by Adam Copeland
I watched the 2003 ALCS from my one bedroom apartment in San Antonio, Texas. I had been living there for a full year at the point and still working on establishing a close circle of friends. That eventually developed, but it meant that I watched the drama of the 2003 baseball postseason unfold by myself. It was a captivating ALCS, especially as close as Boston had been to getting back to the World Series. It seemed like destiny was pushing them towards it…until Grady Little left Pedro in just a bit too long in Game 7, and the Yankees starting coming back. The Yankees tied the game, and as history would have it, ultimately Aaron Boone rocketed a home run into the left field seats on the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th inning to send the Yankees to the World Series and broke Boston fans’ hearts in a new and deeper way. The drought was now 85 years and counting. As a lifelong Braves fan, I didn’t have much skin in the game, but since the Braves began in Boston, I was pulling for them. Watching the celebration and experiencing my disappointment forced me to a conclusion and a decision: these teams were going to do this again next year and I’m going to be there for it.
Fast-forward to October 2004. Boston and New York once again made it to the ALCS. I started looking at tickets and trying to figure out which game I could make it to. I was working as a Youth Minister and our church’s Family Retreat was over the weekend of Games 3, 4, and 5. This meant I couldn’t go to Games 1 or 2 because of the planning and preparation for the retreat, so right off the bat I knew that meant that the first five games of the series were out for me. Therefore the ALCS Game 6 would be the first game I could attend. Not knowing whether the series would ever reach Game 6 or not, I went ahead and bought two tickets on StubHub, trusting that these two teams would once again go the distance in their series.
My Dad agreed to join me on this trip. He and I bought our plane tickets before the series began and decided that if the series didn’t make it to a Game 6, we would go anyways spend the day in New York. Game or no game, our plan was that we would be fly in to NYC separately, he from Alabama and me from Texas, and we would just meet up at LaGuardia.
The Yankees took the first two games, which left me slightly uneasy heading away to the weekend church retreat. Prior to the retreat, I had been out to the campgrounds beforehand scouting the place, and knew there was no cell phone service due to the remoteness of the location. I knew that meant that there was a good chance than unless I grabbed a few random bars of signal, that I would most likely not have any insight into Games 3 and 4, and the “if necessary” Game 5. Today if you do a quick check on Wikipedia, it will not show you that Friday night’s Game 3 was cancelled due to rain. What Wiki will show you is that the Yankees won Saturday’s Game 3 handily, 19-8, to take a 3-0 lead. I found this out on Sunday afternoon after driving back from the retreat. I started browsing things to do in New York City for a day, figuring it would be more of a hassle to get the airline ticket refunded than going ahead and taking the trip. Maybe we’d go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, maybe head up for a tour of Yankee Stadium, maybe take a tour on a double-decker bus if it wasn’t too cold. Even with no game, I knew it would be a fun day in NYC with my Dad.
Then Game 4 happened. All five hours and two minutes of it. Words do not do justice to the drama of the comeback that propelled the Red Sox to eventually breaking the curse. From the Dave Roberts steal of second base, to the David Ortiz hit off Rivera – it all seemed so surreal as I watched it from home in Texas. As you know Boston won Game 4 and they lived on to fight another day. At that moment, the Red Sox had hope. Game 5 was another doozy and was actually longer than Game 4! It went 14 innings and lasted five hours and forty-nine minutes, ending with a Big Papi single to score Johnny Damon and the Red Sox won 5-4. I stayed up watch every pitch, knowing that my flight later that morning left around 6:50 a.m. The Red Sox were now trailing in the series 3 games to 2.
So Game 6 was happening and thankfully my strategic/hopeful planning was going to put us there for it. I met Dad in Manhattan, we took in a museum and Central Park, toured Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. We witnessed a legendary and courageous pitching performance from Curt Schilling and his bloody sock. Yes, the one game we went to ended up being THE BLOODY SOCK GAME! As fans who were just sitting in the stands enjoying the atmosphere of an epic postseason game, we knew Schilling was giving it everything he had, but what we didn’t know from our seats is that the stitches in Schilling’s ankle tendon were coming loose causing his sock to now be baseball’s singular most famous sock in the history of the game.
Along with Schilling’s performance, it had everything you could possibly imagine when you think Red Sox-Yankees. The Yankee fans were at their stereotypical worst. A-Rod almost got away with a bush league play in swiping the first baseman’s glove and ball away and acting as if the glove had mystically come off. Looking back, so much about it made that 2004 ALCS Game 6 significant in so many ways. For me, all the build-up to Game 6 made it even more special to take it in with my Dad. Neither of us had been to Yankee Stadium before. This was a prime example of a son being just like his father – scheming a last-minute trip, needing multiple things to line up to pull it off, and adding a twist to make it even more memorable. Our “twist” per se was not getting a hotel room for the night! We figured the game would go late, then it would take an hour to get to the hotel, only to sleep for a couple of hours to then head towards the airport for our morning flights. So we stayed up the whole night in Times Square. Yes me and my 50 year old Dad not only pulled off this 30 hour adventure, but we also stayed up all night in the city that never sleeps. Also, just fyi for any one considering doing the same – Times Square doesn’t have too many traditional father/son places to hang out at 4:00 am on a Wednesday.
Everything hit right for the game to happen, for us to have a personal experience and connection to one of sports’ most storied rivalries and series, and for us to have that experience and memory in perpetuity.
I took a video of the final out and posted it to You Tube: https://youtu.be/4aGZdnjFRvo. It’s got a fair number of views thanks to an ESPN columnist linking to it at the bottom of a column a few weeks after the World Series, showcasing fans’ perspectives from this historic ALCS.
Here is the timeline recap I wrote for a post on my blog following the game.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
5:08am CST – My first alarm goes off and I wake up
5:32am – After showering and getting ready, I call Dad; he’s just arrived at the airport in Huntsville, AL, where he’s flying out at 6:30
6:32am – I take American Airlines flight 594 to DFW
7:48am – I arrive at DFW and have a voice message on my phone. It’s Mom; Dad was rerouted to Newark, NJ due to weather problems in Alabama, meaning he’s scheduled to arrive at a different airport than me and about 2 hours earlier.
8:06am – Mom and I talk. She’s got Dad’s mobile phone as he left it at home for some reason. So Dad and I will be communicating through her until we meet up…should be interesting, I’m thinking. I tell her to tell Dad to meet me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
8:45am – I depart DFW for New York City.
1:03pm EST – I arrive at Laguardia International Airport
1:30pm – I board a city bus to Manhattan
1:48pm – I miss my stop, so I get off at the next one. Luckily it’s only three blocks from the previous one. I get off the bus in Harlem and walk around a few blocks looking for the Subway entrance. Yes, I walked around Harlem for about 10 minutes; I didn’t feel threatened at any point.
2:12pm – Exit Subway at 86th street and Lexington Ave. I walk down four blocks and over three to arrive at the Met. Dad is waiting outside for me. We make our way through the museum for the next two hours, then walk through Central Park for a while as well.
4:37pm – Dad and I eat at an authentic NY pizza shop.
5:06pm – We board the subway for Yankee Stadium.
5:41pm – We tour Monument Park in Yankee Stadium
6:32pm – We make our way to our right field seats – Section 19, Row R, Seats 7-8
7:21pm – The infield tarp is taken off.
8:03pm – First pitch, ALCS Game 6
9:51pm – Boston leads 4-0 after four full innings, thanks to Belhorn’s homerun that was finally called correctly. The first taste of the umpires missing a call.
11:21pm – The 8th inning ends after the Yankees score one run. It might have been more if the umpires had stuck with their missed call of A-Rod’s swatting of the ball from Arroyo. I thought it looked like he’d done that, but there were about 56,000 other people who thought otherwise. The field got littered with baseballs, cups, beer, spit, and who knows what else. Police in riot gear were called in by a Major League official to guard the walls along the right and left field lines. The public announcer come over the speakers a couple of times asking for better behavior, but that wasn’t received too well. That was followed by many unpublishable chants.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
12:10am – Game over. Boston wins 4-2. It takes us an hour to get out of the stadium and to the subway.
2:00am – Dad and I eat at Howard Johnson’s, a restaurant in Times Square. We spend the evening there and at the 24 hour McDonald’s across the street. Yes, we stayed up all night in Times Square. Good times.
4:45am – We catch a taxi cab to Laguardia. Khan, a Pakistani man, is our driver. We had a good time talking with him about cricket and the talk of the Red Sox/Yankees series being fixed.
7:21am – My flight to DFW departs NYC. I sleep the whole way back.
12:01pm CST – Touch down in San Antonio. What a spectacular memory.
Featured image: Adam and his Dad at the 2004 ALCS Game 6
Adam Copeland lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with his wife and two kids. Adam works in higher education with universities who are expanding their international student recruitment. He enjoys coaching soccer, playing Old Maid, and French-pressed coffee. He’s currently working on a podcast.