- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- Obviously, Pedro Martinez will be at Yankee Stadium tonight but somebody really ought to leave a ticket for Don Zimmer. Preferably, some place within a short run of the field.
And while they're at it, they should find two seats for Grady Little and Aaron Boone. And when you get right down to it Roger Clemens really ought to be here, not in St. Louis. And everyone should squeeze in and make room for Mike Torrez and Bucky Dent, too. And what the heck, fit in Bobby Sprowl and Mel Parnell and Ellis Kinder and every other prominent player from those past Red Sox-Yankees showdowns.
And hell, if those Boston doctors can somehow suture Curt Schilling's tendons together so he can pitch -- can't wait to see that procedure written up in the New England Journal of Medicine -- surely they can figure out a way to revive the guy who sparked this whole insane, heated rivalry: the Babe himself.
After all, tonight's game is what everyone has been waiting for at least since Boone's home run sailed over the fence and into Yankees-Red Sox legend last October: Game 7 of the American League Championship Series between the two great rivals who have been knocking heads for a century. Actually, it's what fans have awaited ever since the Red Sox traded Ruth to the Yankees.
Only this time, for once, somehow, the Red Sox appear to hold the upper hand.
They've charged back from a 0-3 deficit, becoming the first team in baseball history to force a seventh game after such a deficit, and could make further history by winning tonight. After their 4-2 win behind the bloodied Schilling in Game 6, they have the momentum and the confidence while the Yankees are so shell-shocked that they couldn't even decide on a starting pitcher for Game 7. It turned out to be Kevin Brown (who lasted only two innings in Game 3) over Javier Vazquez bit maybe they'll bring in their own doctors and suture a couple fresh tendons in Ron Guidry's arm.
"We're going to take some phone numbers and make some calls later," manager Joe Torre said after Game 6. "Mel and I are going to have to talk about it after I finish all this stuff."
When was the last time you heard Torre that unsure? But it's understandable. No one has ever been in his spot in postseason history.
Think about it. Four days ago the Red Sox gave up 19 runs and fell behind in this series 0-3. Three days ago they were trailing in the ninth inning of Game 4 against Mariano Rivera. Two days ago they were trailing in the eighth inning of Game 5 with Rivera pitching. And now the Red Sox -- THE RED SOX!!! -- have won three in a row and are on the verge of doing something that has never been done in the previous 100 postseasons in major league history.
And they could do it against the Yankees. THE YANKEES!!!
"They should cancel a presidential debate or something for this one," Boston reliever Curt Leskanic said. "I've heard a couple guys saying, 'We should play Game 7 right now. I don't know about that, though. I haven't slept in about five or six days other than bits and pieces here and there. You get so wrapped up in these games, I'm just emotionally drained.
"In the regular season, there are games when you get to the last inning and you're like, 'All right, let's get these last three outs.' But here, it's with every single pitch. I think I had three or four heart attacks today."
Hey, emotions are already so charged that they had to bring out squads of riot police for Game 6 after fans showered the field with baseballs, beer bottles and anything else they could throw in the eighth inning when the umpires changed a call against the Yankees, turning Alex Rodriguez's apparent run-scoring infield single into runner's interference and a rally-crippling out.
"They weren't just regular police, either. They were wearing the helmets and the visors. It was like some of those games I played in winter ball," Leskanic said. "We didn't know whether it was safe to walk across the field from the bullpen. I was afraid I'd look down and see one of those little red dots on my chest."
Of course, they may need those same police lined up outside Steinbrenner's office if the Yankees lose tonight.
"I can't even imagine," Leskanic said. "He'll probably fire everyone. 'You're gone! You're gone! You're gone!'"
Mystique and Aura already are conspicuously absent. Evidently, they must still be passed out from the Yankees' 19-8 victory in Game 4 because they've been nowhere to be found around the New York dugout the past few days.
In the old days, a starting pitcher would take his team's season to the mound with him against the Yankees and crumble under the strain at the end. Not Tuesday. Schilling had his torn tendons in his ankle sutured together Monday, took the mound with blood seeping into his sock, held the Yankees to one run in seven innings, left with the lead in the eighth inning and then probably posed for his statue being hastily sculpted for display in Kenmore Square.
In the old days, when a flyball hit a fan in the bleachers, the umps would mess up the call in New York's favor and the Yankees would win and the kid would wind up on Regis the next day. Just as the umpires would mess up a call in the infield. Not Tuesday. Both happened Tuesday and the umpires calmly met, then correctly reversed the calls in favor of the Red Sox and the Yankees lost.
"I don't want those guys to meet anymore," Rodriguez said after he was called for runner interference for his bush league play when he knocked the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand. "Every time they meet, it goes against the Yankees. I told John Hirschbeck: No more meetings."
In the old days, "Enter Sandman" would blare over the stadium speakers for Rivera and soon Sinatra would be singing "New York, New York." No longer. This series, Rivera has blown two saves.
In the old days, Derek Jeter would take the D Train from the Daily Planet, then deliver the game-winning hit in the Yankees' final at-bat. Not anymore. This series, Boston's David Ortiz smashed two game-winning hits in the same day (his home run ended Game 4 about 1:30 a.m. Monday and his single ended Game 5 about 11 that night).
Still, you never know. The Yankees may be slumping (they've scored 10 runs in three games after scoring 19 in Game 3) and they may be feeling the pressure but they're still the Yankees, this is still Yankee Stadium and Rivera is rested again. Meanwhile, Boston starter Derek Lowe (a late change from Tim Wakefield) will be pitching on just two days' rest while closer Keith Foulke has pitched three consecutive days and thrown 100 pitches.
Red Sox have been close many times before. They know how it can go.
And as for any momentum Boston gained from winning the last three games? "We had momentum after we won the first three, right?" Jeter said. "All that's out the window now."
Right. So get the face paint on, pull out the rally caps and keep the oxygen tank handy because anything might happen tonight.
Will the Red Sox finally make history by overcoming their old nemesis? Or will the Yankees kick their old rivals in the groin again just as they're within reach of the promised land? Or will Boston doctors suture Ted Williams' head onto Johnny Damon's body?
It's Game 7 between the Yankees and the Red Sox. The past century, the past two Octobers, the past 25 meetings and most importantly, the past six games have led up to this.
Or as Boston first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said, "We've been playing Game 7 since Game 4."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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