Bomber Bites With Jumping Joe–Remembering Aaron Boone’s Blast


Eleven years ago yesterday was the greatest baseball game I have ever attended in person, Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.  I was a sophomore in college and my buddy and I were able to score tickets in the bleachers, the last row in the bleachers.  We were just happy to be there.  Old Yankee Stadium was jumping that night.

The Red Sox looked good that season, and they had the best pitcher in the game starting, Pedro Martinez.  But Pedro had always suffered against the Yankees. The old line on him was that he diminished a ton after a hundred pitches. He would give a great hundred pitches but he needed to be taken out at that point whether it was the fourth inning or the eighth. This was known to everyone in the stadium that night. Everyone except Grady Little of course.

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Any Game 7 in which the winner would advance to the World Series would be full of tension, but this was Yankees-Red Sox with the Curse of the Bambino still in full effect. The game was close the whole way through and all 55,000+hung on every pitch.  It was something to behold.

The game was saved for the Yankees when Mike Mussina came out of the bullpen and delivered three scoreless innings in relief of Roger Clemens.  Then Grady Little made his famous mistake by leaving Martinez in the game to face Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada.  Matsui doubled and then Posada tied the game with a bloop double that resulted in the most deafening cheer of pure joy from a crowd that had been on edge for hours.  It is still the loudest noise I have ever heard.

Mandatory Credit: Chad R. MacDonald.

The greatest postseason pitcher of all time, Mariano Rivera, then came into the game.  As a Yankee fan, I can tell you that there was no greater sense of calm and serenity in sports than seeing Mariano take the mound.  Nothing is rushed and he gives off an aura of calm.  As a fan you just get the feeling that everything will be ok.  He is to Yankee fans what the blanket is to Linus in Peanuts.  All Mariano did that night was put together one of the finest performances of his storied career.  He threw 46 pitches over three shutout innings to eventually pick up the win.

The win of course came when a relatively light hitting third baseman led off the 11th inning against Tim Wakefield.  Aaron Boone was acquired at the trade deadline to try and sure up third base for the Yankees which had been a bit of a black hole since Scott Brosius’s retirement.  He came into the game as a pinch runner for Ruben Sierra earlier.  I may live to be a 100, but I will never forget the crack of Boone’s bat and watching the ball soar into the Bronx night landing two sections over in the left field stands.  I will never forget 55,000+ people, every single one of which still at the ballpark, yelling, screaming and jumping up and down.

Most of the game itself has been forgotten.  Most don’t remember that Moose had to relieve an ineffective Clemens in the fourth innings and shut down the Red Sox for three innings.   Most have forgotten that Jason Giambi was dropped to seventh in the order by manager Joe Torre for that game and he responded by hitting two home runs off Pedro.  Even less remember that it was David Wells who allowed the Red Sox to score their final run.  But everyone remember the performances by Mariano and Boone to send the Yankees to the World Series.

The Yankees lost that World Series to the recently retired Josh Beckett and the Florida Marlins.  But the World Series was almost an afterthought that season.  The battle between the Red Sox and Yankees in that ALCS was legendary.  And it all ended on the swing of Aaron Boone, as he proliferated the Curse of the Bambino for one more season and forever secured a place in Yankee lore despite playing only 54 games in pinstripes.  And eleven years later, and hundreds of games later, it still remains the greatest game I have ever seen.