The Greatest Comeback Ever

There have been some great comebacks in sports. Montana to Clarke for the 1982 NFC Championship. Bucky Dent’s home run into the screen at Fenway Park to win the 1978 American League pennant for the Yankees. An aging Joe Louis getting up off the canvas to retain his heavyweight title against Jersey Joe Walcott in 1947.

But can anything compare to the courageous 2004 Boston Red Sox fighting back from the perilous precipice of diamond disaster to take it all?

That marvelous chronicler of Americana, Ken Burns, produced a masterful show for PBS on the history of baseball and then, based upon the exploits of Boston in 2004, added their story, calling it appropriately, “Extra Innings.”

Catch it if you can. It would be a wonderful at-bat for you to jump start this baseball season.

Only the season before, Red Sox manager Grady Little got canned for leaving Pedro Martinez too long on the mound in blowing a late lead, giving way to an extra inning home run by Yankee Aaron Boone that cost the Red Sox the pennant, further extending their eighty-five-year search for a World Series victory, agonizingly thwarting die-hard Red Sox Nation faithful yet again.

Fast forward to 2004 post-season play.

What odds could you have gotten—the Sox down three games to none to the Yankees, losing the key third game by the harrowing score of 19-8, and just one out away from joining the ugly list of other Boston teams who folded—-to come back and win it all?

Could anyone have foreseen Boston winning each of four do-or-die games against the Yankees in the next seventy-six hours to just stay alive?

I’m guessing those odds at a thousand to one. If you could get someone to take an additional wager that they’d win the World Series, too, you’d get five thousand to one, to be sure.

Red Sox teams had reached the seventh and final game of four previous World Series in their long drought, losing them all, none nearly as egregious as 1986s “Buckner’s Boot” sending the Mets’ Mookie Wilson home to victory.

Fenway Park in Boston is the greatest baseball field in history. My God, it’s the place where “Field of Dreams” travelers Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones learned of Moonlight Graham from Chisholm, Minnesota.

It’s the home of “The Green Monster,” housing the only manually operated scoreboard in all the big leagues. All of New England owns Fenway Park, families of three generations of parents, children and grandchildren visible at every game emblazoned in ‘Sawx regalia.

It is where children first learn to say, “Dad, you wanna’ have a catch?”

In 2004, Ortiz, Schilling, Millar, Varitek and Pedro Martinez would become Bay State heroes forever.

After the Sox came back from three down and won four straight against the hated New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals had no chance of derailing this Massachusetts run-away-train of destiny, losing four straight themselves.

It was indeed the greatest comeback in the history of sport.

9 responses to “The Greatest Comeback Ever

  1. Paul Goodwin

    Hi Coach. I was just reading your article and wanted to thank you for the invitation to view it. That series was the best I had seen in 40 years of watching the Red Sox or MLB for that matter! I coach my sons baseball team and we have games the next 3 days in a row so I’m using this to get him in the right frame of mind. Thanks again and I look forward to more articles I am a huge sports fan so they will always be read!

    Thanks. Paul Goodwin

  2. You’re welcome, Paul. Glad you
    enjoyed it.

  3. As a long time Sox fan, its hard for me to disagree with your article. I had a good friend, who recently passed away, who was Vice President for the Red Sox, early in public relations and as he got older, Historian-he worked for the Sox for some 45 years. He told me that, despite Grady Little being blamed for not taking Pedro out in the 2003 game, that Little told him that when he looked out to the bullpen, not one relief pitcher was looking in, ALL had there heads down, no one wanted to pitch-so he went with the competitive Pedro, who had no gas in the tank. Change of subject, one of my favorite comebacks, and an upset at the same time, was the 1963 NCAA final between Loyola and Cincinnati. Loyola won in OT by 2 points but were behind by 15 with 14 minutes to go-the game was tape delayed and I knew the outcome when I watched it with my mom, betting her $5 that Loyola would win. Of course, I fessed up and did not take the money!!!!
    Thanks for your stories, Paul (friend of Jerry Wallin)

    • Paul, great insight into the Pedro Martinez story. The lack of bullpen courage got Grady
      fired. I had never heard that angle. Congrats on Pat’s Super Bowl victory. Seattle had a one-foot putt to win and used a wood rather
      than a putter. Bad move.

      • Like you, I have witnessed a lot of fun or nice or weird or whatever sport endings, but the Pats ending is high on the list of strange…..not only an abhorrent decision by Carroll…..but think of it the other way……..rarely has a QB had a better Super Bowl 4th quarter than Brady did in that game, check it out, his stats in that period were over the top! Yet, he could have still not led the team to victory-thank you Pete!!!!!!!!!

  4. Hi Jim,

    Guess who is my house guest here in Eloy, AZ? Yvonne Capin is here for six days. But that is not why I write. You mentioned that only Fenway Park has a manual scoreboard. Did the Cubs do away with theirs in their remolding? I don’t think so.

    Great chatting with you in Tampa — Bob Burton

  5. You are right, Bob, I misspoke. Indeed,
    Wrigley also has one. Speaking of Councilperson Capin, just as the 2004
    Red Sox swept the Cards, she too ran the table, last month winning all 93 precincts
    in getting re-elected to Tampa City Council.
    Tell her I said hello.

  6. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach thank you for the tip on watching the Ken Burn’s Baseball film offered by PBS. I look forward to catching it sometime.