Story is too good for words
NEW YORK -- Every once in a while an Oscar winner gets up there and wings an acceptance speech because "I never thought I'd win, so I didn't prepare anything."
That's me. Right now.
Excruciating Red Sox losses, I'm familiar with, as both a fan and a writer. Game 7, 1975? Oh, yeah, I was there. Bucky Dent's home run? Yup. Can't claim that I eyewitnessed the Buckner game. I watched the fateful 10th inning in a Houston bar. I had just befriended a couple of locals and promised that I'd be buying as soon as this inning was over. When the ball rolled through Buckner's legs, I just said, "Sorry, gotta go," and walked out the door.
And then there was Game 7 a year ago. When David Ortiz hit the homer, I said, "That's it. Can't lose now."
So that's why I sit here in journalistic shock. I am trying to digest the fact that I have just seen the greatest team feat in the 101-year history of postseason baseball as we know it. A team that fell behind, three games to none, has come back to win a postseason series. That team is the Boston Red Sox, and the team they have just victimized is the New York Yankees.
The New Yorkers will regard it as the most colossal collapse in baseball history. George Steinbrenner will look at this as a personal catastrophe. I am certain he has made a private vow that the Red Sox would never win a World Series on his watch, and, of course, they haven't done that yet.
But they have now taken a major step toward achieving that goal, and they have fulfilled the dreams and hopes of what I'm sure can only be described as a deliriously happy worldwide fandom -- Henrik Kyhle of Stockholm: I hope you stayed up to see it -- by outplaying and outclassing the mighty Yankees four straight nights, capping off this almost incomprehensible turnaround by destroying the Steinbrennerians last night in their own ballpark. It was 10-3, but it had the look, feel, and smell of 110-3.
Of all the conceivable outcomes in last night's game, the one nobody in New England dared fantasize about was the one we saw. And what we saw was a two-way display of dominance. Johnny Damon pretty much personally took care of the offensive end all by himself with his second-inning grand slam and his fourth-inning two-run shot off Javier Vazquez, while Derek Lowe threw perhaps the most efficient six innings of baseball any Red Sox pitcher has submitted all year, holding the Yankees to one hit and one run while dispatching the hated Yankees in a Tewksburyian 69 pitches.
Derek Lowe is why sport is great. A Derek Lowe saga is what separates Sport from Entertainment. Sport is not scripted. There is no play list, no repetition. The great element in Sport is the unknown. We love these games because we do not know what to expect when they start. We also love them because we can never be sure where our heroes are coming from. Right now it's hard to imagine any more unlikely candidates for this kind of heroics than a guy who was bumped from the starting rotation prior to the Anaheim series and whose playoff role was fuzzy, at best.
Derek Lowe gets the win in Anaheim 3. Derek Lowe starts New York 4 and does a nice job. Derek Lowe starts New York 7 -- merely the most important task he's ever been given in his baseball life -- and he pitches as well as he possibly can. Go ahead, you explain it.
"He was so special tonight," said Terry Francona.
I can throw out the names who helped pull this thing off from now until Saturday night's first pitch. David Ortiz. Bill Mueller. Curt Schilling. Johnny Damon. Dave Roberts. Mark Bellhorn. Everyone in the bullpen. Jason Varitek, who truly is the rock of this team.
What they did as a group will now be toasted and recounted for decades to come, and it should be. What we just saw was a tribute to 25 athletes and a coaching staff that refused to acknowledge a 100-year history. Baseball teams don't come back from being down, 3-0, they were told. They didn't buy into it.
The week of baseball they gave us would have been phenomenal under any circumstances, but when you're the Red Sox playing the Yankees, it is never a normal circumstance. To come within three outs of being swept in Game 4, to persevere in that extraordinary 14-inning Game 5, to receive the kind of gritty pitching they got from Schilling in Game 6, and then to put everything together in spectacular fashion in Game 7, and to do it all against the Yankees, was an off-the-charts display of class and determination.
One year ago the Red Sox lost a traumatic Game 7 in this very park. It was talked about incessantly. Last Saturday night, the team lost a 19-8 game in Fenway. It was another frustrating chapter in the great Yankee-Red Sox drama. Elimination was imminent. The entire relationship between the Red Sox and their greatest rival seemed fated to remain an endlessly repetitious story in which the dynamics would never change. Call it Groundhog Day. Call it Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Call it Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill. They all apply. Down, 3-0, and having been humiliated in their own park (19 and 22 hits), the Red Sox were regarded as toe-tag material -- again.
There was only one place on earth where there was any hope, and that was inside the Red Sox clubhouse.
The single most alternatingly stressful and exhilarating week in Boston sports history is over. Now Red Sox fans can turn on their TV sets tonight to see a couple of Boston discards named Clemens and Suppan pitch in the other Game 7 to see who gets to play the Red Sox in the World Series.
I need a beer.
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.