On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome, fans connected with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. For their game, the Red Sox take on the rival Yankees in the epic Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, a thrilling 12-inning walk-off victory for Boston that sparked what is still the most historic comeback in an MLB postseason series.
“Opening Day at Home” also is an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
Remember that sinking feeling in your stomach when the Red Sox trailed the Yankees, 4-3, entering the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4? Not only were the Yankees three outs away from a 4-0 series sweep, but they had now-Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera on the mound.
The immediate circumstances were depressing enough for Red Sox fans, but it was worse when you factor in how the Yankees won Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS when Aaron Boone walked his team off to the pennant. There were also decades of history to think about. Ever since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees after the 1919 season, New York had a slight edge in World Series championships over that time span. By slight, we mean 26-0.
By this time, the Red Sox had had enough and did something about it. Kevin Millar opened the bottom of the ninth by creating some hope, drawing a five-pitch walk.
“The walk was something nobody saw coming,” Red Sox righty Derek Lowe would say 10 years later. “[Rivera] doesn’t walk anybody that time of year.”
But he did, and Millar couldn’t get back to the bench soon enough.
“At that point, it’s all Terry Francona, Dave Roberts and see what happens,” reflected Millar.
The speedy Roberts, who entered as a pinch-runner for Millar, had been acquired in a July 31 trade with the Dodgers that was completely overlooked because Boston had traded icon Nomar Garciaparra earlier the same day. Suddenly, however, nobody in the Red Sox’s universe was more important than Roberts, who was 38-for-41 in stolen-base attempts that season.
After Rivera threw over three times, Roberts took off on the first pitch to Bill Mueller, barely beating the strong throw by Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills would later tell Francona that it was the best pop time at which he had ever clocked Posada.
Mueller then ripped a 1-1 pitch up the middle for a single. Roberts roared home, scoring easily on the weak arm of Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams. Fenway Park erupted with joy.
Yet three innings later, the Red Sox and Yankees were still playing baseball. That was until David Ortiz -- who was growing into his legendary Big Papi status that fall -- clocked a two-run walk-off homer into the visitors’ bullpen against Paul Quantrill to complete the improbable 6-4 victory.
“David Ortiz at that point turned into a superstar,” said Millar. “The ’03 season put him on the map. In 2004, he is now a superstar. The stuff that he did doesn’t make sense.”
Spoiler alert: Ortiz walked off the Yankees again the next day. Curt Schilling won with his bloody sock in Game 6. Johnny Damon smashed a grand slam in the Game 7 rout, propelling the Red Sox to the World Series. They would sweep the Cardinals in four games to win their first championship since 1918. But it all started with Game 4 of the ALCS.
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and '19 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.