(Inspired by Kellia at Down the Left Field Line: Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes, who was inspired by MLBlogs and Pinstripe Pride)
Okay, everyone who reads me knows my writing style by now…so you aren’t going to get some in-depth analysis of the 2005 season. Sorry. 🙂 What you WILL get the five moments in 2005 that have stayed with me. Five things that made me happy that I’m a fan of the Boston Red Sox. Five things that made me love the game all the more.
5 – Tuesday, July 26, 2005, Red Sox at Devil Rays – Matt Clement gets hit in the head with a Carl Crawford line drive. Admittedly, an odd choice. But consider what happened after Clement went down and was taken off the field. When Clement left, he had the lead, 5-1. Then a few batters in, Chad Bradford gave up a grand slam to Aubrey Huff to tie the game. The lead went back and forth and then tied up again…leading to extra innings, thanks to a miraculous catch by Johnny Damon to end the ninth. It was Johnny’s turn again to be a hero in the 10th…he hit a homerun to start off the inning, and although the Rays came back to score in the bottom of the inning, Johnny’s homer, along with a Jason Varitek double that scored Edgar Renteria, was enough to win the game. It was an amazingly emotional game for the players and the fans. A lot of us went online when Matt got hit and "watched" the game together. People were crying and praying and NO ONE really expected a win. The team didn’t let Matt or the Nation down. It was just another example of the team picking each other up when the chips are down. (Thankfully, and miraculously, Clement would come out of it with only a bruised ear, a bad headache from a concussion and maybe a case of the jitters when he first came back!)
4 – Sunday, July 31, 2005, Twins at Red Sox – Manny Ramirez "comes back". "Manny’s back and he’s back big!", Don Orsillo screamed to the television audience. And all he did was hit a bloop single. That’s Manny for you. After sitting out the game after Clement was hit, stirring a media fury that really still hasn’t died down, the trade speculation was rampant. July 31st was the target day. Trade deadline…the end of Manny by many media accounts. It didn’t help that the night before Terry Francona sat his superstar left-fielder…and then sat him again that Sunday. A thousand shots of the dugout during the game – no sign of Manny. Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo are stumped…Red Sox Nation is freaking out. The score is tied in the bottom of the 8th and suddenly there is movement in the dugout. Manny is there and he grabs his helmet…he grabs a bat and makes his way to the on-deck circle. Fenway Park erupts into noise like no one has ever heard in a ballpark. Manny bloops a single that scores Edgar Renteria and Curt Schilling gets a save. All is well in Red Sox Nation. This game is also quite noteworthy as it was the first Major League game that one Mr. Jonathan Papelbon started. The Nation had been waiting to see him pitch…and he didn’t disappoint.
3 – Thursday, September 29, 2005 Blue Jays at Red Sox – Manny and Papi show us why they are the best! I was lucky enough to be AT this game. Not only that…but a new friend, CJ, introduced me to Mike Timlin between innings at the bullpen. That alone should have made this a great game…but there was more to come. It was an ugly game. The first run scores on an uncharacteristic Jason Varitek throwing error. Three more runs follow over the next few innings. All Toronto. Boston scores a run in the third on a fielder’s choice courtesy of Edgar Renteria. That was the first omen of good things to come. With the score 2-1 in the middle of the third, CJ literally drags me through the crowd and over to the bullpen to meet Timlin. I do…we chat (about "regular" things like his daughter’s birthday and the fact that he won both the BoSox Club "Man of the Year" award and the "10th Player Award"). He remarks to CJ and I that the team "better start scoring"…and he looked like he meant it. After five innings the score is 4-1 and it looks like we’re in for another disappointing night. Oh we of little faith. Between the 6th and 9th innings, Manny hits a homerun with David Ortiz on, Papi hits a solo homerun and then in the bottom of the ninth, with Johnny Damon and Edgar Renteria on and the score tied…Big Papi hits a single that scores Johnny and ends the game. Fenway Park erupts as if the Sox just won the World Series again. The fans won’t leave the park…they even interview Ortiz on the field and show it on the scoreboard. People are singing "Dirty Water" and "Tessie" and strangers are literally hugging each other. One guy turned to me, smiling and said "THIS is why I’m a Red Sox fan…I love these people (the fans)!".
2 – Monday, May 9, 2005 – A’s at Red Sox – Kevin Millar hits his first homerun of the season. I’m not sure I’ve emphasized this enough…but, along with Timlin, Millar has been my favorite guy on the team since he joined in 2003. I have a hard time writing about him, because it saddens me deeply that he’s no longer on the team. BUT there is no way I make a list like this without adding him. Kevin had been getting beat up pretty badly in the press for going over a month into the season without a homerun. He made bets with Bill Mueller and Mark Bellhorn, both who were going through similar slumps, about when they would hit a homer. He tried everything…he changed his stance again, he dyed his hair, he cut his hair, he grew facial hair, dyed it and shaved it. Nothing. Until May 9th. Earlier in the day, he took the family to the Cheesecake Factory where he came upon a waitress who was a fan. She told him it was her birthday and all she wanted was for him to hit a homerun. His response? "I tell you what. If I hit a home run tonight, it will be for you." And hit a home run he did. In the bottom of the 7th, with Jay Payton and David Ortiz on, Millar smashed one into the Green Monster. At that point in the game, Oakland was losing, 6-3…and the Red Sox went on to win 13-5…so to the uninformed, it was a meaningless homer. But to Red Sox Nation…and especially we Millar fans…it was one of the highlights of the season. Jason Varitek, not known for showing emotion, tackled Millar in the dugout (after everyone else ignored him!)…the joy was evident. It didn’t matter that the homerun wasn’t "important" to the game. Millar got a monkey off his back…and gained a lot of that confidence he had lost as well.
1 – Monday, April 11, 2005 – Yankees at Red Sox – The World Champions get their rings…with the world, and the New York Yankees, watching. It’s Opening Day at Fenway…they’re going to unfurl the World Series Champions banner…the "idiots" are going to get their rings…the Yankees are going to be forced to watch the event unravel from the vantage point of the visitor’s dugout…and to top it all off, Mr. Tim Wakefield, the guy on the mound in 2003 when Aaron Boone hit his notorious home run, is on the mound today. It is the absolute best of the best. The game was great, Sox pounded the Yankees, 8-1. Mussina looked sick and Wakefield looked like an all-star. But the best part was the ceremony. Seeing Derek Lowe, and Dave Roberts and heck even Curtis Leskanic come back to get their rings…so we could say one last "thank you"…watching Johnny Pesky come out to get his ring, and greet the rest of the team like they had been playing together for years ("Leskanic you son of a b^tch!" he exclaimed as Curtis hugged him). We watched them raise a banner so many never thought would be raised..we got to cheer Mariano Rivera when he was announced…and then cheer him even MORE when he acknowledged the mock cheers with an enormous smile. Fenway Park was filled to the brim…and the rest of Boston pretty much took the day off to find a tv and watch the ceremony. It was such a huge deal, they made a best-selling dvd of the day. It was a wonderful way to start the season and, for me, it set the tone for the year. I might have been disappointed in the way things ended up in 2005, but I spent the entire season basking in the glow…and somehow things didn’t seem so bad when the White Sox swept the boys in the ALDS. It just seemed like it was time for the guys to rest. And now, on to 2006!