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American League Championship Series Game 6
October 19, 2004 • Yankee Stadium, New York

Red Sox 4, Yankees 2

Box Score

          1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R  H  E
___________________________________   _______

Boston    0  0  0  4  0  0  0  0  0   4 11  0
New York  0  0  0  0  0  0  1  1  0   2  6  0

After two dramatic extra-inning wins at Fenway Park, the mood at work the next day was much more upbeat. Because of the rainout earlier in the series there was no day off for travel - or day of rest for the players or the fans. Curt Schilling was scheduled to pitch, but no one knew what to expect with his ankle injury. In Game 1 of the series he had a tendon in his ankle that he could feel popping out of place every time he pushed off the mound to throw. In that game, he had given up six runs in only three innings. This time he'd need to go deeper in the game, since 26 innings of baseball in the past two days had required a lot of the bullpen. And of course, the Red Sox needed the win to stay alive. We had heard that Reebok was constructing a special high-top shoe for him that was supposed to hold the tendon in place and stabilize the ankle. The Boston Globe even published an "Ode to the Magic Shoe" and invited readers to send in their own. The hopes of Red Sox Nation seemed to ride on one special piece of footwear, but the reality was that Curt's health was completely uncertain. The stress of the anticipation for the game, and lack of sleep in the past week, made impossible to concentrate on anything at work. I think I spent most of the afternoon reading shoe poems on the Globe's website and pacing around.

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The Red Sox went down quietly in the first against Jon Lieber, who had shut them down in Game 2. When Schilling took the mound for the bottom of the first, I was shocked to see that he was not wearing the highly-touted high-top. Without the magic shoe, how would he do? Close-ups showed blood seeping through the sock around the ankle, but it wasn't clear why. The announcers surmised it was from the injections of marcaine, which he had used all season to numb pain in his ankle. But much to the relief of Red Sox Nation, he set the Yankees down in order. The Sox loaded the bases in the second on two singles and a perfectly-placed bunt hit, but Mark Bellhorn grounded into a double play to end the inning. Curt got the Yankees in order again in the second, although the final out was a scary fly by Jorge Posada to the warning track in right that the wind knocked safely into Trot Nixon's glove. In the third, Johnny Damon, who had done very little offensively so far in the series, led off with a hit, but he was quickly erased on Bill Mueller's double play. In the bottom of the third, Schilling allowed only a harmless two-out ground-rule double to Miguel Cairo. Whatever he had done to stabilize the ankle seemed to be working, but the Sox hitters were going to need to break through against Lieber.

With two outs in the fourth, Kevin Millar doubled down the left field line, and he moved to third on a Lieber wild pitch. Jason Varitek worked a 3-2 count and fouled off several pitches before dumping a hit into center field to score Millar. Orlando Cabrera followed with a single to left. That brought up Bellhorn, whose offensive struggles earlier in the series had seen him dropped to ninth in the order. This time he had a great at-bat, fouling off several pitches before hitting one to left field and off the top of the wall - or was it over the wall? Tek and Cabrera scored, and Hideki Matsui fielded the rebound as Bellhorn pulled into second. Terry Francona came out to argue that the ball had gone out, and the umpires got together to confer. Replays showed that it had clearly gone over the wall and bounced off a fan in the front row and back onto the field. After a brief deliberation, the umpires ruled it a home run, making it 4-0 Red Sox.

Schilling had his lead, but how long would the ankle allow him to keep going? The Yankees got two men on in the bottom of the fourth, but Curt got out of it by inducing a popup to first and two groundouts (though he appeared to be limping as he covered first on one of them). From there, he cruised, recording 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth. He even came back out for the seventh, which was more than we could have known to expect going into the game. Not only was he out there competing despite the injury, but he was pitching one of his best games of the season, in certainly the most important game so far in the year. In the seventh, Bernie Williams hit a solo homer, only the fourth hit Schilling had given up all night. He got out of the inning by striking out Ruben Sierra for the third time in the game. With that, Curt was done, after 99 pitches, one run, four hits, four strikeouts, and one bloody sock.

Instant replay never lies Bronson Arroyo started the eighth. He struck out Tony Clark, but then Cairo doubled. Derek Jeter singled, and Cairo scored to make it 4-2 and bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate. With a 2-2 count, A-Rod hit a little dribbler down the first base line. Arroyo fielded it, but A-Rod swatted at his hand before he could tag him out, knocking the ball out of Arroyo's glove. It rolled down the line into right field, and Jeter came all the way around from first to score, with A-Rod winding up on second. Francona argued that A-Rod had intentionally slapped at Arroyo. It wasn't as if Arroyo was in his way in the basepath and they had come in contact as a was part of his normal running motion; he had clearly reached over and slapped the ball loose. The umpires conferred again, and corrected the call. A-Rod was out, Jeter's run hadn't counted, and he had to go back to first. While Joe Torre argued against this decision, Yankees fans threw baseballs and trash onto the field, causing the Red Sox players to have to clear the field for a few minutes. A-Rod's bad baserunning move left two outs in the inning, and when the game resumed Gary Sheffield popped up foul to end the inning.

Varitek singled to open the ninth. Cabrera followed with a grounder to second. Cairo threw to Jeter covering second for the first out, but the throw back to first was not in time to get Cabrera out. More debris was thrown onto the field, and both teams were called off while the Yankees changed pitchers. The umpires conferred again, and police in full riot gear were brought out to line the edges of the field down both foul lines. It was just one more thing in tonight's game that I had never seen before - not the least of which was the fact that the Red Sox had umpires ruling in their favor, as well as a 4-2 lead. It was a very unusual game indeed! Cabrera stole second, and Bellhorn walked before Pokey Reese came in to pinch-run. Tanyon Sturtze got Damon and Mueller to pop up to end the inning. Keith Foulke came in for the bottom of the ninth, having already pitched five innings in the past two days. He walked Matsui to lead off the inning, then struck out Bernie Williams. Posada popped out to third for the second out, but then Sierra walked on a full count. That brought up Tony Clark. Always known as a slugger, Clark's one bad season offensively had come in 2002, when he played for the Red Sox. That made him just the sort of player who would historically come back to haunt the Red Sox, and he had the chance with one swing of the bat to end not only the game, but the Red Sox' whole season. Foulke started him with two straight balls, then worked the count full. Then a swing and a miss! Strike three, and the Red Sox became the first team in history who were down 0-3 to come back and force a Game 7.

It was only after the game had ended that we found out the real story behind Schilling's amazing performance. He had originally planned on wearing the "magic shoe" which was supposed to hold his tendon in place. But instead, team doctor Bill Morgan had invented a new procedure in which three sutures formed a wall that would hold the tendon in place. It wasn't even held in its normal position, but at least it would stop popping out of place like it had in Game 1. The procedure had never been done before, and Morgan had tested it on a cadaver before performing it on Schilling. That was why he hadn't worn the special shoe, and it explained the blood-stained sock. And it made a performance that was already sure to be legendary that much more heroic.

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