The 1998 ALDS was our first taste of playoff baseball with the one-two punch of Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez in our corner. Pedro was the K machine, Nomar was the heart, soul and bat of the team. Together, or so I thought, they would lead us to the promised land.

Turns out, however, we couldn’t make it through the first round with Cleveland that October. While we trounced ‘em in the first game behind Pedro, 11-3, the next three saw us coming up short, with just one run deciding games three and four. I was in the hizzouse for game four at Fenway, liquored within an inch of my life with Matt, Mike and Mark. For seven innings, it was a taut, head-numbing affair, with a Nomar dinger accounting for the game’s only run. But then Tommy Gordon — he of the game’s most imposing from-under-the-hat-lid stare — came in and coughed up two runs. And the Sox just couldn’t answer.

As was often the case back then, I took it hard. Already drunk, I started feeling sick. The heat of disappointment swelled through my veins as the Sox’ Triumvirate of Power — Scott Hatteberg, Midre Cummings, and Darren Bragg — went down with a whimper in the bottom of the ninth. Once again, it was over for us. Once again, another team was celebrating on our turf. I dragged my drunken bridesmaid of an ass out of the grandstand seat it was wedged in and began the annual descent into misery.

And then I saw Nomar.

My memory is certainly hazy, what with age and booze and those medical experiments I routinely volunteer for to earn extra cash, but I remember seeing Mr. G standing up, in front of the dugout, applauding us. Us. The perpetually disappointed (at that time, anyway) masses. The unwashed dinks who show up game after game and hang on every pitch as if we were watching a heart monitor linked to our own goddam chests. When the comeback rally didn’t happen, he turned and showed us the love, and it was the one thing that probably kept me from packing up the car and heading for the Tobin at one hundred and ten per. It was one of those gestures that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, but meant everything to me at the time. At least before I blacked out from Coorsmonia.

Tonight, I’m happy to return the favor. Nomar gets the standing O in my hourse.