October 17, 2003 - I am wandering aimlessly through the streets searching for reasons this could possibly have happened again. Aaron Boone’s home run off of Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th inning just landed in the left field bleachers at Yankee Stadium, promptly ending what had been the most promising Red Sox season of my lifetime. All the elements were there: pitching, timely hitting, a good group of guys working towards one goal, but with one swing of the bat it was over. For the 86th time in a row the season ended too soon and at the hand of the Yankees. The motherf%$#%n Yankees did it to us again. Why did Grady Little leave Pedro out to dry like that? He was cooked! He did his point to the sky deal when he was coming out at the end of the seventh. Teammates were coming over and congratulating him on a 7 inning, 2 run performance. Then inexplicably he came out again for the 8th and the 3 run lead evaporated in what seemed like an instant. Now Tim Wakefield, one of the most likable guys in the organization’s history, is featured in a new chapter of the tormented narrative of the Red Sox. Is it even worth rooting for this team anymore? Why are we willing take this team as our own and risk a lifetime of disappointment and heartbreak? Would raising my children as Sox fans be a cruel act of parenthood? They’ve been so damn close so many times and it always ends the same way. It’s like watching a movie where you hate the ending but you inexplicably keep watching hoping maybe this time it will change. The hero will save the day…only he doesn’t. He fails, like he always has and always will. It’s the same every time and there’s nothing you can do to change it.
A rustling is coming from a nearby bush in the park and a man appears. He strolls over and sits next to me on a park bench.
“Uhhhh, can I help you with something, sir?”
No, but I am thinking I may be able to help you out. I see you are wearing a Red Sox hat; are you a fan?
“Ya, big fan…but I am currently trying to figure out why. Not sure if you saw what happened, but to be honest I don’t really want to talk about the Red Sox right now so I’m going to keep walking. Sorry sir but it’s just not a good time for me.”
Fair enough, just one question: Do you happen to know the date?
“Sure, it’s October 17th, as of about an hour ago. Have a good night.”
Oh! The Boone game just happened, I can see why you’re not in the mood for conversation…crazy to think his knee injury helped alter the course of history. Anyway, have a good night.
“Ummm, sorry sir but his knee is fine. He just hit a series ending home run to end the season for the Sox, I think you may be mistaken. Anyway like I said I’m not even sure why I’m talking about this, it’s just making me angry. Have a good night sir.”
Haha, no son I’m not mistaken, you just don’t know that yet, but I suppose I’ll save that story for another day. Just one word to the wise, one day pulling for the Red Sox is going to be worth it.
“Ooookkaaaayyy….am I missing something here? Look I really want to get going but now that I think about it there’s nowhere to go, so I suppose this conversation a better alternative to brooding about town for the next several hours. What’s your name?”
My name’s not important, I’m just here to let you know to keep the faith.
“Ok, well where are you from then?”
I’m from the future son, October 2009 to be exact.
“Haha, okay. Well maybe I should just get going. Even though thinking about the Red Sox is going to drive me crazy I can’t say sitting on a park bench next to a proclaimed time traveler is any better. I thought I had seen it all tonight but now I’m here yapping with a crazy person. Good night sir.”
Alright, just be aware of that root you’re going to trip over when you keep walking in a few minutes.
A few minutes pass and my walk continues away from the strange man who is spouting nonsense about non-existent knee injuries to a player who just ripped my heart out of my chest. As I continue to shake my head about Grady Little and the crazy old man suddenly I trip and fall.
As I get my wits about me I awake rubbing my head and the Old Man from the park bench has his hand on my back.
Wow son, that was a heck of a fall you just took, I told you to watch out for that root! Are you alright?
“I’m alright, a little groggy, but okay.”
I look down and see a tree root beneath my right foot, as I look up the Old Man greets me with a smile. I smile back and with a throbbing head and broken heart courtesy of the Red Sox, for reasons I still don’t understand I decide to listen to what this man has to say.
“Sorry if I was glib before; as you can imagine it hasn’t been the best night for me and hearing a person claim they are from five years in the future just didn’t seem like a conversation I wanted to have. Anyway, tell me more about this knee injury sir, I’m not going anywhere for a while.”
Well, Aaron Boone’s knee injury is now just a small blip on the radar screen that led to the two World Series we’ve won in the last 4 seasons.
“Who’s we? Please don’t tell me I’ve been talking to a Yankee fan this whole time. My head is killing me and now I’m stuck with a Yankee fan on the worst night of my Red Sox life. Great, just great, what else could possibly go wrong?”
Relax son, I’m no Yankee fan, we root for the same team.
“But I thought you said that “we” had won two World Series in the last 4 seasons?”
I did indeed say that.
“Hahaha! Wow I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt after the tree root coincidence but now I KNOW you’re crazy…the Red Sox? The Boston Red Sox? Two World Series? Come on, I know I took a heck of a fall and you’re trying to make me feel better but that’s just crazy talk. But since if I stand up I will probably get disoriented I’m kind of stuck here with you. Why don’t you tell me more, Nameless Ghost of Red Sox Future?”
No need for sarcasm son, I’m willing to tell you all you need to know but I also don’t want to spoil the details of the miracle workers of next season.
“Miracle workers? Why don’t you start there, since there is no chance I am going to believe anything you say. If nothing else, this could be entertaining.”
Alright, but are you sure? Like I said it may be better if you experience this on your own without the spoilers.
“Please, go ahead with this story of the “miracle working Red Sox.” Haha, just saying that makes me laugh, a total oxymoron.”
Well in exactly 1 year from tonight our Sox will be fighting for their playoff lives against the Yankees once again. Only it won’t be game 7, it will be game 4 of the 2004 ALCS and our boys will be in a 3-0 hole. To make things worse they’ll be down 1 run in the bottom of the 9th at Fenway and Mariano Rivera will come in to get the final three outs to complete the sweep.
“Well that sounds like the Red Sox, getting back to the playoffs the year after a soul-crushing loss only to get swept.”
Ah yes my friend, only they won’t get swept; they will go on to win Game 4 thanks to the one play that changed Red Sox history.
“But wait, let say you are serious, which of course you’re not…but hypothetically speaking I thought you said Aaron Boone’s knee injury changed history. I don’t get how a knee injury has anything to do with Mo Rivera coming in to close the door, unless there is some kind of error at third base that scores the winning run or something.”
Oh my…we have a ways to go, Boone isn’t even a Yankee next year, he hurts his knee in the offseason, so the Yanks go out to and get A-Rod to play third after the Sox fail to get a deal done for the Texas shortstop.
“Hahahaha, this is just getting ridiculous now. So let me get this straight. A-Rod, who by the way is the best shortstop in baseball right now, ends up in pinstripes playing third but ONLY AFTER the Red Sox tried and failed to get him this upcoming winter. Let me guess, we offer Manny and Nomar or something for him?”
Well that’s pretty close actually. Manny was directly involved in the potential deal but we were going to ship Nomar off to the White Sox to help take on A-Rod’s enormous contract, but then he found out and spent the rest of his days with the Sox sulking and sucking the life out of the clubhouse. So we shipped him to the other Chicago team, he’s a Cub now, well not NOW if we’re talking about 2009, but now in the sense of the 2004 ALCS.
“Wow just when I thought this story couldn’t get any more ridiculous you hit me with that. So a Nomarless Red Sox squad is in the ALCS down 1 run with 3 outs left in the series against Rivera. And wait, let me guess we somehow win that game and the series? To put the cherry on top of your insanely preposterous tale, the Red Sox become the first team in the history of baseball to come back for a 3-0 hole against the hated Yankees who now have A-Rod?”
More or less. I neglected to mention the Sox acquired Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke in the offseason who both play a major part in this comeback. But yes, you’re right and since you’re so caught up in this being a tall tale you didn’t even ask what the most important play in Red Sox history is.
“Oh that’s right…let me guess, the Sox scratch together enough baserunners for a 2 run blast to win it off Rivera in the 9th?”
Come on son, don’t be ridiculous. This is the Red Sox we’re talking about, it can’t be that easy. Dave Roberts pinch runs for Kevin Millar and steals second base with no outs. Then Bill Mueller scorches one up the middle to tie it, we don’t end up winning the game until the 14th inning, with a 2 run blast from David Ortiz! But if Roberts doesn’t swipe that base we’re going home, swept out of the playoffs. And oh my it was close, Roberts just beat Jeter’s tag into second, if he had left a split second later we’re looking at 1 out, nobody on base. That one steal changed everything son, everything.
“Suuuurrreee, that sounds exactly like the Red Sox I know and love, clutch hits and base stealing! You sure have this team nailed down! Oh and Curt Schilling? So our rotation includes Pedro and Schilling?”
Yep, for the next two years at least. But Schilling actually pitches game 6 in Yankee stadium on one good foot. He tears an ankle tendon but they suture it down which of course leads to the Bloody Sock game.
“Awesome, I just watched the Red Sox lose in gut wrenching fashion again, conked my head on the concrete after tripping and now I’m talking to a guy who claims he’s from the future and the Red Sox pull off the greatest comeback in history with one of their aces pitching on one foot and has a bloody sock on the other. Was that pun intentional with the Sock/Red Sox thing there? This is a solid piece of fiction. Hell, science fiction since you’re from the future and all! Anyway, I’ve heard enough. You seem like a nice guy but I’ve seen enough Red Sox games to know that this is impossible. My head is feeling better so I’m going to continue on with my walk. I hope what you’re saying is true. Anything else I need to know about the future?”
Well, a lot actually, but I can save that for another day. Just be happy to know you’re biggest worry in October 2009 is going to be if KG’s knee is going to hold up for the Celtics season.
“KG? Isn’t that Kevin Garnett or did we finally land a solid #1 pick with the same initials?”
No it’s the KG you know of, Garnett is a Celtic in 2009. Ray Allen too!
“Alright, just to recap, let me know if I missed anything here: An old man who claims to be from 2009 found me in this park and let me know the Red Sox, the unluckiest franchise in baseball history, is going to engineer the greatest comeback in the history of the sport starting one year from tonight. And the Celtics, who have been a joke since Larry stopped playing, are going to land two of the best players in the NBA. And in this time, somehow by October 2009 the Red Sox are going to have two World Series even though the Yankees land the best player in baseball in a couple months?”
Yep, sounds about right. The Yanks get A-Rod next Valentine’s day to be exact…oh and I failed to mention, two more Superbowls for the Pats and the Celts win a title with KG too. Also our beloved Sox have a solid chance for a third title this decade, they have this kid Jon Lester…he survived a cancer scare and now he is one of best lefthanded pitchers in the playoffs at the top of our rotation, along with Josh Beckett who you’ll learn about next week in the Marlins/Yankees World Series!
“Well, wait one second, I thought you said the biggest worry in October 2009 is the Celtics but now you’re alluding to another potential Red Sox playoff run? How can anyone from the past, present or future claim that Red Sox fans wouldn’t be worried heading into October?”
Listen son, the 2004 team changes everything. It changes the national perception of the Red Sox for the rest of time, and it changes the hometown fans’ perception of the Yankees and Red Sox. As of tonight you are now 86 years deep in a drought, the media will relentlessly bash you over the head with Babe Ruth talk and the Yankees fans are equally unbearable with 1918 chants. I come from a time where the Yankees fans worry about Boston! They know deep down they are forever linked to the biggest choke job in the history of sports, when you blow a 3-0 lead there’s no recovering from that. Every time a series in any sport gets to that point we are reminded of the ‘04 Miracle Workers. The Red Sox in 2009 are a team playing with house money, just last year we lost in game 7 of the ALCS to the Rays but you know what? People were OK with it.
“Rays? As in the Devil Rays? That pathetic excuse for a franchise in Tampa right now?”
Yep. They dropped the Devil and made it all the way to the World Series last year, beating the Red Sox in the process.
“Alright, I’ve had enough, whatever world you’re living in where the Red Sox can somehow lose to the Devil Rays in a deciding Game 7 and Boston would be alright with it is not a place I want to be.”
Time will tell on that one son, time will tell. Just know that 5 years from now you’ll be bracing for a Red Sox postseason where your team will be the big bad bullies on the block and your opponents know it. No matter who they play, deep down, the other teams know this is the team that shed 86 years of frustration in 4 liberating nights in Boston and the Bronx. And while the players change the 2004 story never will. These are the Red Sox, baseball’s model franchise since 2004, penciled in for 95 wins and the playoffs every season. Even if the Yankees want to spend 400 million dollars in guaranteed money in the offseason to try and reverse fortunes, they are still the team that blew the biggest lead in postseason history. In Boston we can’t help but smile knowing we’ve seized the upper hand after taking 86 straight years of abuse.
“Ok sir, you’re making my head hurt again as I try to wrap my mind around this nonsense. It was nice talking with you and I appreciate you trying to make me feel better. Anything else I should know about?”
The heartache isn’t over quite yet kid, and it probably won’t ever be as a sports fan. It’s one of the reasons we watch…you know the thrill of victory and agony of defeat…all that stuff.
“But I thought your fairytale has two more Superbowls, two World Series and an NBA Title? What else could I possibly ask for?”
I glazed over the David Tyree’s helmet catch spoiling the perfect season stuff for your sake.
The Old Man winks and wanders back off into the bushes and slowly disappears from eyesight.
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.