Caption: Dave Roberts scored one of the most important runs in franchise history in the ninth inning of Game Four of the 2004 ALCS. The run tied the game and helped set the stage for the Red Sox to execute the greatest comeback in MLB history.
He’s the guy who owns the biggest stolen base in the history of the Red Sox franchise. Heck, it’s fair to say his legendary swipe may be the biggest stolen bases in major league history.
Think about it. Can you come up with a stolen base that was more impactful in the crucial moment of a big game? Anyone?
Close your eyes for a moment, and remember when…
It was Sunday night, October 17, 2004. The Red Sox trailed the NY Yankees three games-to-none in the ALCS, and they trailed Game Four 4-3, as they came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.
On the mound for the Evil Empire was Mariano Rivera—the best closer in the history of the game. Kevin Millar drew a five-pitch walk and was immediately replaced by outfielder Dave Roberts, who was acquired by the front office in a deadline-day trade (for minor leaguer Henri Stanley) for JUST THIS REASON.
With third baseman Bill Mueller at the plate, Rivera threw over to first base—again and again and again. On the first pitch, Roberts sprinted towards second base. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada fielded the pitch (a ball) and threw to shortstop Derek Jeter, who was covering the bag.
We all thought: “Run you son-of-a-bitch!”
Roberts slid head-first into the bag. Jeter fielded the throw, which was just a little bit towards the left field side of the bag, and made a fluid tag. Second base umpire Joe West extended his arms. “Safe!”
Red Sox Nation screamed. The Red Sox bench exulted. THERE WAS LIFE!
Two pitches later, Mueller ripped a base hit into center field. Bernie Williams threw home...too late. Red Sox: 4, Yankees: 4. Three innings later, A Man Called Papi hit a bomb and sent the Red Sox home winners. The rest was history...
Today we learned Roberts, who played such an integral role in franchise history in spite of the fact that he wore the uniform for only three months, has cancer. Hodgkins lymphoma to be precise.
In a conference call with the media he informed the world that he was diagnosed in mid-March. The good news, he says, is that the cancer was detected early, and his prognosis is “good.” There is rarely a good aspect of being diagnosed with cancer, but if you are a glass-half-full kinda guy, then this early catch was surely good news.
He said he has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy so far, and added, “I expect to beat this fully.”
Roberts wanted to keep his illness private, but he is working in the public eye as a special assistant for Jed Hoyer and the San Diego Padres. He knew the change in appearance (as he undergoes the chemo treatments) will be noticed, so he decided to deal with the public disclosure head on.
“Going forward, I definitely hope that I can keep this private with my family,” he said.
Roberts said he began feeling some soreness in his neck before spring training. He discovered a lump. And when the lump began to grow, he knew he had a problem.
He continued to work with players during spring training. ”Going to the ballpark and working with the players, or going to a minor league affiliate and seeing the guys, it stimulates me and keeps me going and keeps me positive."
He said he has to pace himself.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of the popular outfielder, “I know we’ve got a lot of people pulling for him here. He probably knows that—everywhere he’s been.”
Former teammate Tim Wakefield said, “We prayed for him in chapel yesterday. Hopefully, a lot of prayers go his way.” Amen, Tim.
Here’s a request to Red Sox Nation: When you go to bed tonight and tomorrow night and for many nights thereafter, please add Dave Roberts to your list of intercessions.