To add to the "Red Sox Moments I Will Never, Ever Forget" file:
The moment, in the midst of the thunderous ovation for his video at Fenway Park--not for his start, for his video montage, a five-minute standing ovation--when Pedro Martinez stood up on the top step of the visitor's dugout, raised his arms up toward the crowd, and then brought them around his shoulders and hugged everyone in spirit. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, on the baseball field or off. Pedro Martinez is pure magic on two legs--we're just lucky to have witnessed it, and God love us, we know our role.
And then, that whole fifth inning. My Jesus.
Lastings Milledge, HBP. That's just for starters. And is "Lastings Milledge" a textbook baseball guy name, or what?
Poor Mr. Milledge out at second for the first out of the inning--but Jose Reyes, who grounded into a FC, has no idea what awaits him: namely, a closeup look at the mighty pillar of the left Thigh of Freedom (tm Kristen), planted firmly into the dirt around home plate.
Reyes, unsuspectingly to second on a single by Paul Lo Duca. Then Carlos Beltran, the biggest pain in the ass ever to don a baseball uniform if it's not that of your home team, hits a cracking single to left, and here comes a--
And then it's one of those times that Manny has gulped down a can of spinach in the outfield while no one was looking, and suddenly, the ball comes screaming in from left field like it hit a springboard out there off Beltran's bat, and then Varitek has it in his glove and then MIGHTY EARTHSHATTERING BOOM Jose Reyes is lying in several pieces on the ground.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but that impact (as illustrated salaciously by the many slow-motion replays that followed it) was truly wince-inducing. Reyes got owned. By Varitek's leg. Which, frankly, is the last leg anyone should want to fuck with.
And then Manny, nodding and chuckling to Pedro in the dugout, the way he used to, pointing to his temple the way Pedro so famously did once to Jorge Posada. A precious moment. Just Pedro being there changed the whole atmosphere in that ballpark--say what you want about him, but that charisma is planet-sized.
But then. Two outs in the top of the fifth--and it's one of those innings where you look up at the scoretab at the top of the screen for the count or the pitch speed and you see ^5 and go, hot damn, is it STILL the fifth inning? John Lester is officially struggling; he walks Delgado, the bases are loaded, the Sox are only up by three. In the blink of an eye, it's a full count to David Wright. In his baseball cap, Jon Lester looks like a five-year-old boy perched on a scarecrow's body. I was hyperventilating.
To maximize my suffering, Wright proceeded to foul off 3,547 pitches after that. Lester seemed to throw to him dozens of times with that count still full and the bases still juiced and the Sox still only up by three.
I cannot imagine what it was like to be John Lester in that moment. It must have seemed like the fate of the world was hanging in the balance, as he brought his glove down slowly in front of his face and breathed deep, ready to throw his umpteenth pitch to Wright in an at-bat that had quickly announced itself as the probable turning point of the whole game.
His next curveball was among the most wonderful pitches of the season. Wright fell for it hook, line and sinker, and his bat came up empty while Fenway exploded. You could see people leaping to their feet behind home plate before Varitek had even closed his glove around the ball.
The same way I can still tell you that the kid blinking back tears that they show in a game from early in the 2004 season on Faith Rewarded is not from that game, he's from the game where David Ortiz flied out to the warning track with what would've been the game winning home run, and that game was in September; the same way I can tell you in about half a second that that's the final pitch of the walk to Kevin Millar in game 4 if you flash the video clip in front of me; the same way I can recall countless other little Red Sox moments like that instantaneously when I see them again even years later, and feel that irresistible urge to lean back in my chair, nod at the screen and tell people, whether they want to hear it or not, "Oh, THAT was the game where..." that's the way I'll react if they show that last pitch Lester threw to David Wright.
That was the kind of game it was. I'll be able to name it--even years later--in one fist-pump.
P.S. A crying shame that the ultimate baseball reporter Peter Gammons couldn't be there to witness this gem of a game...thoughts and hearts are with him and his family tonight.