10/21/2004 1:00 AM ET
2004 ALCS ranks among best ever
Seven-game classic had a little bit of everything
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
|Was the 2004 ALCS, won by the Red Sox, the best ever? You decide. (Amy Sancetta/AP)
NEW YORK -- Once Aaron Boone's 11th-inning home run cleared the left-field wall in Yankee Stadium last year and the Yankees celebrated yet another narrow escape from the American League Championship Series, it didn't seem like any LCS could top the seven games between New York and the Boston Red Sox in 2003.
Then this year happened.
The 2004 ALCS had it all, with riveting theater at every turn and the astonishing result: Not only did the Red Sox beat the Yankees, but they spotted New York a 3-0 lead in the series, then rallied to take the next four, the first time it has happened in baseball history.
Game 1 was weird, with the Yankees building an 8-0 lead, then holding on for dear life in a 10-7 win.
Game 2 was intense, with John Olerud's two-run homer breaking up a pitchers' duel to give the Yankees a 3-1 victory.
Game 3 was flat-out ugly for the Sox, who suffered their worst loss in postseason history, a 19-8 thrashing in their home park.
Games 4 and 5 were surreal, both extra-inning, five-hour-plus affairs that seemed like carbon copies of one another when David Ortiz won Game 4 with a homer in the 11th and Game 5 with a single in the 14th.
Game 6 brought the controversial and the sublime. Two reversals of pivotal calls by umpires and a gutty performance by a hobbled Curt Schilling led to a 4-2 Boston win that made them the first baseball team to ever force a Game 7 after losing the first three.
And Game 7 was a rout, with Johnny Damon's two home runs -- one a grand slam -- finally burying the Yankees for the winter in a 10-3 romp.
| POLL ::::::
It was a great, memorable seven games. But was this year's ALCS the best LCS ever?
First, we'll analyze 10 of the series that have been considered the best in baseball history since the inception of the League Championship Series in 1969. Then you decide for yourself by voting in our poll.
Here's an unofficial historical top 10 before this year, in no particular order:
1. Red Sox 4, California Angels 3, 1986 ALCS:
The Angels shot out to a 3-1 lead and had the Sox within one strike of elimination in the ninth inning of Game 5 in Anaheim Stadium. But Henderson's homer off Donnie Moore prolonged the game, which the Sox won in 11 innings. The shell-shocked Angels went back to Fenway Park and lost Games 6 and 7 by a combined score of 18-5.
2. Atlanta Braves 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 3, 1992 NLCS:
In the second straight seven-game LCS between these two teams, the Braves shocked the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 when pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera's single scores lead-footed Sid Bream.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers 4, New York Mets 3, 1988 NLCS:
Everybody remembers Kirk Gibson's incredible game-winning homer off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the '88 World Series, but Gibson wouldn't have gotten his chance if not for Orel Hershiser's dominant pitching and Mike Scioscia's game-tying home run off Doc Gooden in Game 4.
4. Yankees 4, Red Sox 3, 2003 ALCS:
Divisional rivals made it to Game 7 after six intense games that included a brawl in Fenway in which Sox starter Pedro Martinez threw 72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground. In Game 7, the Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit, tied it at 5 with a three-run eighth, got three scoreless innings of relief from closer Mariano Rivera, and won on Boone's famous homer in the 11th.
5. Florida Marlins 4, Chicago Cubs 3, 2003 NLCS:
Steve Bartman, anyone? Who could forget the Marlins' stunning feat of coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win, beating Cubs aces Kerry Wood and Mark Prior in the process? And who could forget Game 6 in Wrigley Field, when the Marlins, trailing 3-0 in the eighth inning, took advantage of an Alex Gonzalez error and fan Bartman's interference on a sure popout to score eight runs and force Game 7?
6. Mets 4, Houston Astros 2, 1986 NLCS:
Known for the pitching mastery of Astros right-hander Mike Scott (two wins) and the longest game -- innings-wise -- in LCS history, the series was clinched in the Game 6 marathon won by the Mets, 7-6, in the 16th.
7. Yankees 3, Kansas City Royals 2, 1976 ALCS:
There's only one moment needed to illustrate the lasting power of this series: Yankees first baseman Chris Chambliss launching the series-winning homer in Yankee Stadium, then getting mobbed by euphoric fans as he rounded the bases.
8. Dodgers 3, Montreal Expos 2, 1981 NLCS:
Monday, Monday, so good to the Dodgers. At the end of a strike-shortened season, Rick Monday won Game 5 and the series with a ninth-inning homer that preserved super-rookie Fernando Valenzuela's gem.
9. Milwaukee Brewers 3, Angels 2, 1982 ALCS:
"Harvey's Wallbangers," the rough-hewn Brew Crew sluggers who played for manager Harvey Kuenn, showed they didn't have any quit in them by storming back from an 0-2 deficit to win in five, powered by Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas, Ben Ogilvie and 1982 AL MVP Robin Yount.
10. Braves 4, Mets 2, 1999 NLCS:
The Braves cruised to a 3-0 lead before the Mets' mojo kicked in, particularly in Game 5, a 15-inning epic decided by Robin Ventura's "grand slam" single, a bases-loaded shot over the wall that was never called a home run because Ventura's mob of teammates didn't allow him to make it around the bases. The series ended excruciatingly for the comeback Mets in Game 6 when Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded in the 11th inning.
So which one is the best ever?
Cast your vote.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.