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Boston's blow out caps unequaled comeback

NEW YORK -- Believe it, New England -- the Boston Red Sox are
in the World Series. They got there with the most unbelievable
comeback of all, with four sweet swings after decades of defeat,
shaming the New York Yankees, the Evil Empire to the south.

David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe made sure of it.

Just three outs from getting swept out of the AL Championship
Series three nights earlier, the Red Sox finally humbled the
dreaded Yankees, winning Game 7 in a 10-3 shocker Wednesday night
to become the first major league team to overcome a 3-0 postseason
series deficit.

Cursed for 86 years, these Red Sox just might be charmed.

"All empires fall sooner of later," Boston president Larry
Lucchino said.

There is no torture this time, no hour of humiliation. Better
yet to Boston fans, it's the Yankees left to suffer the memory of a
historic collapse.

"Not many people get the opportunity to shock the world. We
came out and did it," Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said.
"You know what? We beat the Yankees. Now they get a chance to
watch us on the tube."

Boston didn't need any of the late-inning dramatics that marked
the last three games, leading 6-0 after two innings.

Ortiz, the series MVP, started it with a two-run homer in the
first off broken-down Kevin Brown, and Damon quieted Yankee Stadium
in the second inning with a grand slam on Javier Vazquez's first
pitch.

After Derek Jeter sparked hope of a comeback with a run-scoring
single in the third, Damon put a two-run homer into the upper deck
for an 8-1 lead in the fourth.

Lowe, pitching on just two days' rest, silenced the Yankees'
bats and their boasting fans, who just last weekend assumed New
York's seventh pennant in nine years was all but a lock. He allowed
one hit in six innings then Pedro Martinez started the seventh, his
first relief appearance in five years, sparking chants of "Who's
Your Daddy?"

Three hits and two runs got the crowd going, but the rally
stopped there and Mark Bellhorn added a solo homer in the eighth
for a 9-3 Boston lead, and the bullpen closed out a five-hitter.

"It's very amazing, I think, to do what we did," Red Sox
manager Terry Francona said.

Cheering of Red Sox fans could be heard in the ninth, and when
pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra grounded to second baseman Pokey Reese
for the final out, Boston players ran on the field and jumped
together in a mass huddle.

"The greatest comeback in baseball history," Red Sox owner
John Henry said.

Yankees players slowly walked off, eliminated on their home
field for the second straight season.

"I'm embarrassed right now," Alex Rodriguez said. "Obviously
that hurts -- watching them on our field celebrating."

The World Series will start at Fenway Park on Saturday night
against St. Louis or Houston.

"We're coming back home and we're going to party for a little
while, but it's going to be a great World Series," Damon said.

There were several hundred Red Sox fans behind their dugout on
the third-base side, cheering wildly as Boston players gave one
another bear hugs.

Trot Nixon ran out to the center-field bleachers to greet
friends, then shook hands with more along the right-field line.

Now that the Babe's team has been beaten, Boston can try to
reverse The Curse, win the Series for the first time since 1918 and
bring happiness to the Hub which can scarcely believe the
tumultuous turn of events.

From Fenway Park to Faneuil Hall, from Boston Common to Beacon
Hill, the 11th pennant for the Red Sox, the first since 1986, will
be remembered as the best for one reason: Beating New York in
Yankee Stadium, site of last year's Game 7 meltdown.

This was for Williams and Pesky, for Yastrzemski and Yawkey, for
Fisk and Rice and even Buckner and Nomar, just a few of the
hundreds who suffered the pain inflicted by their New York
neighbors in a rivalry that has become baseball's best.

"That's for the '03 team, just like it's for the '78 and the
'49 team," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "I hope Ted
Williams is having a cocktail upstairs."

None of the previous 25 major league teams to fall behind 3-0
even forced a series to seven games. The wild-card Red Sox became
only the third of 239 teams in the four major North American
leagues to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series and
win, joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York
Islanders.

"The series obviously turned in that Game 4," Yankees general
manager Brian Cashman said. "Then the momentum started going their
way and we just couldn't hold 'em off."

It had been 100 years since Boston last won a pennant in New
York on the final possible day, a 3-2 victory in a doubleheader
opener at Hilltop Park in 1904. New York overcame the Red Sox by
winning the final two games of the 1949 season at Yankee Stadium,
the Yankees won a one-game playoff for the AL East in 1978 behind
Bucky Dent's three-run homer at Fenway Park, and Aaron Boone hit
the 11th-inning homer that won Game 7 last year.

New York, which dropped to 10-2 in the LCS, will no doubt face a
bitter winter, with owner George Steinbrenner likely to take charge
of overhauling a roster that has been short of starting pitching
since the spring.

Steinbrenner wouldn't answer questions after the game, but
before getting into his car he said: "I want to congratulate the
Boston team. They did very well. They have a great team."

Pitching did in Steinbrenner's band of All-Stars, who won the AL
East for the seventh straight season, with the Red Sox runners-up
each time. Brown and Vazquez, who faded in the second half of the
season, were booed by the sellout crowd of 56,129.

New York had a record $186 million payroll, far beyond Boston,
which was second at $128 million. The Yankees captured six pennants
in eight seasons, winning the World Series four times. But they
haven't won since 2000 and couldn't finish off an opponent in the
cool, efficient, ruthless way they did only a few years ago.

"It's not the same team," Jeter said. "We've had teams that
have been good at it, but this is not the same team."

The Yankees had a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 on
Sunday night, only to have Bill Mueller single home the tying run
off Mariano Rivera and Ortiz hit a 12th-inning homer against Paul
Quantrill.

They held a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning of Game 5 before
Ortiz's homer off Tom Gordon and Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly off
Rivera, and Ortiz's winning single off Esteban Loaiza in the 14th.

Then Curt Schilling, his right ankle held together by three
sutures, beat the Yankees 4-2 Tuesday night to tie the series
3-all.

The Yankees invoked all the bad memories they could for Boston
before the game: Dent threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi
Berra, and Reggie Jackson stood behind the cage during batting
practice.

Just like last year, when the Red Sox went ahead 4-0 in the
fourth inning of Game 7, Boston took an early lead.

Damon, who entered the game 3-for-29 (.103), singled past Alex
Rodriguez at third base leading off and stole second. Manny Ramirez
then grounded a single past Jeter at shortstop. Damon, who had to
hold up to make sure the ball went into the outfield, was thrown
out when left fielder Hideki Matsui relayed the ball to Jeter, who
threw a strike to Jorge Posada, with the catcher blocking Damon at
the plate.

That was the highlight for the Yankees.

Ortiz, who had three homers and 11 RBIs in the series, sent the
next pitch into the right-field seats to put Boston ahead 2-0.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the second on Kevin
Millar's single and walks to Mueller and Orlando Cabrera.

Vazquez, who gave up a team-high 33 homers, blew open the game.
Damon, who hadn't homered since Oct. 1, lofted his first pitch down
the right-field line, the ball landing in the front row. Jubilant
Red Sox players poured out of the dugout, jumping and yelling.

Damon homered again off Vazquez in the fourth, after Cabrera
walked, putting the first pitch of the at-bat into the upper deck
in right.

"We stuck together," Damon said, "and erased history."

Game notes
Boston won its first five World Series appearances, the
latter three with Babe Ruth, who was sold the Yankees in 1920.
Since beating the Chicago Cubs for the 1918 title, Boston has lost
four World Series -- to the Cardinals in 1946 and 1967, the
Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and the New York Mets in 1986. ... New York
had lost four consecutive games once all season, April 22-25, the
first defeat at Chicago and three at home to Boston.