NEW YORK -- Seventh games are postseason baseball's mother lode. When you hit on one of those babies, you've hit on something big. They are what fans scream for, what players play for, what makes the history books worth reading.
A seventh game in the 1960 World Series made a household name of a light-hitting second baseman Bill Mazeroski. A bloop single in the seventh game of the World Series in 2001 defined Luis Gonzalez's career and gave the state of Arizona its first professional sports title ever.
Edgar Renteria singled home the winner for the Marlins in Game 7 of the '97 World Series, the Twins' Jack Morris was a seventh-game stud in the World Series in 1991, the Pirates' Willie Stargell became a seventh-game hero in 1979 and Sandy Koufax, on two days' rest, won the 1965 World Series for the Dodgers with a gutsy three-hitter in Game 7.
There are lots of other examples, too, both in the World Series and in Game 7s for league pennants. Some of them turn out to be thrillers, some major letdowns.
Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox and Yankees will meet in a Game 7 unlike any other. It will be the crowning moment in the most compelling American League Championship Series ever played.
It is a Game 7 that never should have been -- one, historically speaking, that is a first -- and, yet, a Game 7 that looks excitingly familiar.
Last year, remember? Aaron Boone. Eleventh inning. Yankee Stadium.
Yeah, like any baseball fan could forget that.
"This is too good of a series not to go to a Game 7," Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said. "There's nothing more that you could want."
The Red Sox have made this a series that will be remembered for a long, long time by doing what no team ever has done. Just four days ago, the Sox lost a 19-8 laugher to the Yankees in Fenway Park in Game 3 of the ALCS. It was their third loss in three tries. They looked cooked. Historically speaking, they were cooked.
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No team has come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. No team had forced a Game 7.
But then came two wild games in Boston, 26 innings and almost 11 hours of baseball nail-biting, both won by the Red Sox. And then came Tuesday in a wet and chilly Yankee Stadium, and superhuman Curt Schilling wrote his own little page in the books.
Playing on a stitched-up ankle holding down a tendon that plings around more than a guitar string, Schilling checked the Yankees on four hits though seven innings as the Sox won, 4-2.
From 0-3 to a Game 7. Just like that.
"The easy thing to do would have been to give up," Millar said. "But we don't do anything easy in this clubhouse."
"I guess it was supposed to come to a Game 7," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "We'll see what happens."
Last year, these two teams smacked each other around until Boone, the third baseman for the Yankees, pulled a knuckleball from Boston's Tim Wakefield down the line in the bottom of the 11th inning for a dramatic homer and a 6-5 win.
Since then, the teams have been angling to get back at each other in every way. They battled for the services of Alex Rodriguez in the offseason. (The Yankees won.) They battled for the AL East title. (The Yankees won.)
Now, after this unprecedented comeback by the Sox, it comes down to one game. Again.
"We want to get to the World Series, to make history," Boston center fielder Johnny Damon said. "That's our motivating factor. Not last year."
The Sox, of course, have not won a World Series since 1918, haven't even been there since '86. All of an on-the-edge Red Sox Nation will be watching this one.
But so will all of New York. The Yankees have their fans, a lot of history -- 26 World Series titles -- and all the talent that $180 million can buy.
On Wednesday night, in Game 7 of the ALCS, someone will strike it rich.