Monday, July 1, 2013

Yankees and Red Sox play one for the ages

On July 1, 2004, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox played one of the most memorable games in the two teams historic rivalry.

Pedro Martinez beaned Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez hit two home runs, including the go-ahead blast in the top of the thirteenth inning, and Yankees backup catcher John Flaherty hit the game-winning double in the bottom of that inning.

But the crazy night at Yankee Stadium was highlighted by the two shortstops, Derek Jeter, and the guy filling in for Nomar Garciaparra.

In the offseason, the Red Sox tried to acquire Alex Rodriguez by trading Nomar to the Texas Rangers. The Yankees eventually wound up with A-Rod, and Nomar was so upset over the attempted trade that some speculated that he was keeping himself out of the lineup when he wasn't seriously injured. Garciaparra, citing a sore knee, would sit out this game as well, a move that many didn't appreciate considering it was the final game of a critical series.

Filling in for Nomar at shortstop was Pokey Reese, who quickly made his presence felt. In the fifth inning, a Kenny Lofton pop-up drifted into the photo box, which had been specifically added for the Yankees and Red Sox series. Reese caught up with the ball and leaped into the box, completely disappearing from view; he then reemerged with the ball in his glove, completing one of the most sensational grabs of the year.

As great a catch as that was, Jeter eclipsed it in the top of the eleventh.

The Red Sox had men on second and third with two out and Trot Nixon at the plate. Nixon hit a blooper into shallow left field, and Jeter ran towards it at full speed. Jeter was going so fast that when he caught the ball near the foul line, he couldn't stop himself and dove into the stands.

Jeter walked away with a bloody face and a limp. He left the game to a standing ovation from the New York crowd, having just posed for the most famous image of his career to this day.

While Nomar was sitting on the bench with an injury that many thought he could play through, his replacement and the Yankees shortstop, Jeter, were risking their bodies to make tough plays.

Jeter in particular came off as almost heroic, it was a watershed moment for Nomar and the Red Sox.

It embodied why the Yankees were the 26-time champions, now 27, and why the Red Sox hadn't won it in 86 years.

Less than a month later, the Red Sox traded Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series without him, however the team voted to give Garciaparra a championship ring anyway since he played a role in the teams success that year.