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Reunion brings warm memories to Fenway

Red Sox celebrate 10-year anniversary of 2004 World Series championship

BOSTON -- They were back together again on Wednesday night, commemorating a 10-year anniversary of a season that might never quite be duplicated in Red Sox history.

Manny Ramirez walked in from a door in the bottom of the Green Monster and the crowd roared.

Johnny Damon strode in wearing his Red Sox home white uniform again and the Fenway faithful greeted him as if he had never left to go play for the Yankees in 2006.

"I loved playing here in Boston," said Damon. "I left my heart on the field every single time I played here."

Curt Schilling, who is battling cancer, was a surprise last-minute guest, and his former teammates loved it as much as the fans when he walked on to the field.

"Great to see Schilling, keep him in your thoughts," Kevin Millar said to the crowd.

And Ramirez, sporting a mohawk, also took the microphone.

"Thank you, guys. Thank you for everything," Ramirez said. "You guys are the best fans in the whole world. God bless you."

When Ramirez threw the first pitch to Jason Varitek, Damon cut it off, recreating the top gag-reel play from the 2004 season, only Ramirez did the cutting off on that occasion.

The men who jokingly called themselves "Idiots" during the magical 2004 run are starting to realize the magnitude of what they accomplished.

"Back then when you're playing, things were happening so fast," said Keith Foulke, the closer who got the final out of Game 4 in St. Louis. "There were a couple of years where I couldn't really appreciate it. Now that I'm older, things have slowed down and I definitely appreciate it now."

The on-field accomplishments are obvious, particularly becoming the first -- and still only -- team in history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series).

"It's not like it's the 10-year anniversary of any World Series," said Alan Embree, one of Foulke's best setup men. "It was the World Series. Everybody remembers us."

The camaraderie that led to some of those accomplishments was more subtle and still palpable when the players are back in a room together.

"There's no distance, no time separates us," said Embree. "We talk just like we're in the locker room together again."

For Trot Nixon, getting the chance to poke fun at Millar and Damon and several others again was the most gratifying part of the trip back home to Boston.

"I think the biggest thing ... I've enjoyed the most is catching up with teammates I haven't seen in a long time," said Nixon. "I just think the attitude of everybody in the clubhouse and how much fun it was to be in the clubhouse on a daily basis is what made that team so special. You couldn't wait to get to the clubhouse."

Embree's wife couldn't believe it when the lefty was going to miss this day so he could coach his high school team.

"It's awesome to be back with this group because of what it meant," Embree said. "To get our team together is a special thing. My wife was like, 'You're not missing this.'"

The attendance was remarkable. The only two notable players who were absent are both coaches on Major League staffs -- Bill Mueller with the Cubs and Dave Roberts with the Padres.

The two of them, wearing their Cub and Padres uniforms, said hello in a joint video message.

Though many of the players from the 2004 team have been fixtures around Fenway in recent years, this was the first time back for Pokey Reese, who lit up Boston with his defense early in that season.

And it was Reese who caught the ground ball and threw to first for the final out of Game 7 at Yankee Stadium.

"I'll never forget that," said Reese. "I always wanted to be part of a team that knocked the Yankees off. What a dream."

Only this dream actually came true.

"Just being part of such a unique championship, it's always going to stay inside of me," said Pedro Martinez. "It's going to be probably one of the highlights of my whole life -- not just my career."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
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