On the 10th anniversary of the Aaron Boone home run, let's relive Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS
You remember 2003 -- the heady days of The Matrix: Reloaded, The Da Vinci Code and "Hey, Ya!"
Amid all that, the Red Sox and Yankees played one of the most memorable series in the history of both franchises -- the 2003 edition of the ALCS. The two rivals split the first six games and set the stage for a final Game 7 showdown in the Bronx.
That Game 7, played 10 years ago today, was about as dramatic as a Game 7 could be -- and it all led up to a game-ending home run that fans of both teams would never forget.
Let's celebrate that memorable game the only way we know how -- with GIFs:
Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon got the scoring started in the top of the second inning, blasting a two-run homer off Yankees starter Roger Clemens:
Later that inning, then-Red Sox Johnny Damon hit a grounder to third baseman Enrique Wilson, whose throw to first base pulled Nick Johnson off the bag -- allowing Damon to reach safely and Jason Varitek to score:
Later, in the fourth inning, Boston put more pressure on the Bombers. First baseman Kevin Millar, following in Nixon's footsteps, hit a solo shot to left -- bringing the score to 4-0:
Immediately after allowing the Millar home run, Clemens walked Trot Nixon and Bill Mueller -- giving the Red Sox two more baserunners with nobody out.
Yankees manager Joe Torre knew it was time to make a move, and brought in starter Mike Mussina to kill the rally. Moose did just that -- striking out Varitek and getting Damon to ground into a double play:
If there is such a thing as momentum, Mussina's strikeout/double play combo began its swing toward New York -- and Torre's decision to pull Clemens early would prove to be pivotal.
Yankees slugger Jason Giambi led off the fifth inning by taking Sox ace Pedro Martinez deep to right-center:
The score was 4-1, but Martinez wasn't shaken -- getting the next three Yankees out, including a punch out of Alfonso Soriano to end the inning:
In the seventh inning, the song remained the same -- Giambi hit another home run off Martinez:
And Martinez, again, struck out Soriano to end the inning:
As the game moved on to the eighth inning, with the score now at 4-2, Boston was looking to steal some of the momentum back from New York and put the series away. Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (a year before he became David Ortiz) knocked a home run off David Wells, giving his team another crucial insurance run:
But, if there's one rule whenever the Yankees and Red Sox play, its this: no matter the score or situation, never count either team out.
Pedro Martinez started the bottom of the eighth by getting Nick Johnson to pop out to short -- leaving the Yankees with a win-probability of 6 percent:
But, when the ever-clutch Derek Jeter hit a timely double to right field, that number crept up to 11 percent.
Bernie Williams follwed by bringing Jeter home on an single -- 18 percent:
With the score now 5-3, Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui kept the pressure on with a ground-rule double, advancing Williams to third -- 35 percent.
Red Sox manager Grady Little was left with a choice -- leave in the struggling Martinez to face Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada, or pull Martinez in favor of a reliever in a desperate attempt to preserve the lead.
Little left Martinez in:
He gave up a ground rule double to Matsui, bringing up Posada with runners at second and third. After what happened next, leaving Martinez in wasn't looking like the right choice:
In one of the most clutch performances you'll ever see, Jorge Posada hit a two-run double to tie the ballgame at 5.
Little went to his bullpen to stop the bleeding, but the Yankees did what they needed to do -- their odds were back at 50 percent.
Mariano Rivera came in to start the ninth inning -- and just kept pitching. He pitched a total of three innings, giving up two hits and no runs. It was a positively dominant performance from arguably the best reliever of all time:
And then, Aaron Boone led off the 11th inning -- facing Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
If you ask a Red Sox fan about Game 7, they'll call it "the Grady-Pedro game." If you ask a Yankee fan, they'll call it "the Aaron Boone game."
This is why:
When baseball fans say heroes are made in October, Aaron Boone is who they're talking about.
It's profoundly rare for a batter to hit his team into the World Series with a single swing, but that's exactly what Boone did. With that home run, the Yankees would cap-off a signature comeback win against their fiercest rivals and punch their ticket to the Fall Classic. Here's a recent interview with Charley Steiner (who called Boone's game-winner) in which he discusses his thoughts before, during and after the historic moment: