In anticipation of tonight’s showdown between the Sox and Injuns at Friendly Fenway, we decided to pour through the memory banks to recall our favorite and most infamous Boston-Cleveland mash-ups. We only got through about four games, however, when we grew tired and disillusioned and decided to just stop typing and go out for Big Macs and Pabst Blue Ribbon. So please, enjoy what’s here.
1998 ALDS, Game 3 at Fenway Park: How’s this for a pitching line-up to set the opposition quaking: Bret Saberhagen (the end-of-career, ballsy-but-fragile Sabes), Jim Corsi and the Magic Moustache himself, Dennis Eckersley. Holy god, did The Eck really come back as our closer in the late 90s or was that some sort of Hawaiian Punch-induced hallucination? (Update: Actually, he was our set-up guy, as one commenter pointed out.) Either way, the combined might of this unholy trinity couldn’t ward off the Indians’ advances, as we fell 4-3, the difference being a home run by Manny Ramirez off the Eck in the top of the ninth. But the real boot-to-the-crackers moment came in the bottom of the ninth when a promising rally was snuffed short. With the Sox down 4-1, Nomar belted a two-run homer that the mathematically-challenged/Budweiser-impaired hometown crowd mistook for a game-tying bash. As reality crept back in and we realized we were still down by one, you could almost hear a hearty “aw, f@#k” rise from the bleachers. Mike Stanley and Troy O’Leary then proceeded to make two quick outs, no doubt ending the game so they could get back to their Parcheesi tournament.
1999 ALDS, Game 5 at Jacobs Field: Was there ever a more heart-attack-inducing game than this? The deciding game of the 1999 ALDS was like a caffeine enema on a see-saw (trust me, not pretty), with the Sox getting two in the top of the first, and the Indians answering with three in the bottom of the inning. Then Cleveland got two in the second to go up, 5-2, only to see the Sox get five in the top of the third after the Injuns walked Nomar to load the bases, then stared in horror and disbelief as Troy O’Leary belted a grand slam (immediately taking 5 years off Mike Hargrove’s life). Of course, the Indians got 3 more in the bottom of that inning to take an 8-7 lead before Jimy Williams had the good sense to bring Pedro Martinez in and effectively shut Cleveland down for the season. The legend of this game looms large in my household, as after O’Leary’s second home run, I inexplicably dropped trou and pressed my bare ass to the TV screen, instantly alienating all friends and family in attendance. Which is just how I’d planned it, really. Special bonus trivia: Before he made The Steal, Dave Roberts was known exclusively as the second out of the ninth inning, lining out to Nomar before Petey K’ed Omar Vizquel to end it. And to think this was all leading up to the 1999 ALCS. Ack.
1995 ALCS, Game 3 at Fenway Park: Not much to say about this series, as we were quickly swept away by Indians (whose line-up included Eddie Murray, of all people!). This game, however, should be cited for Indians reliever Julian Tavarez giving up three straight hits to Tim Naehring, Luis Alicea and Mike Macfarlane. Hey, when you lose 8-2, you gotta take your highlights where you can find them.
1998 ALCS, Game 4 at Fenway Park: I attended this game with Matt, Mark and Mike and someone — probably Matt — had the bright idea to get sh-tfaced before the game even started. What followed was a game more famous for the sheer amounts of alcohol I willingly poured down my throat — at some points it was like a sort of science experiment — than any Red Sox heroics. We were quietly beaten, 2-1, and once again, some other team was advancing to the next level, leaving our tormented, pre-2004 minds to ponder what could have been. I stumbled through Kenmore to Brookline where my Dad picked me up. I simply got into his car and said, “They did it to me again.” And he said nothing. But he understood.
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We’re always happy when the folks at Deadspin are kind enough to link to our goofy-ass site, as they did yesterday. Checking the reader comments on that page, I noticed this gem: “They may have survived Grady Little… but let’s see if they can survive Grady Sizemore.” Time will tell, my friends. It always does.
See you tonight, 7:10pm.