The Yankees/Red Sox game of July 1, 2004, can be seen to this day in YES Network commercials and clips and soundbites. It’s remembered for Derek Jeter running so hard for a catch that he dove into the stands in left field and emerged with his face bloody and bruised, an image that would frequently come to define his career and desire to win.
But there was a lot more to it than that — the bizarre defense the Yankees had to deploy in extra innings once Jeter had to be removed, Pedro Martinez angering Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez nearly breaking Yankees’ fans hearts, and gut-wrenching missed chances before less-heralded heroes Miguel Cairo and John Flaherty saved the day.
Michael Kay gets flack, in my opinion deservedly so, but when he said that it was one of the greatest games you’ll ever see, well, it’s hard to argue that.
Date of Game: July 1, 2004
Final Score: Yankees 5, Red Sox 4 (13)
Game MVP: Miguel Cairo (and sure, Derek Jeter)
The Yankees entered the game seeking a sweep of the Red Sox, but the starting pitching matchup wasn’t in their favor. Although Pedro Martinez wasn’t as dominant as he had been in the past for the Sox — he’d finish 2004 with the worst FIP he’d ever have in Boston — he was still Pedro, and going up against the late Brad Halsey, then a rookie making his third career start. If he’d gotten blown out of the water, it would hardly have been a surprise.
The Yankees/Red Sox rivalry drama started early on, when Martinez was pitching against Gary Sheffield. Sheffield called for time and stepped out when Martinez had already started his windup, angering him. Martinez then took a very long time to throw — Sheffield did not step out — and then hit him in the shoulder, earning warnings and some choice words from Sheffield.
The Yankees would get the first laugh, however, on a two-run home run from future MLBPA chief Tony Clark, who was playing first base for the injured Jason Giambi. A fifth-inning upper deck solo shot by Jorge Posada would then put the Yankees up 3-0.
To get the Red Sox out of that fifth inning, shortstop Pokey Reese also flipped into the stands, but he wasn’t going as fast and didn’t hurt himself, so no accolades for him.
Halsey was pitching surprisingly well through five innings, allowing zero runs. It was more than could be expected from a rookie, but manager Joe Torre likely left him in a few batters too long. In the top of the sixth, David Ortiz hit a ground-rule double that a faster left fielder than Hideki Matsui probably could have caught, and then Manny Ramirez struck with a booming home run to center to bring the Sox within one run.
The Red Sox would tie the game the next inning. After a hard line drive from Sox first baseman Dave McCarty bounced off Kenny Lofton’s glove to give him a double, Kevin Youkilis singled, and Reese grounded in a double play to drive in a run.
The score would stay there for quite some time. The Yankees were on the verge of walking off in the ninth, with the bases loaded and one out, but Ruben Sierra strike out in a pinch-hit appearance and Lofton weakly grounded out. It wouldn’t be the last time that the Yankees would be tantalizing close to winning. In the 10th, with two outs and Alex Rodriguez at third base following a double and a stolen base, Bernie Williams hit a rocket for a lineout, ending the threat.
In the 11th inning, the Red Sox nearly broke through against Mariano Rivera. The bases were loaded with nobody out following hits by Ortiz and Ramirez and an intentional walk. Kevin Millar smashed a ground ball down the third base line that A-Rod dove to field, then touched third, then threw home for an excellent double play. A little confusion led to A-Rod (and Michael Kay) thinking that a triple play had just been turned — maybe the one thing this game was lacking. Fortunately, Rivera would induce a fly out to get the third out a more traditional way.
The top of the 12th saw the Red Sox threaten again to take the lead, until thwarted by Jeter’s famous play. With runners on second and third with two outs, Jeter ran an incredible distance to catch a ball off the bat of Trot Nixon that probably would have blooped in and given the Red Sox the lead. You’ve seen it before, but here is again.
It was a game that both teams badly wanted, but if the Yankees had lost after Jeter walked off the field, bleeding and bruised, it just would have felt all wrong.
In fact, the team seemed like it might respond to the dive with a win immediately, as Miguel Cairo led off the bottom of 12th with a triple. But the Yankees had basically no choice but to pinch-hit the hobbled Giambi for Jeter, who went down on strikes while the Sox played a five-man infield.* Bubba Crosby and Williams would also get out to end yet another threat.
*In an amusing note, the one active position player who did not appear at all for the Red Sox on this night was Jeter’s counterpart, Nomar Garciaparra, who as it turned out was in his final month in a Boston uniform.
That latest missed opportunity came to bite the Yankees when Ramirez clobbered a home run in the top of the 13th to finally give the Sox the lead. To boot, the Yankees had no middle infielders left on the bench after Jeter’s removal, so they had to get creative and weird and put Sheffield at third base, where he hadn’t played in 11 years. He committed a throwing error, but you can hardly blame him for that.
Two Yankees promptly got out in the 13th — two outs, down and out, right? However, Sierra snuck a single through the infield, and then Cairo struck again, doubling into the gap to tie the game. Flaherty smashed a ball into left, and his future YES broadcast partner, Kay, got maybe his most famous call ever:
They don’t really seem to make games like this anymore. The Yankee teams of recent days have been good, but something the team had that day always seems to be missing — or maybe it’s just not as fun as two star teams who want to beat each other at all costs.
And talk about the talent. Five eventual Hall of Famers appeared, if you count Torre, and it really should have been seven, if Rodriguez and Ramirez didn’t ruin it for themselves.
The rivalry, the stars smashing home runs and making sterling plays and walking off the field bleeding to a thunderous crowd, the Red Sox getting their hearts broken — if we get a game even a little like this in 2022, we’ll have some fun indeed.