For a while they were calling this ‘Baseball’s Greatest Night’ because about four games were being played simultaneously that would decide who got in the playoffs. For me, it was anything but great. The Red Sox of 2011 were a good team, perhaps a great team, destined for the World Series. That’s how it seemed in late July when I went to the Yards and saw the Sox mashers easily handle the last place Birds (the photo was taken during the warm-ups before the game).
Then came the September collapse. The starting rotation pretty much became Lester and Becket as the others checked out. The Yankees pulled away but we would still have the wild card if we could just stay ahead of Tampa. It came down to a mid-week series at the Yards. I went to the first game which the O’s won, defeating Becket. The Sox won game 2 and it all came down to the third game. Boston and Tampa had identical records. Tampa was playing the Yankees while it was Boston vs. Baltimore. For the first time in over a decade, a late September game at Camden Yards actually meant something.
The Sox had so many chances to pad their 3-2 lead that night but kept coming up short. The Red Sox fans in the stands could be heard chanting “Let’s go Yankees” whenever the scoreboard indicated that New York had scored a run. Then the rains came and we all had to wait. At last they rolled back the tarp and play resumed.
Into the bottom of the ninth. Papelbon came in to close the game. First two Orioles strike out. Then it happened. Davis doubles. Reimold doubles. Andino singles. Game over. Orioles fans go berserk. A few minutes later word comes that Tampa has won. Season over. So is Paplebon’s Red Sox career. So is Terry Francona’s Red Sox career as well. I was there at the beginning (opening Day 2004) and the end. Thank you Terry. It was a great run. And this was the night that the Orioles became relevant once again.