"Stick with us," said Damon. "Never count us out."
One local tabloid here had a huge front-page picture on Wednesday of Ruth with the headline, "Put me in." In the past, that might have spooked the Red Sox. But in the last two years, they hold a 27-25 lead in games over New York, including 15-11 this year. So they know the true meaning of that front page. To win this seventh game, the Yankees didn't need some fanciful ghost of Ruth but, rather, the real Ruth -- both pitching and hitting. The Bambino would have done a lot better than Kevin Brown, the wall-puncher, who allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings. And he'd have hit better than the comatose Yankees who managed just one single in the first six innings off right-hander Derek Lowe -- a desperation Red Sox starter -- who was working on only two days' rest.
The moment when this ALCS turned, and an 84-year Yankees-Red Sox saga began an entirely new phase, was precisely midnight on Monday. Yankees superstar reliever Mariano Rivera needed three ninth-inning outs to clinch another pennant and add another ignominious chapter to defeatist Red Sox lore. But Rivera blew that save. And another one 22 hours later.
From the moment of that first squandered save, the Yankees became a different team. After that, New York has gone into a complete clutch-hitting coma. Excluding Jeter, all the rest of the Yankees are 4 for 41 (.098) with men on base without any RBI. That constitutes a monumental team-wide clutch-hitting choke. Only Jeter, with a three-run double and two RBI singles, has driven in any base runners since Rivera's failure. The other two Yankees runs through the first seven innings of Game 7 -- a span of 33 innings -- were on solo homers by Bernie Williams.
So, the old Hall of Fame-bound Yankees who helped win four World Series -- Jeter and Williams -- have hit under pressure. But the newer Yankees, about whom Jeter has asked skeptical questions for the last four years, haven't earned their stripes.
In fact, those pinstripes may never look quite the same, quite so special and fearsome again -- at least to one team who now has their number.
Who would have dreamed just four days ago that the team in question would be the Boston Red Sox.
Go on, New England, explode. You're entitled. But don't forget. The World Series starts on Saturday. While you're at it, why not get all these ancient Red Sox issues resolved at once.