Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Blood and Guts
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother: be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition."

Down 3 games to none and on the verge of playoff elimination, something has happened that has never happened in the history of major league baseball, game 7 will be played. Twenty five times previous the team down 3-0 has never forced a game 7. Only three times has game 6 ever been played, yet here we are, staring down history and history blinked.

The emotional roller coaster that has been the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Yankees will conclude tonight. Game 7 in the Bronx in the House that Ruth Built. The Yankees and 26 World Championships and the Red Sox and the Curse. The Yankees failing to close the deal over the last three games, the Red Sox battling for their playoff life.

I have seen a lot of baseball in my mere 26 years, but never something that of the last three nights. The cake was taken last night by Curt Schilling. The ace of the Red Sox staff, the man who was signed in the off season to get over the hump and beat the Yankees, the man who was lit up in game 1 and who's ankle woes appeared to end his season. A special high top show was made to support the ailing tendons, he threw on the side, and then announced that the problem was taken care off and he would be ready to pitch game 6. The Red Sox got him his chance and he pitched a brillant 7 innings, giving up 1 run. Yet, the story is more than a gutsy performance from a man needing surgery at year's end.

The injury to Schilling involves a tear in a sheath of tissue covering two tendons in the ankle, this causes one of the tendons to slip out and rub bone when he pitches. I don't know all the anatomy behind it, but I can only speculate that it hurts like hell. After game 1, Boston had all but shut down the big man for the year. Reebok and doctors fitted Schilling with a custom high top pair of spikes to add more support. He threw on the side. He pitched game 6, he wore the low tops and bled. He bled through his white sanitary sock, turning the area around his ankle a deep crimson. The blood ran from the start, his sock soaked red, he pitched the most dramatic post season outing ever. Yet, the questions lingered, why is he bleeding? As it turns out, Schilling had his skin sutured between the tendons of his ankle, preventing them from moving over the bone. The sutures were breaking, between innings, he was stiched back up. He went back out. By his own admission he began struggling in the 4th inning, but lasted another 3. Watching the game, I'll take struggles like that from any pitcher in the game.

After the game, a tired Schilling simply said this, "I was touched by God tonight. Last time I tried to do it alone... it was God's work... I had had enough (after 7), I was struggling from the fourth inning on. I made some mistakes but they hit them right at people."

So now it on to game 7. Had you told me three days ago, after the 19-8 Boston Massacre that the Yankees slammed the Red Sox with to go up 3-0, that game 7 would happen, even I, a diehard Red Sox fan would have scoffed at the notion, yet here we are. One game between the Red Sox and Yankees for the right to go to the World Series. The Red Sox seek their first trip since 1986, when they lost to the Mets in 7 games. I was in second grade and 8 years old. It's been 16 years. In that time great players have come and gone, but one was traded to Houston for Larry Andersen in 1988. Andersen played 15 games for Boston and his career has been lost to the history of baseball players who came and went. The young man who was traded, a hard throwing right handed pitcher from Double-A minor league affiliate New Britian went on to have a Hall of Fame career and win a World Championship. He returned and last night bled his socks red to force a game 7.

I do not know if the ghost will return tonight, the Red Sox fan in me knows that is always possible. But I do know this, the last three nights have been the greatest display of heart and team work I have ever seen. This is the greatest Red Sox team I have ever seen. Tonight, they will again stare history in the eyes, we can just watch to see who blinks.

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