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History of a rivalry (cont.)

Posted: Friday August 18, 2006 11:28AM; Updated: Tuesday August 22, 2006 7:20AM
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2003

Aaron Boone is one of the more unlikely notable names in the rivalry.
Aaron Boone is one of the more unlikely notable names in the rivalry.
Chuck Solomon/SI
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Ultimate Yankees-Red Sox, Vol. 2. During the Yankees' run of dominance in the late '90s, the Red Sox emerged as a formidable opponent once again. The acquisition of Pedro Martinez and later Manny Ramirez signaled a sense of conviction on Boston's behalf. The Sox made the playoffs in 1999, coming back from an 0-2 hole against the Indians to advance to the ALCS. The Yanks set them back in five games on their way to a second-consecutive championship, but that was only a prelude to their next playoff meeting.

Fisk's sentiments about the teams being so evenly matched that neither should have to lose applied to the Yanks and Sox in both '03 and '04. Martinez had been the premier pitcher in the league for the first three of four seasons in Boston, but the Yankees always held their own against him. In 27 regular season starts over his seven seasons with the Red Sox, Martinez was 9-10 against New York, a feat that is as remarkable as just about anything the Yankee teams have done in the Joe Torre years.

The Yankees' formula was simple: wait Martinez out, drive his pitch count up, stay close, get into the bullpen, bring in Mo, win the game. They did just that in Game 7, with Aaron Boone doing the walkoff honors. It was textbook for the Yankees and another sour chapter for the Sox. But the Bombers were spent and lost the World Series in six games to the Marlins.

2004

Ultimate Baseball: Revenge of the Sox. Ironically, Boone may be remembered as a minor character when all is said and done, rather than a cult hero like Bucky Dent, because of what transpired in 2004: Curt Schilling, David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Manny. A huge stolen base by Dave Roberts and a dominant series from closer Keith Foulke. Boone's dinger didn't get to sink in deeply enough before the Sox upset the Yanks in the biggest mind-bender, karma-turning, twist of them all. Coming back after being down three games in the ALCS had never been done in baseball history. That the Red Sox did so against the dreaded Yankees made it all the more special.

In reality, it was just a matter of time before the Sox passed the Yanks and won a title. Boston had gotten it's act together with Dan Duquette and turned the corner under John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein. The front office assembled a terrific team and the Yankees could not hold them down forever. Nobody would have been shocked if you had predicted that the Sox would beat the Yanks in seven games to win the pennant at the beginning of the '04 season. But nobody would have envisioned the way it all shook down. It was as if all the horrible fortune the Sox ever carried had suddenly reversed itself and blessed Red Sox Nation with a pipe dream of a Series.

After being on the edge of elimination, Boston reeled off eight straight wins on the way to its first championship since 1918, in one of the biggest sports stories in years. Books were sold, movie endings were altered and cult figures were born. One day, if Ken Burns ever makes an "Extra Innings" episode for his Baseball series, the major stories will be the steroid era, the dominance of the Yankees, and the 2004 Sox.

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