Boone's blast part of Yankees history
Walk-off homer in Game 7 of 2003 ALCS a memorable knock
WASHINGTON -- The Yankees invited Nationals infielder Aaron Boone to attend the final game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, but he declined the invitation because of prior commitments, primary among them playing an afternoon game against the Padres at Nationals Park.
There is a good reason New York invited Boone. He had one of the biggest postseason hits in Yankee Stadium history. In Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, Boone's home run in the bottom of the 11th inning helped the Yankees defeat the Red Sox, 6-5, for their 39th pennant.
Before the series started between the two rivals, then-Yankees third-base coach Willie Randolph told Boone he would do something big against Boston. Boone had certainly proved he was capable of doing something big, having driven in a combined 96 runs that season for the Reds and Yankees.
"[Randolph] came up to me and said, 'You are my pick in the series,'" Boone recalled.
At first, it didn't appear anything would happen for Boone, as he'd gone 3-for-20 in the series prior to Game 7. To make matters worse, Boone, the Yanks' regular third baseman, started Game 7 on the bench because Enrique Wilson had better success against Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez in the past.
When Boone entered the game in the ninth inning, Randolph reminded him of his prediction. Boone didn't get his first at-bat of the game until the 11th inning, but he made Randolph look good when he did.
The score was tied at 5 when Boone led off the inning, with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound. In the on-deck circle, the right-handed-hitting Boone had decided to take the first pitch, but he changed his mind as he approached the batter's box.
Boone's instincts proved to be correct. He hit the first pitch into the left-field stands for the game-ending home run. Before he reached first base, Boone raised his arms, knowing that the ball was out of the park.
"I didn't have a lot of success off Wakefield. We faced him a lot down the stretch that year," Boone said. "The ball was out and over the plate, and I was able to pull it out. I guess Willie was right, in a way."
After touching home plate, Boone had a tough time putting his feelings into words.
"It's one of those memories for me that is very foggy and hazy," Boone said. "There are things in your life that you can picture and remember vividly. Certainly, that is not one of them. I find out more from watching the clip and see my reaction. It was raw emotions and [a loss] for words. It was pretty neat."
Boone's time with the Yankees was short-lived. In January 2004, Boone injured his left knee in a pickup basketball game that would cause him to miss that season, putting the wheels in motion for the Yankees to acquire Alex Rodriguez.
On March 1, 2004, the Yankees gave Boone his unconditional release. Four years later, Boone feels no ill will toward the Yankees. In fact, he would like to acquire a seat from Yankee Stadium to put in his bar at home.
"I think that would be pretty cool," Boone said. "I'm going to see what I can muster up."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.