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Dan Shaughnessy

As usual, Millar provides shot of comic relief

The only thing missing was the bottle of Jack Daniel's in his left hand.

Welcome back, Kevin Millar.

Mr. Cowboy Up returned to Fenway Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before last night's Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians, won by the Sox, 11-2. Seconds after the Dropkick Murphys closed with "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" while Irish step dancers performed on the warning track in center field (Sox choreographer Dr. Charles Steinberg brought his A-game last night), Millar popped out of the dugout and made the toss to his old pal, Doug Mirabelli.

The Red Sox made every effort to channel 2004 over the last few days. When they fell behind the Indians, 3-1, in the series, they didn't have to look far for inspiration. Everybody knows the '04 Red Sox are the only club in baseball history to dig out of an 0-3 hole.

The 2007 Red Sox went into the ALCS with eight players remaining from the '04 World Series roster: David Ortiz, Manny Ramírez, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, Kevin Youkilis, Mirabelli, Tim Wakefield, and Mike Timlin. Two more returned to the Hub this weekend.

When the Sox came home to Fenway for Game 6, Bill Mueller was summoned to throw out the first pitch. That worked nicely. Boston led the Indians, 10-1, in the third inning and everyone started thinking about Game 7.

Late Saturday, standing in the Players Club wearing a Colorado Rockies-purple tie, Steinberg revealed Millar was coming to town for Game 7. Apparently the Sox couldn't get Jake Westbrook's high school girlfriend.

Millar was certainly a fan favorite during his time in Boston. He's the one who told everybody to "Cowboy Up" in 2003. In the hours before Game 4 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS - while most of Red Sox Nation had conceded defeat after the 19-8 beatdown in Game 3 - Millar said, "Don't let us win tonight. This is a big game. They've got to win because if we win, we've got Pedro coming back in Game 5 and Schilling in 6, and then you can take that fraud stuff and put it to bed. Don't let the Sox win this game."

Two nights later, at frosty Yankee Stadium, Millar grabbed the bottle of whiskey and tried to get teammates to take a shot before Game 6. The legend was born.

Still, it was odd to see an active member of another AL team throwing out the first pitch in a Game 7 at Fenway.

"I don't get it," said smiling Sox manager Terry Francona. "This is another one of those things where he can pull it off. He's a member of the Baltimore Orioles, he's going to be spurring on the Red Sox and nobody is going to say a word. He'll probably bring the house down. I love it, but I don't get it. It's Millar. It's hilarious."

The Sox got permission from Orioles boss Andy MacPhail before calling Millar with the request.

"I was in Houston yesterday at a wedding," said Millar. "It all happened real fast and at 6 a.m. today I was driving to the airport. We were able to get a babysitter, so here I am. It's probably a first. It's certainly a little different. It's usually a retired player or an actor or a famous person."

Millar said that his friend Trot Nixon, now with the Indians, was not happy. We can only wonder what Eric Gagné was thinking. On Aug. 12 Millar hit a walkoff, three-run homer off Gagné.

"This is all in fun," said Millar.

Asked to compare the Sox comeback against Cleveland with the miracle of '04, the former Boston first baseman said, "These guys had it easy. They were only behind, 3-1. We were down, 0-3, and down again in the ninth of Game 4."

The Sox trailed the Yankees, 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth of that game and it was Millar who led off the ninth by drawing a walk off Mariano Rivera. Dave Roberts pinch ran for Millar, stole second, and triggered the greatest comeback in baseball history. The Sox invited Roberts (now with the Giants) to join Millar last night, but the outfielder was unable to come to Boston.

"That's OK," said Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. "Millar said he works alone."

"This is an exciting time," said Millar. "It's baseball. This is why you've got to win four games. And when you get here in the Nation, anything can happen."

What about the Jack? Did Millar bring any whiskey to inspire former teammates?

"Maybe," he said with a wink. "That's a secret."

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

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