Baseball's Greatest Miracle: The 2004 Red Sox Comeback Against the Yankees

Harold FriendChief Writer IJune 5, 2011

David Ortiz
David OrtizEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Last night I was watching an episode of Lost, in which Ben has imprisoned Jack.

Ben, attempting to convince Jack that they were not stranded permanently on a Pacific island and that they could contact the outside world, told Jack that the date was Nov. 29, 2004.

I was shocked by my reaction when Ben continued, informing Jack that he arrived on Sept. 22, 2004 and that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series that October. It drove home the improbability of what the Red Sox had done, and the magnitude of their accomplishment.

Jack laughed since it was almost universally believed that the Red Sox would never become World Champions.

What struck me was that when Ben said that the Red Sox trailed the New York Yankees, three games to none and then won eight straight games, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, I realized that was the most amazing, unexpected result in baseball history.

Imagine if you were on a desert island during the 2004 playoffs and World Series. When you returned, if you discovered that the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees in the second round of the playoffs to win the pennant, it wouldn't sound impossible. Improbable, maybe, but not impossible.

But when you learn that the Red Sox were down three games to none and came back, you would never believe it.

A team with the reputation as baseball's biggest losers in big games not only beat the exalted Yankees, they did it after spotting them a three game advantage.

No baseball team had ever been down three games to none in the playoffs and come back to win. The sample size is limited since the best of seven format wasn't introduced until 1985, but no team trailing in the World Series by three games has ever won it either.

A disclaimer is necessary because a team's opponent in the World Series is usually, or should be assumed to be, a better team that a playoff opponent.

The Yankees scored 32 runs in winning the first three games against the Red Sox. They scored 19 runs in the third game. The Red Sox were dead.

Trailing 4-3 going to the bottom of the ninth inning of the fourth game, the Sox had to score of the greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera.

Rivera uncharacteristically walked leadoff batter Kevin Millar. Dave Roberts ran for him and, on a key play, stole second. Bill Mueller singled home Roberts to tie the game.

Doug Mientkiewicz sacrificed Mueller to second, who moved to third when Johnny Damon reached first on a Tony Clark error, but it was Mariano Rivera pitching. Mueller never touched home plate.

In the bottom of the twelfth inning, David Ortiz hit a two-run home run off Paul Quantrill to win the game. The Yankees, not the Red Sox, were dead.

There have been many other amazing, unexpected baseball results historically, but the Red Sox miracle is at the top.

New York's most beloved team, the New York Mets, finished ninth in 1968 and were World Champions the following season.

In the sixth game of the 1986 World Series, the Mets were one strike away from losing the Series to the Red Sox when Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Ray Knight singled to bring the Mets within a run.

Bob Stanley's wild pitch allowed Mitchell to score the tying run and moved Knight to second with the potential winning run, which became the winning run when Billy Buckner didn't field Mookie Wilson's ground ball.

The 1951 New York Giants trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13-and-a-half games near the middle of August and tied them for the pennant, forcing a best-of-three playoff series. Everyone knows what happened with the Giants trailing 4-2 and Bobby Thomson at the plate.

Many fans believe that Kirk Gibson's dramatic pinch hit home run ranks near the top, if not at the top, but that, like Thomson's pennant winning home run, was a single event. The Red Sox had to keep winning four times against the Yankees.

Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played record, but in its final phase, it was accepted that he would do it, barring an injury.

Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak, the 1914 Miracle Boston Braves winning the pennant and sweeping the highly favored Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series ,and the 1978 Yankees catching the Red Sox after trailing by 14 games in July were highly improbable events, but none can match the 2004 Red Sox' miracle.

Ask Mathew Fox.


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