The 2004 ALCS was 86 years in the making. The Boston Red Sox didn’t just come back from a zero games to three deficit to win the series 4-3. They did it against division rivals and mortal enemy New York Yankees. Four straight wins and a trip to the World Series against perennial competitor St. Louis Cardinals.
Four games and four wins later the Curse of the Bambino was broken. The Boston Red Sox: 2004 World Series Champions.
Let’s dive into a quick breakdown of the season and postseason highlights from their drought-breaking run.
With a team featuring the likes of Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and pitchers like Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, the Boston Red Sox finished the 2004 regular season with a 92-64 records. They finished three games back of the Yankees in the AL East, the same number of games the Bronx Bombers would lead with in the 2004 ALCS.
The Sox started the postseason by blasting the AL West Champion Anaheim Angels out of the playoffs with a three-game sweep of the series. The Sox won Game One 9-7, Game Two 8-3, and in the 10th inning of Game Three, David Ortiz– proclaimed ‘King of Clutch’– blasted a two-run homer over the Green Monster, propelling the Red Sox to an ALCS series with the Yankees.
Things got much worse before they got better for these historic Red Sox. They went down big in Game One, then tried to make it interesting after Yankees’ starter Mike Mussina left the game. But after a seven-run flurry to pull within one at 8-7, the Sox would lose 10-7 to the Yankees. After a close 3-0 loss in Game Two for the Sox, they got blasted 19-8 in Game Three.
The 0-3 hole they sat in had never been escaped. No team in ALCS history had come back from three games down to win a best-of-seven series. But, as many of us know, that changed in October 2004.
The Sox trailed 4-3 in Game Four going into the 9th and stole a run from Hall of Famer to-be closer Mariano Rivera. Then the King of Clutch blasted two runs over the fence in the 12th inning for a 6-4 victory.
Game Five saw countless missed opportunities for the Yankees, going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. But the Red Sox battled, endured, and took advantage of a late David Ortiz RBI to take their second game in the series.
Game Six is forever known as the Curt Schilling bloody sock game, where the Red Sox bested the Yankees in the Bronx.
And in the final game of the series, the Red Sox capped the remarkable, improbable, historic comeback 10-3, vaulting the team to a dance with the Cardinals for a shot at a World Series title. A title that had eluded the franchise for 86 seasons.
And sure enough, the Red Sox won four more in a row– eight in a row total– to march past the St. Louis Cardinals for their first World Series Championship since 1918. Celebration, a sense of redemption, relief.
Championship droughts and playoff droughts sting. They’re an insatiable itch for players, managers, teams, and franchises. Some droughts have already been quenched in this 2015 season. Notably, the Toronto Blue Jays will be making the playoffs for the first time in more than 20 years. And the Kansas City Royals are division champions for the first time in 30 years.
But there’s a drought longer and more devastating than any other. One longer and more depressing than even the Red Sox World Series drought. One of the oldest franchises in MLB, the Chicago Cubs, have gone 107 years since back-to-back World Series Championships in 1907 and 1908. That’s the longest championship drought in North American professional sports history.
Could this be their season? They have a team with young depth and veteran leadership. An ace in Jon Lester, a rising ace in Jake Arrieta, and a deep pitching rotation is part of their success. Then come the young studs: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, and many others. They have a talented manager in Joe Maddon, and a team built for a deep playoff run.
And to put icing on the cake, they have premonition on their side. In the blockbuster Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly travels to the year 2015, where a sign is seen congratulating the Chicago Cubs on their 2015 World Series Championship. If it’s true in a movie it must come true in real life, right?
But there are challenges still for the Cubbies drought-breaking quest. They are stuck in the one-game Wild Card playoff, as they’re in the deepest division in baseball with the NL Central division champion St. Louis Cardinals, along with the Pirates from Pittsburgh. They could be one and done. And even if they do get through the Pirates, they’d have to fight through the Cardinals, the New York Mets, and the Los Angeles Dodgers for a spot in the World Series.
Can they do it? If history has anything to say about, droughts will be broken. The Red Sox had to wait 86 seasons. The Cubs have been waiting 107. Maybe in 2015 they’ll reset that number to 0. With October baseball it can all happen. Just watch and see.