I myself have a pretty hefty handful of such stories, but at this time of year - late in October, the World Series winding down - there is always, always one that sticks out above the others.
Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.
I alluded to this game in my last posting, but for those that don’t remember, game 4 pitted the beloved Boston Red Sox against the reviled Evil Empire, otherwise known as the New York Yankees. The Yankees had recently won four of five World Series title, 26 in total. The Sox hadn’t won in 86 years.
The series up to that point had been an ugly, lopsided affair. The Yankees were up three games to none.
Through a twisted array of messed-up scheduling (a rain out had altered the series format), friends (never let it be said that having connected friends doesn’t pay off), and enormous dumb luck, we were able to score tickets to Game 4. This was especially fortuitous because (1) Lil Stevens happened to have been in town to see us play Northeastern two days early, and (2) Monday was the only day of the week we didn’t have football practice.
There was no way we were missing that game. So much so that when I went to speak to the professor of my Monday afternoon seminar about rearranging things, he threatened to flunk if I didn’t skip class and go to the game.
Well, alright then.
I remember trying for about twenty seconds before the game to explain to Lil Stevens the phenomenon that is Fenway Park before giving up and just letting him experience it himself. It took less than five minutes after stepping off the T in Kenmore Square for him to understand.
We arrived a couple of hours before game-time, and the crowd around the park was already four blocks thick. Elbow to elbow we fought our way through, two friends huddled behind us and letting us clear a path.
The air was absolutely electric, people pouring out of the Cask & Flagon already loaded up and ready to go. No less than two dozen “Yankees Suck!” chant. No less than a half dozen foods purchased and consumed from street vendors by our group.
Fast forwarding a bit, what really made this night was not just the atmosphere, but the fact that it was the rare occasion when the game not only met, but surpassed the hype. On the hump for the Sox was Derek Lowe, going toe-to-toe w/ El Duque. The Yankees lineup was rife with Jeter, A-Rod, etc. The Sox matched them step-for-step with Manny and Papi.
The game went back and forth into the 9th, where the Yankees pulled ahead by a run. In the bottom half, the Sox picked up two quick outs singling. Dave Roberts was inserted to pinch run, and promptly pulled off the greatest stolen base in history. Stadium absolutely exploded. I can’t even begin to describe it.
Chicken skin, as they say here in the islands.
It is around this time that two things happened simultaneously to put this night over the top. First, as the game crawled past midnight, local parking garages began to close. This meant that everyone in attendance that had drove had to leave or face having their car locked in until morning.
By the time we got done seat hopping, we were in the 8th row.
Seconds, Lil Stevens, as he is prone to do, spent most of the night going through a couple cans of Wintergreen Grizzly. Late in the game, with his stash dwindling, he started recycling dips back into the can. This alone is nasty. About the time another faithful smokeless tobacco offered to buy him a beer in exchange for some of Lil Stevens tobacco is when it became just flat disgusting.
And no….neither one of us ever told the guy, even as my brother’s swill was staining his fingers.
To keep this from going too long, in the 12th Papi entrenched himself forever in Boston sports lore (to say nothing of the torrid Series he’s having this week) by hitting his second walkoff of the postseason.
We spent a long T-ride back to Harvard Square smashed into drunken Sox fans, all of us singing Dirty Water and chanting Yankees Suck. By the time we got back it was after 1 am, we were too wired to go home, so we spent another couple hours in the White Hen Pantry, eating chicken parm sandwiches and rehashing the Sox’ chances moving forward.
Little did we know then they wouldn’t lose another game that entire postseason, blowing through the Yanks and Cardinals.
Even if they hadn’t, I don’t think it would have mattered. A panthenon night from start to finish. Love that dirty water…