The first occurred at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 13, in the 10th inning of Game 1, when Rivera got what looked like a double-play grounder to third base while protecting a 3-3 tie. Knoblauch clearly dropped the throw from third baseman Scott Brosius. Umpire Rick Reed, however, ruled that Knoblauch made the catch and had dropped the ball only when beginning an attempt to throw to first. Reed called the runner, Jose Offerman, out. New York won in the bottom of the inning when Bernie Williams smashed the second pitch from righthander Rod Beck over the centerfield wall.
Knoblauch gained another pardon in Game 4, again while trying to put out Offerman on a double-play grounder. This one occurred in the eighth inning with Rivera called on to protect a 3-2 lead. Knoblauch fielded the bouncing ball and reached to tag Offerman, who swerved slightly to avoid the tag. Umpire Tim Tschida mistakenly ruled that Knoblauch had tagged Offerman. Knoblauch threw to first to complete the phantom double play. "When calls go against you, it makes you think, How many obstacles do you have to go through?" lamented Boston centerfielder Darren Lewis.
Last year Knoblauch blew Game 2 of the League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians when he stood on first base blowing bubbles with his gum while an errant throw to him from first baseman Tino Martinez rolled near his feet. This year he nicked Zimmer's left ear with a foul line drive into the Yankees' dugout in Game 1 of New York's Division Series against the Texas Rangers. Then his notorious throwing troubles worsened against Boston, growing so bad that in Game 4 he fired balls into the Red Sox dugout during warmups between innings. Martinez has had to make so many saves with Knoblauch around that he should get consideration for the Vezina Trophy. "When you play in the middle of the field, a lot of things can happen," Knoblauch said on Sunday night with a shrug.
Garciaparra could vouch for that. The Yankees began the series concerned about his bat. Their scouting report on him included this warning: "Make a good first pitch! Start him off like 0-2 count.... Make someone else beat us!"
Garciaparra wound up with more misplays afield (six) than RBIs (five). He committed two harmless errors in Game 1 and another in Game 3, but he sabotaged Boston more than Tschida did in Game 4. He Knoblauched a throw in the fourth inning, launching into the Red Sox' dugout what should have been the second out. The Yankees parlayed that mistake into two runs and a 3-2 lead for Pettitte. Garciaparra helped the Yankees toward a six-run ninth inning by dropping two throws, though each time the error was charged to the teammate who made the throw.
In the bottom of that inning Garciaparra hit a grounder to third and was called out in a close play at first base by umpire Dale Scott—another blown call, it appeared. Jimy Williams, upon bolting from the dugout in protest, finally lost his composure, not to mention his cap, which he flung in the air in disgust. Scores of fans took Scott's call and Williams's burlesque act as a cue to bombard the field with trash and plastic soda bottles.
"Jimy Williams incited the crowd," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner charged after the game. The Yankees were waved off the field and into their dugout by home plate umpire Al Clark. Once they were there, according to New York manager Joe Torre, a member of the Fenway security force shouted profanities at them while ordering them to remain in the dugout. Yankees relief pitcher Jeff Nelson had to be restrained by teammates from going after the security man, identified by a Red Sox public relations official as Steve Corcoran. Torre also erupted. "It was as angry and as emotional as I've ever seen Joe," Cone said. Giving new meaning to pitching out of trouble, Rivera closed the game under armed guard.
(One hour after the game, Corcoran was eating food from the Yankees' catered buffet in their clubhouse. An incredulous New York first base coach Jose Cardenal chased him out of the clubhouse with a string of profanities. Corcoran refused comment.)
To think the weekend had begun in Boston with such promise for the Red Sox and their fans: a 13-1 rout of the Yankees in Game 3 last Saturday, the worst of 98 defeats in 255 postseason games for New York. Boston's beloved ace, righthander Pedro Martinez, thoroughly outpitched the city's erstwhile one, Clemens. Martinez toyed with the Yankees that afternoon the way he puttered with the begonias in his backyard garden in Chestnut Hill that very morning. Even with a subpar fastball Martinez played with New York hitters, laughing out loud in the third after Knoblauch buckled at the sight of one of his curveballs. "It looked funny because Knobby was running away," Martinez said later.
Meanwhile, a discombobulated Clemens was torched for five runs and departed to gleeful taunts from the crowd only one batter into the third inning. In the seventh the fans broke into a "Where is Roger?" chant, and after the game they stormed a cloth banner inside Fenway that commemorates Clemens's two 20-strikeout games as a member of the Red Sox. Security personnel turned away the mob just as a corner of the banner was ripped from a wall.