Biggest sting summed up in 2 words: four straight

Baseball

October 21, 2004|By LAURA VECSEY

NEW YORK - The new Bronx cheer, as heard last night at Yankee Stadium, broke the sound barrier: "Our pitching stinks!"

So much for the Game of the Century.

Game 7 of the American League Championship Series might have been the most anticipated game in baseball history, but it took less than a New York minute for Boston to fix that.

How much will George Steinbrenner pay free agent Derek Lowe, who pitched a one-hitter through six innings in Boston's overwhelming win - a performance that was second best only to Curt Schilling's heroic performance on one good ankle - the other being sewn up in sutures - in Game 6.

Best of all: Pedro Martinez came on in relief, the ultimate "I'm Your Daddy" to all of Gotham.

Yankees fans could barely muster a lusty boo for Pedro. They had other pitchers they hated more last night.

Maybe they'll boo Kevin Brown out of the Big Apple. Or maybe Steinbrenner will trade him for a million bucks or a bucket of balls, whatever comes first.

The Boss will have to do the dirty work himself, because surely Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is going to have to take the fall for this stunning implosion on the part of the 26-time World Series-champion Yankees, who are now four Octobers removed from their last World Series title.

Someone has to pay, right?

What other punishment can there be for a starting pitcher who lost Game 7 of the ALCS before it was five outs old and the GM who decided the surly Brown was the answer to the Yankees' rotation after stalwarts Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens left for Houston?

And while he's at it, Steinbrenner will probably put former Expos ace Javier Vasquez back on the market this winter, too.

Take him. Please. He's no longer welcome in the bitter land of the Bronx, not after Vasquez allowed slumping Red Sox hitter Johnny Damon to crank a grand slam in the second inning and a two-run homer in the fourth.

Damon, with his soft eyes and sweet demeanor, came back from oblivion to settle the age-old score for all those Red Sox players in the past who toiled and suffered under the burden of the Curse.

With two, crisp blasts over the right-field wall, Damon changed the karma of the Red Sox - forever.

He soothed the wounds and softened the sad, torturous memories of Red Sox Nation. He turned the tables on the Yankees and put the pinstriped players in a position to experience just a smidgeon of the misery so many Red Sox players have known.

In the annals of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, many have been expelled from the homeland for transgressions both mental and physical.

Mostly, they've been Red Sox.

In fact, they've only been Red Sox personnel who've suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune - players such as Billy Buckner and Calvin Schiraldi; managers such as Don Zimmer and Grady Little.

The sickness of being on the downtrodden and losing side of history prompted such great Red Sox warriors as Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens to succumb to pinstripes.

In the past, before Damon and Schilling and David Ortiz and Kevin Millar and Jason Varitek and Pedro Martinez, playing in the Bronx was the only way to win a World Series, so Boggs and Clemens broke with their native baseball places and came to the other side.

It was the only way - and the Evil Empire relished being the franchise for the poor, ring-less immigrants from New England.

Remember how Boggs cried and rode that horse around Yankee Stadium? That killed Red Sox Nation as much as Buckner and Little.

Remember how Clemens said he wants to go to the Hall of Fame as a Yankee? What a slap!

It's been 86 years of the Yankees sticking the Red Sox's noses in their own misery. And last night, the Yankees had no problem rubbing in all that painful history - before their own amazing pratfall in front of a watching world.

There was Bucky Dent out to throw the very special ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra ... as if invoking the spirit of the Yankees' 1978 one-game playoff win over the Red Sox was going to tilt the karma wheel in the Yankees' favor.

Wrong. Stunningly wrong.

By the time it was 6-0 in the top of the second, it was impossible to tell who was more stunned: the Yankees or their fans who jeered Brown and Vasquez, then slumped in their seats, unable to drink their increasingly flat beer.

Funny, but the Yankee fans were suddenly looking a lot like Red Sox fans. There was something about the incredulous expressions on their long, sad faces; the angina; the slumped shoulders, the tears emanating from the big eyes of small children in Derek Jeter shirts.

Payback's tough, especially when payback is as historic and amazing and incomparable as this unprecedented Red Sox victory.

It's one thing that the Red Sox beat the Yankees, fulfilling their sado-masochistic dream of getting a World Series berth by going through the most decorated team in baseball.

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