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#2 Greatest HR in Yankee History

November 12, 2012
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Boone floats around the bases as his team and city celebrate around him (Al Tielemans)

Aaron BooneALCS Game 7 | vs. Boston Red Sox | 10/17/2003

You’re my sleeper pick this series to do something.

| Assistant coach Willie Randolph to Aaron Boone before the series |

After 6 games in the American League Championship Series, that included a vicious brawl in Game 3, the Yankees and Red Sox were deadlocked at 3-3.  Aces Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, the owners of a combined 9 Cy Young Awards, faced off for the 3rd time in ALCS history, each claiming a previous victory over the other.

After a quiet first inning, the Red Sox put the 56,279 at the Stadium on edge with a 3-run second, courtesy of a 2-run home run by Trot Nixon and a throwing error by Enrique Wilson at 3rd base.  The Sox tacked on another run in the 4th on a 1st pitch home run by Kevin Millar to give Boston a stunning 4-0 lead.

In the 5th the Yanks finally got off the mat.  To that point Martinez was at his dominant best, limiting New York to 2 hits through 4 innings, but Jason Giambi cracked the 1st pitch of the 5th to deep right-center, cutting the deficit to 4-1.  The designated hitter struck again in the 7th, tagging a 2-2 pitch for his 2nd home run, but it was all Pedro would allow in the inning.  When David Ortiz hit David Wells‘ 1st relief pitch of the game over the right field wall for a home run, hope began to wane in the Bronx.

As the game moved to the 8th, Martinez induced Nick Johnson to pop out, brining the Red Sox within 5 outs of their 1st World Series berth since 1986.  5 outs away from perhaps ending the Curse of the Bambino, from dispelling the demons of Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner; but standing between the Sox and the Promised Land was the heart of the Yankee order, and no part of that heart was more vital than Derek Jeter.  The newly minted Captain doubled on an 0-2 pitch to right field, bringing up Bernie Williams who, after falling behind with 2 strikes, laced a single to center, sending Jeter home with the Yanks’ 3rd run.  When Hideki Matsui followed with an 0-2 ground-rule double, manager Grady Little emerged from the Boston dugout to, presumably, remove Martinez from the game after a gutsy effort.  But in a move that would be scrutinized for the rest of his life, he left Martinez in to face Jorge Posada with runners at 2nd and 3rd and a season hanging in the balance.

For the 4th straight time Martinez got to 2 strikes on a Yankee batter, only to come up short.  The Yankee catcher dunked a 2-2 pitch for a double to shallow centerfield, between a triangle of Johnny Damon, Nomar Garciaparra, and Todd Walker, that tied the game at 5, chased the former Cy Young-winner from the game, and rejuvenated a packed house at the Stadium.  The Yankees did not score again in the 8th, but a subtle managerial decision by Joe Torre would lead to one of the most important moments in Yankee history.  Ruben Sierra drew a 2-out intentional walk from Mike Timlin that brought a man named Aaron Boone into the game as a pinch runner.  After being acquired by the Yankees from Cincinnati midway through the season, Boone saw action in 54 games for New York and batted a meager .254 with 6 home runs.  If Torre had been asked before the game who the hero of game 7 would be, he may have come up with 24 names before mentioning his part-time 3rd baseman; but therein lies the magic of October.

In the 9th, Mariano Rivera began one of his greatest postseason performances by holding the Sox scoreless, while his counterpart moved the game into extra innings with a 1-2-3 inning.  In the 10th, Rivera worked around a 2-out double by Ortiz for a 2nd scoreless inning, while Tim Wakefield faced the minimum in the bottom half.  In Rivera’s 3rd inning of work he was at his sharpest, knifing through Nixon, Bill Mueller, and Doug Mirabelli on 11 pitches with 2 strikeouts, lowering his career postseason ERA to 0.75.  In his first 3 -inning stint since 1996 Rivera was flawless, snuffing out Boston’s last chance to stave off elimination.  The finest closer in baseball history would go on to nab the ALCS MVP award.

In the bottom of the 11th Aaron Boone got his first at bat after entering the game as a pinch runner in the 8th.  He had just 2 hits in 16 ALCS at bats and a lone RBI, but in October it takes just 1 pitch to become a legend, and 1 pitch was all he needed.  On Wakefield’s only pitch of the 11th inning he hung a knuckleball that Boone launched deep into the left field seats, propelling the Yankees to their 39th pennant and the Red Sox to their 85th straight year of disappointment.

Boone hits it to deep left!… that might send the Yankees to the World Series… BOONE a hero in game 7!

| Joe Buck, Fox announcer |

They had played 26 times in 2003.  They had brawled in Game 3.  They had battled beyond midnight in Game 7.  They had used every bullet in their arsenals.  And it all resulted in a 6-5 Yankee win, one of the greatest games in baseball history.

A dejected Wakefield dropped his head and walked off the mound, a disbelieving Martinez cinched his sweatshirt hood closed, an exhausted Rivera collapsed on the mound, the stands boiled, the Yankee men turned into boys, and the greatest chapter in the storied rivalry of the Yanks and Sox ended with an exclamation point by an unlikely author.

You always emulate these moments in your backyard.  I still can’t put the into words… I’m floating…

| Aaron Boone |

See the story of Boone’s historic home run here.

See the MLB Network rank this game as the #6 game of all-time here.

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