From the Archives: 2004 World Champion Red Sox

From the Archives: 2004 World Champion Red Sox

Since it’s almost MLB playoff time, we thought it would be good to visit the archives for our story about the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. In the story, we hear from ace Curt Schilling as he explains that Game 6 of the ALCS was about God, not a bloody sock. We also hear from Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin and the chaplain of the Red Sox, Walt Day, who talked about the spiritual influence Dave Roberts had on the locker room.

Curt Schilling stood outside the Boston Red Sox’ clubhouse following Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, talking on camera to Kenny Albert, a Fox television reporter.

Schilling had just given up four hits over seven innings against the New York Yankees, helping the Red Sox win the game 4-2, forcing Game 7. With the victory, the Red Sox moved one win away from the most shocking comeback in baseball history.

Schilling's bloody sock during Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS

Schilling ignored the excruciating pain in his right ankle, pain that was caused by dislocation of the tendons around the outside of his ankle and the stitches inserted to stabilize them. When Albert asked Schilling how he was able to persevere, the reporter was surprised with Schilling’s response.

“It’s all right,” the Boston ace said. “I became a Christian 7 years ago, and I have never in my life been touched by God like I was tonight. I tried to go out an do it myself in Game 1, and you saw what happened. Tonight was God’s work, no question.”

It was a coming out, of sorts, for Schilling, who really started to grow in Christ during the 2004 season.

“There are so many times in the past that I talked to my teammates and other people about my faith and my relationship with Christ, but never on the public stage like that,” Schilling admits. “I know I’ve had opportunities.”

“Going into the game that day, I realized that if it came out right, if I had success that night, there was going to be a lot of attention on my medical situation. I felt like I was going to have the opportunity that I had before but I had passed up so many times to glorify the Lord’s name.”

“One of the things that made me realize that I had so many opportunities before and had passed them up was I got an e-mail not too long after that game from a Christian friend. He said, ‘My wife didn’t know you were a Christian.’ It hit home at that time. I had passed up way too many chances, and I wasn’t going to do that again.”

Walt Day, Baseball Chapel leader for the Boston Red Sox, believes that pivotal Game 6 was a life-changing event for Schilling. “It was a situation when he learned what it really meant to turn it over to Christ and not to try and be in control himself,” Day says. “He told me that was kind of a surreal experience for him. He had never felt like that before.”

In case you have been living in a cave since early October, here’s a quick recap of baseball’s 2004 postseason. The Yankees led the Red Sox three games to none in the ALCS. Trailing in Game 4, the Red Sox tied the score off superstar closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth and sent the game into extra innings, where they won in 14 innings.

The Red Sox won in 12 innings the next night and sent the series back to New York trailing three games to two. When Schilling shut down the Yankees in Game 6, it evened the series and set up the first time in baseball history that a team overcame a 3-0 deficit in the postseason, as the Red Sox won Game 7, 10-3.

To cap things off, the Red Sox rolled past the St. Louis Cardinals, the team with the best record in baseball in 2004, in four straight games to claim Boston’s first World Series title since 1918.

It was a dream that had been floating around New England for the last 86 years. It wasn’t one that was going to die easily or be accomplished without fanfare.

“It’s hard to state the intensity that the fans of New England put on the Red Sox unless you’ve lived here,” Day says. “I doubt there’s anywhere else in baseball, or in any other sport, that’s anything like this.

“It’s an intergenerational thing. You have grandfathers and fathers and sons passing it on. I’ve heard a bunch of people say they were afraid their father was going to die before the Red Sox won. How many other places would you hear that?

“There’s also tremendous media coverage here, with talk radio and newspapers. It’s not just Boston; it’s all of New England. You have Hartford and Providence and other cities. I don’t know how to put it into words, but the intensity of the fandom is without match.”

With the immense pressure of an entire region resting on their shoulders, it might come as a surprise to hear how the Red Sox were able to overcome the adversity and finally win.

“We relaxed and let our talent take over,” Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin says. “We just decided to go out and play and have fun. That’s exactly what we did, time and time again. We kept hearing that we had no chance. Nobody had ever come from 3-0 down.

“Our attitude was, ‘Let’s win one.’ The next day it was, ‘Let’s win another one.’ We went back to New York and had a chance to do something historic. We won that one and said, ‘It’s never been done before, but let’s see what we can do.’ The pressure was all on them, not on us.”

Schilling’s comment on live television after Game 6 was one of several indications that the chapel program the Day conducts for the Red Sox was having an impact. And Day believes that something he had been preaching all season long had something to do with the attitude of the Red Sox when they were down 3-zip.

Day asked linebacker Don Davis of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to come in and speak to the Red Sox early in the season and then again when the pressure was starting to build toward the end.

Davis told the Red Sox that he had been through the pressure at the Super Bowl a couple of times. He encouraged the players to keep their focus on the Lord in the midst of pressure. He told them it would be great to win the World Series, but it probably wouldn’t be as satisfying if they didn’t keep their focus on the Lord and seek to glorify Him in the midst of it.

“If you learn to delight in Him, you can keep putting out, even when the odds are against you, like when you’re down, 3-0,” Day says now, echoing Davis’ thoughts. “Or it can help you keep a level head when you get up 3-0, like we did in the St. Louis series. You realize that glorifying Him is a constant motivation; it’s not based on circumstances. I think that can give you more mental toughness.”

When the Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees, Timlin said that, in spite of the “let’s relax” attitude, there still wasn’t a lot of cheer in the Boston clubhouse.

“We were not feeling great about our chances when we were down 3-0,” he says. “But we just tried to win one and take it from there. It showed what kind of team we had because we fought through 14 innings. The next day, we fought through 12 innings. We very well could have given up, but we didn’t.”

The key to the comeback may have been a walk and a stolen base, hardly the trademark of either the Yankees or Red Sox in their storied histories. Kevin Millar walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 with the Red Sox trailing 4-3 in the game and 3-0 in the series. After evading three pick-off moves by Rivera, pinch runner Dave Roberts stole second, and then he scored on a single up the middle by Bill Mueller.

“Dave Roberts brought a spark prior to that stolen base,” Timlin says. “When he was traded over here, his persona was awesome. He came over from LA and fit in immediately.  He’s a great guy, a great Christian, an awesome family guy. His whole drive was to be part of a team, but he didn’t want to push anybody out of the way. He looked for opportunities to help people all the time, on and off the field.”

Day says that Roberts was a great example to his teammates about how to live an unselfish life.

“Dave was used to starting when he got here,” Day says. “He had such a good attitude about taking the role he was given, even though he would have preferred to be playing more. He wanted to be ready when he had his moment. He had one really big moment, and he certainly was ready. It turned that whole game around. That’s a good example of someone whose faith allowed him to be unselfish in his attitude and to accept the role that he had, even though it wasn’t his preference.”

Roberts was one of a core of six guys who met regularly for in-depth Bible study, in addition to the weekly chapel services. And Day believes that the core of Christians had an influence on their teammates, both fellow Christians and non-Christians.

“There was a lot of unity in the clubhouse,” he says. “We were getting about 15 guys in the chapel, so a majority of the guys were coming. I think some of the spiritual unity overflowed into the unity of the team. I wouldn’t take a lot of the credit, but I think there is some overflow.”

Schilling saw that first hand.

“I have a teammate who is a non-practicing Jewish person,” he says. “He is probably one of my favorite people of all time. He is brilliant. We had had religious discussions all year long. He doesn’t talk in a condescending manner. Hr always had intelligent questions about whatever we were discussing.

“One of the things we talked about early in the year was that I wanted him to see that Christianity was real. After Game 2 of the World Series, he came to me and said, ‘Before you head out of town this postseason, we need to go to lunch, because what I saw today I can’t really explain.”

“We did go to lunch, and it was awesome, because he just wanted me to explain. It wasn’t a give-and-take debate. He just needed to know from my perspective what happened.”

The World Series is over and the new season is about to begin. The questions surrounding the Red Sox now will be whether they can keep the fire and intensity after breaking an 86-year streak.

Day will keep trying to get them to focus their attention on serving the Lord and letting the rest take care of itself.

“The thing I’ve tried to stress all along is that it’s great to win, and let’s try to do the best we can. But try to remember, so much of life is really not going to change. You need to keep your priorities, in terms of the Lord and your family.

“Enjoy the success, but don’t get carried away with it.”

Even in baseball-crazy Boston.

By David Smale

This story appeared in the March-April issue of Sports Spectrum in 2005. David Smale is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. He is the former editor of Sharing the Victory magazine.

Day of Prayer

Curt Schilling became very public about his relationship with the Lord. He also shared publicly how he and chaplain Walt Day prayed together prior to Game 2 of the World Series.

“When I woke up that morning in agony, I called the team doctors and trainers and told them I was not going to be able to pitch,” he says. “I walked into the clubhouse and they took the suture out that had punctured the nerve. Things started to get better.

“I’m a preparation guy, so on the day I pitch, everything is a routine. About two hours before game time, I had done none of my normal work. The magnitude of what I was trying to get ready to do hit me. We were only up one game to none, so a loss that night would make it 1-1. We were facing the Cardinals, a phenomenal offense that had scored nine runs the night before.

“I knew I was pushing the limit. I was pitching my last game of the year.

“I had to miss chapel because my time to stretch was the same time as chapel. I walked by Trot [Nixon] and asked him to ask Walt to stay behind for a few minutes.

“I finished my stretching and walked upstairs. I felt like I was walking with a 500-pound bag of sand in my shoulders. I sat down next to Walt and he asked me what I wanted him to do. I just broke down into tears. I could hardly answer. I said, ‘I just want you to pray that I can glorify Him and compete tonight.’

“The whole thing that came to the forefront for me was that I didn’t feel worthy. I said, ‘I don’t deserve this. After all the things I’ve done wrong in my life, all the things I’ve said and thought, I don’t deserve this.’

“He just said, ‘That’s why the Lord put His Son on the cross.’

“I experienced faith in Game 6 of the ALCS and that night, I experienced grace.”

- David Smale