attempts at a World Series by disgracing the New York Yankees, 10-3, in the Bronx to capture their first AL pennant since 1986.

For Red Sox Nation, after enduring an 0-3 deficit to win an improbable four games in a row, becoming the first team in baseball history to do so, that "B" now stands for "Believe!"

"What we did was something amazing, something that was never done before, but something that we believe could happen," said Johnny Damon, who went 3-for-6 with two homers and six RBI. "I'm proud of every single one of those guys in the clubhouse."

As well he should. After facing elimination, down to their last three outs in Game 4, the Red Sox needed every one of their players to contribute and, like a true team, they all did. All 25 of them.

In Game 4, it was ALCS MVP David Ortiz providing the heroics, but only after Dave Roberts stole a critical base and scored on a hit by former Giant Bill Mueller. That play proved to be the sparkplug in a series-turning rally against Yankees ironclad closer Mariano Rivera.

In Game 5, it was Ortiz providing the game-winning hit again, but with the help of a gutsy relief performance by Tim Wakefield.

On Tuesday night, it was Curt Schilling pitching hurt with a bloodied ankle, while the slumping Mark Bellhorn provided the offense.

In the decisive Game 7 on Wednesday, it was little-used and somewhat forgotten man Derek Lowe stepping up for the Red Sox, despite pitching on just two days of rest. Despite that, Lowe made sure Boston would not need a comeback to win this time around as he limited the Yankees to just one run on one hit through six superb innings.

"I came in fully confident," Lowe said. "It was a personal challenge for me to see if I can come back in this stadium after the disaster I had in September."

It certainly helped Lowe's cause to receive run support early as the Red Sox spotted him a 6-0 lead in the top of the second. Ortiz got the scoring started early with a two-run blast in the first inning off loser Kevin Brown. In the next inning, Damon broke out of a 3-for-29 series slump by greeting Javier Vazquez with a grand slam to silence the hometown crowd.

In the bottom of the second, Derek Jeter tried to get the Yankees back in the game with a run-scoring single off Lowe, but that proved to be as close as New York would get. Lowe proceeded to retire Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield to end the inning, en route to four straight scoreless innings.

"We were trying to get innings from D. Lowe," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "To give us the innings, the quality of the innings, was very special."

With the score 8-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Francona pulled Lowe in favor of Pedro Martinez, who made his first relief appearance in five years. To no surprise, Martinez was greeted by Yankee fans with chants of "Who's your daddy?"

Suddenly, the once-silent New York crowd received a burst of energy at the sight of Martinez on the mound, which the Yankees seemed to feed off of. Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton both had run-scoring hits off Martinez, cutting the Red Sox lead to 8-3, before the Red Sox right-hander retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Boston added an insurance run each in the eighth and ninth innings to extend the lead to 10-3, which two Red Sox relievers preserved to close out the game.

Just a stroke past midnight, Ruben Sierra grounded out to second baseman Pokey Reese to record the final out in what was long-fought, well-deserved ALCS victory for the Boston Red Sox, who took the field and jumped on each other in celebration.

"I'm embarrassed right now," said Rodriguez, a day after claiming he would be if his team had lost. "Obviously that hurts -- watching them on our field celebrating."

The Red Sox celebration comes against a Yankees team that won the AL pennant just a year ago, and then reloaded with high-priced players like Rodriguez, Brown, and Vazquez. New York continued its dominance over Boston by capturing the AL East Division title earlier this season, but could not close out the Red Sox in the ALCS for the first time ever.

"I hope the city appreciates how hard this was because (New York) was the best team in baseball for a lot of years," said Lowe.

For as long as they have been waiting, fans in Boston are more than appreciative and obviously enjoying themselves at the moment. However, the "real" party will probably start sometime next week as the Red Sox hope to "Reverse the Curse" for good when they take on the winner of the NLCS on Saturday at Fenway Park.

When asked to pick the MVP, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said: "Our entire team. We won this as a ballclub, we'll celebrate as a ballclub, and we'll move on as a ballclub."

So for Francona, that "B" stands for "Ballclub," which is truly epitomizes what made this "Boston" miracle happen.

Oh, By The Way

Contrary to popular belief, there was another best-of-seven series game played on Wednesday and it was a dandy one at that. Jim Edmonds did his best David Ortiz impersonation as he clubbed a walk-off homerun to help the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Houston Astros, 6-4, at Busch Stadium.

"It's the biggest hit of my career," said Edmonds, who went 2-for-6 with 2 RBI. "This is what it's all about. What a great feeling."

The extra-inning win by the Redbirds forces a Game 7, which will be played on Thursday in St. Louis to determine the NL champion and representative in the World Series.

Julian Tavarez, who had broken his fingers on his left hand during a tantrum in Game 4, pitched two innings of relief to pick up the win.

"I give thanks to God," said the emotional Tavarez. "I know it hurts, but I have to prove it to myself that I can do it. That I can do it, just like my daddy told me this morning."

Hoping to be the Cardinals' daddy will be Roger Clemens, who will oppose St. Louis right-hander Jeff Suppan. Clemens beat the Redbirds in Game 3 at Houston.

Notes around the Majors

  • The Seattle Mariners hired ex-Orioles and Indians manager Mike Hargrove to a three-year contract as their new skipper.
  • Barry Bonds' 700th homerun ball has topped the $700,000 plateau on Overstock.com. The auction runs through Oct. 27.
  • MLB officially announced an 11-year, $650 million deal with XM Satellite Radio on Wednesday.



    Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at phildelacruz@aol.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

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