The 2004 Boston Red Sox will go down in New England sports lore as a team that had good team chemistry and rewrote the history books that year. Fresh off a heartbreaking 2003 ALCS loss to their division rival New York Yankees, the Red Sox and then-GM Theo Epstein made changes to their team before the '04 season by hiring Terry Francona as manager to replace Grady Little.
In an effort to bolster their rotation, they traded for D-Backs pitcher and former World Series MVP Curt Schilling in November 2003. The Sox had two dominant aces in Pedro Martinez and Schilling on their side and had a really good chance at beating the Bronx Bombers in the postseason. The Sox won 98 games in '04, good for second in their division and a Wild Card spot. They met the Anaheim Angels in the ALDS and swept them in three games, then proceeded to lose three in a row in the ALCS against the Yankees. But the Red Sox bounced back from a Game 3 blowout loss with four straight wins over their rivals, including a Game 7 blowout in Yankee Stadium and rode that momentum to a four-game sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals. Many books have been written since that historic game in St. Louis, so let's revisit that great Red Sox team and what some of their key contributors are doing today.
21 21. BRONSON ARROYO
Bronson Arroyo was not viewed as a star pitcher during his Red Sox tenure but had the potential to become a quality major league starter in the future. The Key West, Florida-born player spent three seasons for the Red Sox, winning more than 10 games in back-to-back seasons. But Arroyo received unlikely attention in the sixth game of the 2004 ALCS. He fielded a grounder from Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who swatted the ball from his glove in an effort to reach first and cut Boston's lead to 4-3. However, the umpires rightly called Rodriguez out for interference and New York fell 4-2 that night. They proceeded to drop Game 7 by a 10-3 score and became the only major league team to blow a 3-0 series lead. Arroyo left Boston for the Cincinnati Reds by the 2006 season, but his ERA hovered between 3.00 and 4.50 during his eight-season tenure there.
20 20. MARK BELLHORN
Mark Bellhorn began his career in 1997 with Oakland, then briefly joined the Chicago Cubs for two years and the Colorado Rockies. He came to Boston in time for the '04 season and posted decent offensive totals with 17 homers and 82 RBIs. Although Bellhorn struggled offensively in the early stages of their '04 playoff run to the World Series, he came through at the plate with back-to-back home runs in Games 6 and 7 at Yankee Stadium in the league championship series. Then in Game 1 of the World Series, Bellhorn connected on a two-run homer that broke a 9-9 tie between the Cardinals and Red Sox, which led to an 11-9 Red Sox victory. Bellhorn struggled through 85 games with the Red Sox in 2005, then played three of his last MLB seasons with the Yankees, Padres, and Reds until the conclusion of the 2007 season.
19 19. ORLANDO CABRERA
Orlando Cabrera had quite a significant impact at shortstop on that 2004 Red Sox team. Following an eight-year stint with the Montreal Expos, he came to Boston at the trade deadline in a three-team deal, as Boston GM Theo Epstein gave up fan favorite infielder Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs just to land Cabrera from the rebuilding Expos. Cabrera provided Boston with solid defense and a .294 average in 85 games. His consistent hitting continued in the postseason, collecting 11 RBIs which lifted the Red Sox to a WS title and an end to the Curse Of The Bambino.
18 18. JOHNNY DAMON
Johnny Damon became a fan favorite in Boston for his personality and proclaiming the 2004 Red Sox as "the Idiots". Damon played his first six years for the Kansas City Royals and a one-year stint in Oakland. He played his first season for Boston in 2002, posted decent RBI and stolen base totals from '02 to '05. But Damon placed himself on the map with an incredible Game 7 performance, hitting two home runs and six RBIs, including a grand slam that put the seventh game of the championship series out of reach for the Yankees, as the Red Sox won 10-3 and overcame an 0-3 series deficit. Damon added a solo leadoff homer during the series-clinching fourth game of the World Series versus the Cardinals and won the first World Series ring of his career. Damon seemingly broke the hearts of Boston fans when he signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the rival New York Yankees, and he helped them win their 27th championship in '09. He made brief stops in Detroit, Tampa, and Cleveland from 2010 to '12 and could not sign a deal with any club for 2013.
17 17. ALAN EMBREE
Alan Embree primarily pitched out of the bullpen for the Red Sox in '04, and is best known for recording the final out of the ALCS, retiring the Yankees' Ruben Sierra on a groundout that capped their seven-game series comeback. Embree started his career for the Cleveland Indians in 1992, where he helped the Tribe reach the '95 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. The left-hander coincidentally joined the Braves for two seasons, then joined the Diamondbacks, Giants, White Sox, and Padres before his Boston arrival in 2002. Embree made 65 appearances during 2003, his first full year with the Red Sox, and played in 71 games the following year despite possessing an ERA around 4.00. Embree had the opportunity to play in the 2004 postseason and had an improved ERA of 2.45 in 11 games, as he earned the first World Series ring of his professional career.
16 16. KEITH FOULKE
How could Red Sox fans forget about closer Keith Foulke and the impact he had in 2004? Foulke recorded the biggest out in their team's history in Game 4 of the World Series, a chopper back to the mound from the St. Louis Cardinals' Edgar Renteria, fielded the ball and threw it to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. That sealed a World Series win for the long-suffering franchise.
The former closer played for the Giants, White Sox, and Oakland A's until he signed a three-year deal with Boston following the '03 season. Foulke’s 43 saves for Oakland in ‘03 was a big factor in Theo Epstein acquiring him. He went 32 for 39 in save opportunities during his first year in Beantown but shined in the ‘04 postseason. Foulke posted three saves with a ridiculous ERA of 0.64. Despite his numerous contributions to the 2004 Red Sox that won it all, Foulke’s career went downhill. Foulke struggled in ’05 with a 5.91 ERA, then lost the closer's job to Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon in '06.
15 15. CURT LESKANIC
Curt Leskanic was a long-time relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, and Kansas City Royals until the Red Sox acquired him from KC back in June 2004. Leskanic played a huge role in Boston's 2004 ALCS comeback over New York during extra innings of Game 4. In the 11th inning, Leskanic escaped a bases-loaded jam from Mike Myers by retiring Yankees slugger Bernie Williams for the third out, then got around a leadoff single from Jorge Posada in the next inning by retiring three New York batters in a row. Those four outs set up David Ortiz's memorable walk-off homer off the Yankees' Paul Quantrill and seven more Red Sox wins in the process.
14 14. DEREK LOWE
Derek Lowe played a total of eight seasons with the Red Sox. He served as their closer from 1999-01, then landed on the starting rotation for the 2002 season. The Dearborn, Michigan native threw a no-hitter against Tampa Bay and won 21 games for the first time in '02, but Red Sox fans will remember him best for his significant impact on the mound in the 2004 postseason.
Lowe picked up three wins and made three starts in the '04 playoffs. He pitched one inning of relief and won Game 3 of the ALDS vs. Anaheim, started Games 4 and 7 of the ALCS vs. New York and the fourth World Series-clinching game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Lowe pitched seven shutout innings against the NL champs with four strikeouts, which proved to be enough for the Sox to win 3-0 and the Commissioner's Trophy. Lowe did not return to Boston and joined the L.A. Dodgers for a few seasons, then had brief stints in Atlanta, Cleveland and with the Yankees.
13 13. PEDRO MARTINEZ
A beloved pitcher to the Red Sox fanbase, Pedro Martinez had a memorable tenure in Beantown. The Dominican-born Martinez began his big league career with the L.A. Dodgers in 1992, then joined the Montreal Expos from 1994 to '97, and came to Boston in 1998.
Martinez may be remembered for allowing three runs in a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the 2003 ALCS vs. New York, but he rebounded in the '04 season with 16 wins. Despite his shaky postseason statistics that year, Martinez shined in his only World Series start for Boston. He tossed seven innings of shutout ball and struck out six Cardinals batters in a winning effort that gave the Sox a 3-0 series lead. His teammates did the rest the next night, winning the only championship of his illustrious career. Martinez returned to the National League for the next five seasons, playing for the New York Mets from 2005-08 and the Philadelphia Phillies. He lost two World Series starts against the New York Yankees, who went on to win their 27th title.
12 12. DOUG MIENTKIEWICZ
A veteran first baseman for seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Doug Mientkiewicz will be remembered for catching the final out in Game 4 of the '04 World Series at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis. That moment made generations of Red Sox fans celebrate the team's first title in 86 years. Even though Mientkiewicz's Red Sox stint lasted 49 games that season, he went on to record two of the franchise's biggest outs in the ALCS and WS over a decade ago. However, his defensive contributions were overshadowed by the 2004 WS ball, as he jokingly mentioned to a Boston Globe writer two months after the series that the ball became his retirement fund. Mientkiewicz received bad publicity for the comment, but the Red Sox decided to donate the historic ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
11 11. KEVIN MILLAR
Best known for his Cowboy Up mantra and quirky personality, Kevin Millar holds a special place in the hearts of Red Sox fans for the impact he made on their '04 team. Although Millar wasn't considered a star player by any stretch, he was a smart batter. A prime example of that happened during their 9th inning comeback in Game 4 of the ALCS against New York at Fenway Park. With Boston down 4-3, he drew a crucial walk from the great Mariano Rivera which represented the tying run. Dave Roberts replaced Millar as a pinch-runner, stole 2nd base past the tag of Derek Jeter, and Bill Mueller delivered with a clutch RBI that scored Roberts and tied it at 4. David Ortiz led the charge with a 12-inning two-run homer that kept Boston's WS hopes alive.
10 10. BILL MUELLER
Bill Mueller played his first seven years in the National League for the Giants and Cubs, then moved east to Boston for the '03 campaign. The move proved to be fruitful for Mueller, setting career highs in home runs and RBIs his first year with the Sox. Even though a knee injury limited the second baseman to 110 games in 2004, he became an unlikely hero for Boston in a must-win Game 4 of the ALCS. With Boston trailing 4-3, he laced a 9th-inning RBI single past the glove of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera that scored the tying run from second. That was his only RBI of that series, but it lifted Boston to four straight victories over the mighty Yankees. Mueller earned his first World Series ring following Boston's sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, then played two more seasons with the Red Sox and Dodgers before calling it a career in 2006.
9 9. TROT NIXON
8 8. DAVID ORTIZ
Affectionately known as "Big Papi", David Ortiz etched his name in Red Sox lore for hitting a pair of walk-off homers in Game 3 of the ALDS over Anaheim and Game 4 of the '04 ALCS against the New York Yankees. He followed up those heroics in Game 5 with a walk-off single which forced a Game 6 in the Bronx. Those clutch moments cemented Ortiz's status as one of baseball's prolific postseason hitters in Red Sox history. On top of his playoff contributions, the former Red Sox designated hitter is the owner ten 100-plus RBI seasons, seven Silver Slugger awards and three World Series titles in 2004, '07, and '13.
7 7. MANNY RAMIREZ
How could this list be complete without former Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez? Ramirez had emerged as a star with the Cleveland Indians during the mid to late 1990s, then became a member of the Red Sox in 2001. Ramirez posted ridiculous offensive numbers and made multiple All-Star appearances over eight seasons in Boston, but the impact he made on the '04 Red Sox cannot be overlooked. He crushed 43 home runs that season and followed it up with a .350 postseason average in 14 games. Ramirez won World Series MVP for his offensive efforts, homering once with four runs batted in through four games against St. Louis. Ramirez helped the Red Sox win another championship in 2007, but despite his on-field success, the team had its issues with him off it. A pair of trade requests along with a perceived lack of hustle during games led to Boston trading him to the LA Dodgers in July 2008. He spent three seasons in Dodger blue, then continued with the White Sox and Rays until retiring in 2011 for failing a drug test thanks to his use of a PED.
6 6. POKEY REESE
Red Sox fans might remember former infielder Pokey Reese for recording the final out on an infield groundball to end a blowout Game 7 and their epic 2004 ALCS comeback over the Yankees. Reese began his career in 1997 for the Cincinnati Reds with future Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, then had a breakout '99 season offensively with the team. Reese found himself out of Cincinnati after the 2001 season. They traded him to Boston that year, then immediately released him. Reese then signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates for two years until the '04 offseason. The Red Sox gave Reese a second chance to join the organization that snubbed him initially and played 96 games in 2004. He circled the bases for his only inside-the-park homer during his brief Red Sox tenure, then appeared in four World Series contests as a defensive sub for Mark Bellhorn.
5 5. DAVE ROBERTS
4 4. CURT SCHILLING
Curt Schilling became a Red Sox legend during his first season in Boston thanks to a gutsy performance in the sixth game of the ALCS vs. New York with a bloody sock, which gave Boston the momentum they needed to force Game 7 with a 4-2 win. Schilling came to the Red Sox through a trade from Arizona, where he pitched the D-Backs to a World Series triumph in 2001. Schilling had the benefit of having fellow ace Pedro Martinez in the Red Sox rotation and manager Terry Francona who previously managed him in Philly. He compiled 21 wins in over 200 innings pitched on the mound that year and picked up three postseason wins, including his memorable Game 6 start vs. the Yankees and a Game 2 WS victory over St. Louis. Schilling won his second championship of his career and added another three seasons later. There is no doubt the Red Sox would not have won two World Series titles in the 2000s without Schilling, especially in their memorable '04 ride to a championship.
3 3. MIKE TIMLIN
Toronto Blue Jays fans may remember former reliever Mike Timlin for recording the final out in Game 6 of the '92 World Series against the NL champion Atlanta Braves. Following a seven-year stint in Toronto that netted him two titles, he made stops in Seattle, Baltimore, St. Louis and Philadelphia until he joined the Boston Red Sox in 2003. At the age of 37, Timlin made a whopping 76 appearances out of the bullpen in the '04 campaign. He appeared in 11 of the Red Sox's 14 postseason games over a decade ago, posting a 6.17 ERA but notched 7 strikeouts.
2 2. JASON VARITEK
A long-time catcher for 14 seasons, Jason Varitek played his entire career for the Red Sox. Varitek provided the key to their success in 2004 with his on-field impact and leadership that began in a bench-clearing brawl during a July game vs. the Yankees. Varitek started the fight when he placed his mitt towards the face of Alex Rodriguez after Bronson Arroyo beaned him with a fastball. That incident led to a walk-off win for Boston and surged in the second half of 2004. The switch-hitting catcher had a fine '04 campaign with 18 homers and 73 RBIs and had a solid postseason offensively. Varitek collected 11 RBI and started in 13 playoff games behind the plate, eventually winning his first World Series championship.
1 1. TIM WAKEFIELD
A long-time knuckleballer and two-time World Series champion with the Red Sox, Tim Wakefield played 17 of his 19 seasons in Boston. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992 and came to the Red Sox in 1995. At one point, Wakefield picked up 10 or more wins for the Sox from '95 to '98. Wakefield had a decent 2004 season and a very poor postseason with a 9.82 ERA but helped the Red Sox win their first title since 1918. Wakefield also contributed to the '07 Red Sox team that won their second world championship with another strong season, racking up 17 victories.
He retired in 2011 with exactly 200 career wins in 627 appearances. Wakefield currently works as a studio analyst for NESN during Red Sox telecasts.
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