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Monday, October 26, 2009
Updated: October 27, 9:39 PM ET
The moment everything changed

By Peter Gammons
ESPNBoston.com

Red Sox
The Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 was a watershed moment for millions of people.

It got to the bottom of the eighth inning and it was clear that it all was over, the series, The Curse and all that fathers passed on to their children for generations. I reminded New Englander Jim Bowden, working the series for ESPN, of the New Haven tap owner who after the Yankees playoff game told The Boston Globe's Leigh Montville, "the [expletives] got my father, and now they're coming to get me." Bowden laughed, but he's a New Englander, and it was a cautious laugh.

Outside Busch Stadium, there were close to 2,000 New Englanders in the streets preparing their celebration. As the eighth inning ended, Cardinals management opened the gates, because they and their stadium operations folks wanted the fans to be able to watch the Red Sox win the World Series. Faris Zeghibe, who'd been flown in from Cataumet, Mass., by his son Doug to experience that piece of New England history, had the people in the row in front of him turn around and congratulate him.

It's been exactly five years and another world championship since Keith Foulke stabbed the final out and threw to Doug Mientkiewicz on Oct., 27, 2004, and much has changed. David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield are the only players left from that team, Albert Pujols the only remaining Cardinal.

Roberts
Dave Roberts says that not a day goes by that a fan doesn't thank him for this steal in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

Four years after the title, in spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., some of Dave Roberts' Giants teammates were needling him about being inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. One moment, no postseason at-bats. "You may never experience what I experienced," Roberts told fellow outfielder Randy Winn. "Since that steal [in the ninth inning of the Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees], I've been to Europe, South America, all kinds of places. And not one day has passed when someone hasn't come up to me and thanked me."

No one in Tuscon or Tumcumcari still cares about long-suffering fans and what 2004 meant to a region, any more than they want to hear a Cubs fan's last request. But what happened five years ago was a watershed moment for millions of people, a moment that washed out Denny Galehouse or Joe McCarthy's unforgiveable managing, Bucky Dent or Aaron Boone. On the previous Thanksgiving, Curt Schilling agreed to come to Boston to win that World Series, and on July 31, 2004, Theo Epstein brazenly traded Nomar Garciaparra; ironically, the team struggled for two weeks after the deal, sending some of the PR staff to the media questioning the general manager.

Then the Red Sox finally got into the playoffs, and after two easy Schilling and Pedro Martinez wins in Anaheim, David Ortiz homered off Jarrod Washburn to clinch an ALDS in which Ortiz and Manny Ramirez went 11-for-24 with 11 RBIs between them.

Then came the Yankees, 12 months after Game 7, Grady Little not taking out Pedro, Aaron Boone ... There were the three quick Yankees wins, 10-7, 3-1 (yes, Jon Lieber) and 19-8, the game in which Tim Wakefield wore his cleats and volunteered to pitch to save the staff. The next day, Kevin Millar told anyone who'd listen that "We're in great shape. We win tonight, we've got Petey [Pedro Martinez] tomorrow, Schill in New York and they'll never hold up when we get back to 3-3."

Millar walked in the ninth, Roberts ran, stole, Bill Mueller singled off Mariano Rivera to tie the game and sometime the next morning Ortiz homered off Paul Quantrill to win Game 4 and survive to play another day. Then the next night, there was the comeback against an exhausted Tom Gordon, three shutout innings from Wakefield -- yes, three Jason Varitek passed balls in one inning without allowing a run -- and another Ortiz game-winning hit, this time in the 14th inning.

And, as Millar predicted, the Yankees were reeling. First came Schill's Bloody Sock game in New York (Game 6), then Derek Lowe -- who wasn't a starter when the ALDS began but closed out every series -- won Game 7. There was the Johnny Damon grand slam, the Mark Bellhorn homer the umps had to overrule ...

And from there to the duck boat parade seems on fast-forward. Bellhorn's home run off the foul pole. Schilling. Pedro. Lowe. Foulke.

Pedro Martinez
The Red Sox let Pedro Martinez walk away after the 2004 World Series.

In the airport awaiting the charter home, Martinez called assistant GM Jed Hoyer a "computer nerd." Three years later, the Red Sox won again in Colorado, pitched there by kids named Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon, who were just names at the back of the 2004 media guide.

Five years later, Pedro will pitch Game 2 for the Phillies in the new Yankee Stadium -- Karim Garcia doesn't live there anymore -- and Hoyer is general manager of the San Diego Padres. Martinez, Damon, Lowe and others have left, Ramirez was traded in a firestorm of controversy.

Lessons have been learned. The 2005 team became difficult because players clung to the past, as fans had before they won. Tough decisions were made on Damon, and the lesson learned from the spark of the Garciaparra trade carried over to this season's deadline deal for Victor Martinez.

The Red Sox let Pedro, Lowe and Damon go, and won their second World Series since 1918.

Now, they don't know exactly what to do with the contracts of Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Varitek, who have given them so much; Nomar and Pedro proved that this is not a sentimental business.

During the ALCS, the Yankee Stadium megaboard showed Pedro pitching for the Phillies against the Dodgers and Damon stood near the batting cage, intently watching. "Anyone who was there with Pedro has to watch," Damon said. "Anyone who was there on that team when we won will never forget. It may never be the same."

Damon and Martinez, as well as others, think that 2004 team should have been held together. The present-day Red Sox team, of course, wouldn't be as good as it is now had management heeded that wish, and would have aged worse than it has these past couple of years. Those moments do not repeat themselves, but then, if they did, Dave Roberts would go through a day without someone thanking him.