ON THIS DATE (July 24, 2004) ... In one of the most exciting games in the century-old history of the rivalry, the Sox beat the Yankees, 11-10,
this afternoon/evening with three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, capping their improbable comeback on Bill Mueller’s two-run,
walkoff home run off indomitable Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
Welcome to the rivalry, Alex Rodriguez. Like childbirth and marathon running, you can study the manuals and listen to those who have been there, but you have to experience it for yourself to know the true meaning of Red Sox vs. Yankees. This was the day
when the passive Red Sox finally fought back. And we mean fought. Jason Varitek shoved his catcher’s mitt into the face of A-Rod in the third inning and before the day was over there was a bloodied Yankee, 5 ejections, 21 runs, 27 hits, and 4 errors in 3 hours 54 minutes of hard-nosed
hardball. It marked the first time in 57 games that the Yankees lost after leading at the end of eight innings.
And thus in the top of the third inning yesterday, there were two centuries and four months of Red Sox frustration heaped on the shoulders of Varitek. The Sox had been humbled Friday night and were taking a beating from their own fans as they fell
behind, 3-0, in a rain-delayed, nationally televised game. Time for somebody to step up. With two outs and nobody aboard, young righthander Bronson Arroyo hit Rodriguez in the left arm. Instead of trotting to first base quietly, something Derek Jeter might have done, Rodriguez
started jawing at the pitcher. Varitek quickly got in the way and the two exchanged words. Then there was a bump. Then the catcher put his fat mitt in the face of the Yankee icon and it was Saturday afternoon at the fights.
The best bout was an undercard affair near the Sox on-deck circle, where Yankees starting pitcher Tanyon Sturtze (Worcester’s own) collared Gabe Kapler from behind. The two went to the ground. The barbell-swallowing Kapler, who could bench press the
tarp roll if he wanted, and therefore needed no help, immediately was assisted by teammates David Ortiz and Trot Nixon. Sturtze was bleeding around his left ear when the fight ended and wounded his right pinkie (X-rays were negative). Pedro Martinez wisely elected to guard the equipment
until the shouting and shoving subsided. When it was over, Varitek, Rodriguez, Kapler, and Kenny Lofton were ejected, and suspensions may follow.
The Fenway lawn still was littered with a bleeding Yankee starting pitcher, bullpen reinforcements, and sundry security officers
today when Fox television folks unearthed vintage footage of Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson rolling in the dirt around
home plate in the summer of 1973. The network also produced a grainy reel of Bill Lee getting his shoulder twisted out of its socket by a couple of Yankees in 1976. And now they’ll have Varitek dope-slapping A-Rod, triggering a donnybrook worthy of last October’s playoff mano a mano
featuring Pedro and Don Zimmer.
It was the Yankees leading 10-8
in the bottom of the ninth when Nomar Garciaparra (three hits) led
off with a double to left-center. With one out Kevin Millar (four
hits) scored Garciaparra with a single to right to make it 10-9. Then
Mueller worked the count to 3-1, and drove a long homer into the
bullpen in right-center. Varitek almost hit his head on the clubhouse
ceiling when he watched the homer on the locker room TV.
There was quite a convention of Red Sox at home plate. Something you have to go through to experience. Just like the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.