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Thomas Boswell

Boston Cashes In On Half-a-Schilling

By Thomas Boswell
Wednesday, October 20, 2004; Page D01

NEW YORK -- We wanted drama to equal any Red Sox-Yankees series ever played. We wanted history, something that had never happened before in the annals of baseball. We wanted to be amazed, mesmerized, exhausted and, heading into Game 7 of the American League Championship Series with a trip to the World Series at stake, we also wanted to have absolutely no idea who would win.

Of course, no sane person actually thought that any such combination of events could possibly happen after last year's seven-game extravaganza of brawls, suicidal managerial decisions and, finally, a walk-off homer by Aaron Boone to end the whole battle.

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But now we've got it all after a 4-2 Boston win in Game 6, plus extra plot threads and improbabilities that no one could possibly have guessed. Even though Game 7 won't arrive until Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox have become the first team in 101 years of postseason baseball to come back from a three-games-to-none deficit to force a Game 7. And at the Yankees' expense.

What are the stakes now? If the Red Sox, the team synonymous with collapses, misfortune and despair, win Game 7, then, in a blink, the blackest mark in Yankees history will actually be darker than any disgrace in all Boston annals.

If the Red Sox somehow win one more game, it won't make up for the last 86 years without a world title, while the Yanks have amassed 26 of them. It won't bring back Babe Ruth or help Johnny Pesky and Bill Buckner sleep better at night.

But it will, for at least the next decade, and perhaps the next century, allow every Red Sox fan anywhere to face any New York fan and say, without fear of contradiction, "How does it feel to root for a team with the biggest payroll ever that has the biggest choke in the history of the game?"

Granted, this may not prove a physically safe decision. But for the first time in many generations at least it will be an option.

Who do we have to thank for this sublime Game 7 theater? Why, Curt Schilling, the man who said last week that he couldn't imagine anything sweeter than "to shut up 55,000 New Yorkers." Then, he couldn't back up his boast because of a bum ankle. But Tuesday night, Yankee Stadium was quieter than Kenmore Square after Grady Little left Pedro Martinez on the mound in last October's Game 7. In his seven innings, Schilling kept the joint almost soundless except for a Bernie Williams solo homer. In all, he allowed only four hits and no walks, while fanning four on just 99 pitches.

"I had had enough [after seven innings]," Schilling said. "What an incredible game." Like all the others in this series.

In the end, this Game 6 was a perfect blend of the unbelievably sweet and quixotically bitter for the Red Sox. Schilling, the man around whom Boston's "This (Really) Is the Year" quest was constructed, finally found the shoe that fit. Boston's medical staff performed a minor procedure on Schilling's ankle Monday to suture the skin tighter over the torn tendon, in hopes of preventing it from flapping over the bone as it had in Game 1. Whatever the docs did, they helped Schilling finally discover the proper combination of numbing medication, shoe shape and bandages. Make no mistake, however, the tendon-sheath injury will require surgery after the season.

Throwing 94-mph fastballs and diving splitters, Schilling pitched just like the postseason stud and certified October Yankee Killer that he's always been. For the 12th time in 13 postseason starts, Schilling was dominant, retiring the first eight Yanks.

All of which raises another of those perfect Red Sox questions: Why didn't they do that procedure before Game 1, when Schilling was clubbed for six runs in three innings only to see the Red Sox rally from an 8-0 deficit to 8-7 (before losing 10-7)? "If anybody else had been pitching except me, we would have won this game," said a disgusted Schilling after Game 1.

That's a slight exaggeration. Those Red Sox runs didn't start arriving until the seventh inning. But he might well be correct. If Schilling and his docs had simply found this Tuesday's ankle solution a week ago, this ALCS might well have ended Tuesday and the Red Sox would be on their way to the World Series instead of a Game 7.

But, come on, it's better this way, right?


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