This time, a Yankee started yelling, "Home! Home!" Hill remembers that as the sound track to the longest and fastest run of his life. "The adrenaline rush just took over," he says. "It was amazing. Probably one of the best moments of my career."
So when Ellsbury stole off Pettitte at the start of last season, it wasn't much of a surprise. Except that a steal of home is always a surprise. "Furthest thing from my mind," says ESPN's Jon Miller, who was broadcasting the game. In the past Ellsbury had occasionally arrived at third with the notion of swiping home in his head. Each time, Hale had dissuaded him. "It's Pedroia up, Ortiz up, someone who could drive in runs," Hale explains. This time, in the fifth inning of a 2--1 game with the lefthanded Drew batting, Ellsbury didn't ask. "I saw him go to the windup and figured if he did it again, I'd go," he says. "As a base stealer, you have that internal clock in your head from years of doing it. I knew I'd be safe. But the easy part is knowing you can go. The hard part is actually doing it, especially in a situation like that. Bases loaded. Against the Yankees."
"When he took off, it was like the play started happening in slow motion," says Hale. "The four seconds felt like maybe 12. My mind was like, 'There he goes. Andy Pettitte hasn't started his windup. Now he's started it. Jacoby is halfway there. He's got a chance.' That's how it went. Each second felt like forever." Drew heard the commotion and figured something was amiss. "Then I saw Pettitte speed up at the end," he says. "I figured I could give up a strike, whatever was going on." As Ellsbury approached the plate, Drew showed no indication of having seen him. It flashed through Ellsbury's mind that Drew might swing, so instead of sliding feet first, he went in on his chest, arms extended, to get his head under the plane of the bat.
The run didn't end up mattering in the 4--1 Red Sox victory, but the play was the talk of baseball for weeks. For some reason—the national telecast, or the Yankees--Red Sox rivalry—fans and commentators who'd overlooked recent steals by Hill and Sizemore, Vizquel and Sweeney, Cabrera and Hunter rediscovered baseball's most exciting play. It was as if nobody had done it in years.
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