Carlton Fisk's famous home run will lose its top spot if Boston closes out the World Series. (Photo: SI)
The Boston Red Sox have gone back to Fenway Park with a 3-games-to-2 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. With one more win, they will clinch the championship at home for the first time since 1918.
For all of the Red Sox' postseason success in recent years, a great deal of it has come on the road, including their World Series victories in 2004 (St. Louis) and 2007 (Denver), the completion of their comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series (New York), and, a bit further back, Dave Henderson's series-changing home run with the Sox one strike from elimination in the 1986 ALCS (Anaheim). Even their 1975 and 1946 pennants were clinched on the road (Oakland and Cleveland, respectively).
The Sox clinched the 1903, 1912, 1916 and 1918 titles at home but only two of those came at Fenway Park. In the first of those four, which was also the inaugural edition of the World Series in the Modern Era, the decisive game was played at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds, nine years before Fenway opened. In the 1916 Series, the Sox played their home games at the new Braves Field because of its larger capacity. The two World Series clinchers that did occur at Fenway, in 1912 and 1918, were sparsely attended due to a variety of controversies. Just 17,034 came to the final game in 1912 (compared to more than 30,000 in Boston's other home games in that Series), and a mere 15,238 were at Fenway when the Red Sox wrapped up the title six years later.
Here, then, are the Red Sox' five best October moments at Fenway Park since they last clinched a World Series. A win on Wednesday or Thursday would shoot to the top of this list:
1. 1975 World Series Game 6: Carlton Fisk's walk-off home run
Fisk's home run is an easy choice for the top spot here, but it has unfairly overshadowed an equally important home run by Bernie Carbo from earlier in the same game. Boston was four outs away from losing the 1975 World Series to the Reds when Carbo hit a game-tying three-run home run to centerfield.
That helped push the game to extra innings where Fisk would hit his homer in the 12th that had all the makings of an instantly unforgettable blast. It was hit by a future Hall of Famer, a hard-nosed catcher and native New Englander who was beloved by Red Sox fans. It clanged off the leftfield foul pole above the Green Monster, leaving doubt until that moment as to whether it was fair or foul. It had Fisk famously waving the ball fair as he hopped down the first-base line, and, of course, it was a walk-off game-winner that put Boston one-game away from its first championship since 1918.
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2. 2004 ALCS Game 4: Dave Roberts steal and David Ortiz's home run
If Fisk's home run was more important in the moment than it proved to be over time (the Red Sox lost Game 7 and the Series), Roberts' steal was the opposite. No one, target="_blank">not even Kevin Millar, could have known that it was the turning point in the history of the franchise. Beginning with that game, the Red Sox won eight straight times that postseason, stealing the pennant from the rival Yankees and then sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series en route to their first of two titles in four years.
As Millar came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Boston was down to its final three outs against the Yankees in the ALCS. Mariano Rivera was on the mound for New York protecting a 4-3 lead but walked Millar on five pitches. Roberts pinch-ran and, with everyone knowing he was going, stole second base just ahead of Jorge Posada's throw and Derek Jeter's tag. Bill Mueller then singled Roberts home to tie the game and David Ortiz won it with a walk-off home run off Paul Quantrill in the bottom of the 12th. The Red Sox went on to become the first, and still only, major league team to win a series they had once trailed 3-games-to-0, and, after 86 years of postseason futility, won the World Series one week later.
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3. 1967 pennant clincher
Heading into the 1967 season, the Red Sox had won just one pennant since 1918. That came in 1946, 21 years earlier, and Boston hadn't even had a winning season since 1958.
In '67, the Sox were embroiled in a four-team race for the American League pennant. On the penultimate day of the season, the White Sox and Tigers lost while the Red Sox beat the Twins 6-4 at Fenway, allowing Boston to pull into a first-place tie with Minnesota. Detroit fell a half-game out after being swept in a doubleheader that day while Chicago was eliminated.
On the season's final day, Oct. 1, the Red Sox needed a win and a loss by the Tigers, who were playing another twinbill, to clinch the pennant. That's exactly what happened. Jim Lonborg, who would be named the American League Cy Young Award winner after the season, pitched a complete game and was carried off the field after Boston beat the Twins 5-3. The Tigers soon lost the second game of their doubleheader at home to the Angels, thus delivering the pennant to the Red Sox.
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4. 1986 ALCS Game 7
Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS, an 8-1 blowout win over the Angels, doesn't rank among the top five games of that stirring postseason for most fans, but, given that the actual securing of the pennant in '67 occurred not with a Boston win but with the Tigers' loss later that day, this stands as the only time the Red Sox clinched a pennant or championship on the field at Fenway Park between 1918 and 2007.
The series wasn't nearly as lopsided as the final score of the deciding game. After splitting the first two games at home, Boston fell behind 3-games-to-1 in California and was one out away from elimination in the ninth inning of Game 5 when Henderson hit his famous home run off Angels closer Donnie Moore. The Red Sox ultimately won that game in the 11th inning, sending the series back to Fenway. A 10-4 win in Game 6 evened the series, and the Sox won the decisive seventh game behind Roger Clemens and Calvin Schiraldi, clinching their first pennant since 1975. Schiraldi struck out the side in the ninth, getting pinch-hitter Jerry Narron on three pitches for the final out.
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5. 2007 ALCS Game 7
Clinching the pennant in 2007, just three years after actually winning the World Series, wasn't as big a deal for the Red Sox and their fans as it was in 1967, 1986 or 2004. Not only was this the shortest span between Red Sox pennants since the 1910s, but after having finally snapped their 86-year title drought in 2004, even their Fall Classic sweep of the Rockies lacked the magnitude of their previous championship.
Still, as in 1986 and 2004, winning the pennant meant overcoming a huge deficit in the ALCS. After winning Game 1 in a 10-3 landslide, Boston dropped three straight to the Indians and faced elimination in Game 5 in Cleveland. The Sox broke open a close game late to win 7-1 and headed back to Fenway down 3-games-to-2. Just as they had done 21 years earlier, the Red Sox rolled to victories in Games 6 and 7, this time by a combined score of 23-4. The final out came when Coco Crisp tracked down Casey Blake's deep drive into the centerfield triangle off Jonathan Papelbon.
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