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.