Watching the Red Sox blow a lead against the Blue Jays last night in a momentum-swinging loss, one that could prove decisive in Red Sox GM’s Ben Cherington’s Trading Deadline decision making, I started thinking back to better times. For today, I remembered, was July 24, a day that every Red Sox fan should have implanted in their memory. Ten years ago today, the course of the Red Sox franchise was altered. And I don’t believe I am exaggerating one bit.
On July 24, 2004, the Red Sox and Yankees battled in another mid-summer top of the division clash. The Red Sox had been slumping, and the Yankees were surging. It was not unlike the previous 86 years. But in one game, everything changed. If you still don’t know what I’m referring to, maybe you should watch this video.
That will never get old. The instant that future Red Sox captain Jason Varitek smashed his glove into A-Rod’s face, the Red Sox were given a belief that they hadn’t experienced in years. They could fight back. And damn it, they would fight back. They were done with the bullying from the evil empire. Done with the losing. Done with A-Rod. So when Alex Rodriguez uttered that first expletive in Bronson Arroyo’s direction, he gave the Red Sox exactly what they needed. He ignited a fire that has burned ever since. Three World Series trophies later, we all owe him a big thank you.
Equally important in that game for belief going into the rest of the season was Bill Mueller’s walk-off home run off of Mariano Rivera that completed the comeback victory. Everybody knew Rivera was the best. But from this game on, Mueller and the Red Sox believed they had the legendary closer’s number. That would translate to a lot of postseason heroics. Here is that home run from the Red Sox third baseman who never gets the credit he deserves to this day.
Everybody remembers the ALCS comeback in 2004, but had they not come back against the Yankees on July 24, the Red Sox might not have truly believed. And as we all came to learn in October, belief is everything sometimes.
There aren’t many moments in my life that I can tell you exactly where I was when something important happened. But I can paint you the scene down to the smallest details in this one. For a nine-year-old die hard Red Sox fan, this game was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I turn 20 years old next month, which means that this game happened over half my lifetime ago now. That’s a pretty scary thought, considering that I feel like this game happened yesterday. Everything is still so vivid.
In over a century of Red Sox baseball, many moments have stood out as ones that will be discussed as long as baseball is played. But the image of Varitek’s glove in A-Rod’s face should go down as one of the most iconic moments in sports history. May it never be forgotten.
Today, let’s all raise a glass of whatever we are drinking to Bill Mueller and Jason Varitek. Without their heroics ten years ago, life as a Boston sports fan would be drastically different today.