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Impossible mission completed

Red Sox rout Yankees in Game 7 to finish greatest comeback ever

Updated: Thursday October 21, 2004 2:35AM
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Johnny Damon
Johnny Damon set an ALCS single-game record with six RBIs.
AP
SI.com's John Donovan
Bernie Williams, one of the Yankees' old-timers who remembers when the team actually won a World Series once in a while, strode slowly, almost purposefully, across the field at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, looking more hacked off than disappointed.

He glanced over his left shoulder at the mob of Red Sox celebrating near the pitcher's mound -- the Sox whooping it up in the Bronx had to be a particularly galling sight to someone like Williams -- and disgustedly flipped off his batting helmet as he disappeared into the Yankees dugout.

And that's the way the Yankees' reign ended, and maybe Williams', too. The ghosts are banished forever, the curses broken, the magic lost to the night. The biggest collapse in the history of baseball -- call it a choke if you will, because the tabloids certainly will -- is now complete.

  • Click here for more.
  • Closer Look
    Mired in a slump at the absolute worst of times, Red Sox centerfielder Johnny Damon decided to get aggressive in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night. And the Sox followed their leadoff man's lead right into the World Series.
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  • NEW YORK (AP) -- Cursed for 86 years, these Red Sox just might be charmed.

    Believe it, New England -- the Boston Red Sox are in the World Series. And they got there with the most unbelievable comeback of all, with four sweet swings after decades of defeat, shaming the dreaded New York Yankees.

    David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe made sure of it.

    Just three outs from getting swept in the AL championship series three nights earlier, the Red Sox finally humbled the Evil Empire, winning Game 7 in a 10-3 shocker Wednesday night to become the first major league team to overcome a 3-0 postseason series deficit.

    "All empires fall sooner or later," Boston president Larry Lucchino said.

    There is no torture this time, no hour of humiliation. Better yet for Boston fans, it's the Yankees who are left to suffer the memory of a historic collapse.

    "Not many people get the opportunity to shock the world. We came out and did it," Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said. "You know what? We beat the Yankees. Now they get a chance to watch us on the tube."

    Boston didn't need any of the late-inning dramatics that marked the last three games, leading 6-0 after two innings. Ortiz, the series MVP, started it with a two-run homer in the first off broken-down Kevin Brown, and Damon quieted Yankee Stadium in the second inning with a grand slam on Javier Vazquez's first pitch.

    After Derek Jeter sparked hope of a comeback with a run-scoring single in the third, Damon put a two-run homer into the upper deck for an 8-1 lead in the fourth.

    Lowe pitched on two days' rest and allowed one hit in six innings. He silenced the Yankees' bats and boasting fans, who just last weekend assumed New York's seventh pennant in nine years was all but a lock. Pedro Martinez started the seventh, his first relief appearance in five years, and immediately sparked chants of the now famous "Who's Your Daddy?"

    Three hits and two runs got the crowd going, but the rally stopped there. Mark Bellhorn added a solo homer in the eighth for a 9-3 Boston lead, and the bullpen closed out a five-hitter.

    "It's very amazing, I think, to do what we did," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

    Cheering from Red Sox fans could be heard in the ninth, and when pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra grounded to second baseman Pokey Reese for the final out at 12:01 a.m., Boston players ran onto the field and jumped together in a mass huddle.

    "The greatest comeback in baseball history," Red Sox owner John Henry proclaimed.

    Yankees players slowly walked off, eliminated on their home field for the second straight season.

    "I'm embarrassed right now," Alex Rodriguez said. "Obviously that hurts -- watching them on our field celebrating."

    The World Series will start at Fenway Park on Saturday night against St. Louis or Houston.

    "We're coming back home and we're going to party for a little while, but it's going to be a great World Series," Damon said.

    There were several hundred Red Sox fans behind their dugout on the third-base side, cheering wildly as Boston players gave one another bear hugs. Trot Nixon ran out to the center-field bleachers to greet friends, then shook hands with more along the right-field line.

    Now that the Babe's team has been beaten, Boston can try to reverse The Curse, win the Series for the first time since 1918 and bring happiness to the Hub, which can scarcely believe the tumultuous turn of events.

    From Fenway Park to Faneuil Hall, from Boston Common to Beacon Hill, the 11th pennant for the Red Sox, the first since 1986, will be remembered as the best for one reason: Beating New York in Yankee Stadium, site of last year's Game 7 meltdown.

    This was for Williams, Doerr and Pesky, for Yastrzemski and Yawkey, for Fisk and Rice and even Buckner and Nomar, just a few of the hundreds who suffered the pain inflicted by their New York neighbors in a rivalry that has become baseball's best.

    "That's for the '03 team, just like it's for the '78 and the '49 team," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "I hope Ted Williams is having a cocktail upstairs."

    None of the previous 25 major league teams to fall behind 3-0 even forced a series to seven games. The wild-card Red Sox became only the third of 239 teams in the four major North American leagues to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series and win, joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.

    It had been 100 years since Boston last won a pennant in New York on the final possible day, a 3-2 victory in a doubleheader opener at Hilltop Park in 1904. New York overcame the Red Sox by winning the final two games of the 1949 season at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees won a one-game playoff for the AL East in 1978 behind Bucky Dent's three-run homer at Fenway Park, and Aaron Boone hit the 11th-inning homer that won Game 7 last year.

    New York, which dropped to 10-2 in the LCS, will no doubt face a bitter winter, with owner George Steinbrenner likely to take charge of overhauling a roster that has been short of starting pitching since the spring.

    Steinbrenner wouldn't answer questions after the game, but before getting into his car he said: "I want to congratulate the Boston team. They did very well. They have a great team."

    Pitching did in Steinbrenner's band of All-Stars, who won the AL East for the seventh straight season, with the Red Sox runners-up each time. Brown and Vazquez, who faded in the second half of the season, were booed by the sellout crowd of 56,129.

    New York had a record $186 million payroll, far beyond Boston, which was second at $128 million. The Yankees have captured six pennants in eight seasons, winning the World Series four times. But they haven't won since 2000 and couldn't finish off an opponent in the cool, efficient, ruthless way they did only a few years ago.

    "It's not the same team," Jeter said. "We've had teams that have been good at it, but this is not the same team."

    The Yankees had a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 on Sunday night, only to have Bill Mueller single home the tying run off Mariano Rivera and Ortiz hit a 12th-inning homer against Paul Quantrill.

    They held a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning of Game 5 before Ortiz's homer off Tom Gordon and Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly off Rivera, and Ortiz's winning single off Esteban Loaiza in the 14th.

    Then Curt Schilling, his right ankle held together by three sutures, beat the Yankees 4-2 Tuesday night to tie the series 3-all.

    Damon, who entered the game 3-for-29 (.103), singled past Rodriguez at third base leading off and stole second but was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Manny Ramirez's single.

    That was the highlight for the Yankees.

    Ortiz, who had three homers and 11 RBIs in the series, sent the next pitch into the right-field seats to put Boston ahead 2-0.

    The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the second on Millar's single and walks to Mueller and Orlando Cabrera. Damon then lofted Vazque's pitch down the right-field line, the ball landing in the front row. Jubilant Red Sox players poured out of the dugout, jumping and yelling.

    Damon homered again off Vazquez in the fourth, after Cabrera walked, putting the first pitch of the at-bat into the upper deck in right.

    "We stuck together," Damon said, "and erased history."

    Notes: Boston won its first five World Series appearances, the latter three with Babe Ruth, who was sold the Yankees in 1920. Since beating the Chicago Cubs for the 1918 title, Boston has lost four World Series -- to the Cardinals in 1946 and 1967, the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and the New York Mets in 1986. ... New York had lost four consecutive games once all season, April 22-25, the first defeat at Chicago and three at home to Boston.

    Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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