October 20th, 2004.
Perhaps the greatest day for Yankee haters. The day that Boston reversed the curse, beating the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, coming back from an 3-games-to-0 deficit, ultimately resulting in the BoSox' first World Championship since 1918.
And they have me to thank for it. Let me explain:
I was a senior in high school, and an avid baseball fan. My best friend in high school, Nate, was a huge Tim Wakefield fan, and had converted me to the ways of the knuckleballer. The 2003 ALCS was still burned in our brains, and we were forced to live with the conclusion that Wake would be forever branded as "the guy who gave up the home run," thus giving analysts more reasons to rip on the knuckleball hurler. We watched the Yankees win games one and two. We saw Wakedog come out of the bullpen in Game 3 and give up 5 runs in 3.1 innings, resulting in a 19-8 victory for the Yankees.
I didn't watch Game 4. I couldn't take it. The Yankees were going to win again. Being a Red Sox fan, I had decided, were the worst two years of my life. How could anyone do this for 86 years!
And, to go on top of that, my 1986 Toyota Corolla was having problems starting, and would frequently overheat, resulting in a steam bath whenever I would drive the mere seven miles to get to school.
I watched SportsCenter the next morning, only to learn that the Red Sox had made an amazing comeback, capped off by a David Ortiz walk-off home run in the 12th inning. The Series was now 3-1.
The Sox won Game 5 as well, in extra innings, with the help of David Ortiz. But what most fans overlook is that Wakefield came out of the bullpen in the 12th inning. Nate and I were on the edge of our seats as Wake trotted in from the bullpen...mostly because we saw who was catching.
What many people don't know is that Tim Wakefield is one of the only pitchers in the major leagues to have his own personal catcher: Doug Mirabelli. The Wakefield/Mirabelli combo is so important, that when Mirabelli left as a free agent in 2006, the Red Sox traded Josh Bard and $100,000 to bring him back to Boston. Sox fans were excited to see Mirabelli back after having to watch Josh Bard and Jason Varitek try to tame the untamable knuckleball. Mirabelli is currently a free agent, and the Sox have Kevin Cash catching for Wakefield.
Anyway, Varitek was catching for Wakefield. Varitek allowed three passed balls in the 13th inning, but the Yankees were kept at bay long enough to get David Ortiz back to the plate, who hit the game-winning single in the 14th inning.
The Sox won game 6 as well, becoming the first team to win Game 6 after being down 3-0 (The 1998 Atlanta Braves and the 1999 New York Mets were both down 3-0, but neither of them won Game 6.) The sports world was buzzing. Could the Red Sox do it? Or would Wakefield, who was also dominant in the '03 ALCS vs the Yankees, give or take one pitch, blow it again?
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a Wednesday night, and our undefeated high school football team was playing North Minneapolis that night in the last regular season game to cap off the first undefeated season in school history.
Nathan and I had other plans. I brought a TV. Nate brought a satellite dish.
In the parking lot across from the football field, Nate and I set up a TV and planned to have a town-wide Red Sox Game 7 tailgate party.
Only, there was one problem. We had no snacks.
We went to my Corolla to go to the store.
It wouldn't start. The engine sounded clogged, and wouldn't quite turn over. We thought nothing of it. We took Nate's Geo Metro convertible (Yeah. Sweet ride.) to the store and got the food.
When we came back to try and start my car again, it still wouldn't turn over. We called the local mechanic to come look at it, and he diagnosed a blown head gasket, the equivalent to Eight Belles injury in my book, especially with a car that old. I sank into a depression. My first car was gone. My sweet 1986 Toyota...wait a second. 1986! Buckner! For the first time, I had actually stood back and took a look at my car. To my horror, I realized that my license plate was GHR-714. George Herman Ruth. 714 career home runs.
I then realized what what happening. Looking back my car had started to overheat on Sunday the 17th, which was the day that Game 4 was played. At that time, it had been 18 years since the Buckner error helped the Mets win the 1986 World Series. My car was made the same year, perhaps even the same day, same hour, same second as the Buckner blunder.
The Bambino was calling my cursed car home.
I now had no intention of fixing the car. I pushed it over by the TV and watched the game while sitting on the hood. By the second inning, the Sox were already winning 2-0, when Johnny Damon stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded.
During the game, I was telling my revelation to Nate, who didn't believe me. "It is fate, Nate. Watch this. Johnny Damon is going to hit a home run right here." Nate didn't believe me. Despite scoring the winning run in Game 5, Damon had been worthless, recording only three hits the entire series.
Crack. Gone. Grand Slam.
The Red Sox won Game 7 10-3.
I sold my cursed car to the mechanic that night for $20, under one condition. He wait to crush it till I game him the order. Puzzled, he agreed, but he wouldn't wait more than one week to crush it.
The temperature recorded before Game 1 of the World Series was 49 degrees: The number of the knuckleballer. Wakefield started against the Cardinals, giving up five earned runs on three hits in 3.2 innings in his only appearance of the World Series.
Fate presented itself again, when the Red Sox were up 3-0 on the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, and the clinching game was Wednesday the 27th...exactly one week after I sold the car to the junk dealer.
He crushed it that afternoon, and the Sox crushed the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.
There have been plenty of arguments to what helped the Sox overcome the Bambino. Was it Schilling's bloody sock? Was it simply the Yankees giving up too early? Divine intervention?
No. The credit goes to a small-town Minnesota boy and his sacrificial car.