Happy Anniversary, Aaron Boone!

Where were you the night of October 16, 2003?

I was in my apartment in Manhattan watching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. I was alone in what I called my TV room. It was really my grandmother’s former dining room which I had turned into a makeshift office by placing my giant desktop computer – it was 2003 and flat screens weren’t the norm – onto the table which was still surrounded by a number of chairs. I lived alone, I didn’t cook, and I wan’t planning on throwing any dinner parties so the table was the perfect space for me to use as a writing space.

Back then, I was still a cocky Yankee fan. I believed that the Yankees were going to win because Boston couldn’t possibly win a Game 7 if they were up 10 runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs.

I sure do miss those days, don’t you?

Anyway, after watching Roger Clemens lay an egg while at the same time watching Pedro Martinez making everyone, except Jason Giambi, look like fools at the plate, I began to wonder if the Yankee magic had indeed run out. This was my second experience watching a Game 7 unfold before my eyes – and the previous one didn’t turn out so well two years prior – so I was understandably a nervous wreck. I was talking to myself, screaming at TV, sighing at the strikeouts, pacing when the Yankees came up to bat, etc. You name the action, no matter how crazy it could seem, I was probably doing it. I also would check in on a message board I frequented back then and posted incoherent things about how awful the game was.

I sat for most innings 1-7 but couldn’t sit down from the eighth inning on. And I couldn’t even stand in the TV room. I stood out in the entry hall of my apartment, looking in at the TV. I felt like I needed room to freak out and there was a lot more space out there.

I also ended up scaring my cats a few times. I had only had them for six months at that point so they weren’t used to playoff Stacey. And Game 7? Forget it, she was a whole different entity altogether.

When I think back to how high strung I was back then, I laugh. Now, I’m a little more zen about playoff baseball. Maybe it’s because so many things have happened to me in the last 10 years that have made me realize that baseball isn’t quite as important as I made it out to be. I lived and breathed baseball and if they Yankees did well, I was on a high. If they didn’t, I was depressed.

So when the eighth inning started with Nick Johnson popping up for the first out, the talk of, “The Red Sox are just five outs away from the World Series,” began. As Derek Jeter stepped up to the plate, I started chanting to myself. I said, “Manny Ramirez doesn’t deserve to go to the World Series.” I can’t remember why I chose him. Maybe it was because of the perma-dopey look on his face. I said it about 5 or 6 times before Jeter hit a double. I figured, “Why ruin a good thing?” I kept on doing it and five pitches later, Bernie Williams hit a single to score Jeter. I got excited. Could this be happening? Could the Yankees finally be waking up?

I kept on chanting, “Manny Ramirez doesn’t deserve to go to the World Series,” and Hideki Matsui hit a double. At the time, I believed I was the one conjuring the Yankee Stadium ghosts. I know, I was ridiculous but I was still in my 20′s and most people are ridiculous in their 20′s, right?

Next up, Jorge Posada comes up and I’m on a roll, staring at the TV and chanting. On the fifth pitch of the at bat, Posada hits the bloop double, Williams and Matsui both score, the game is tied and I am jumping up and down in my entry hall. By this time, the cats were cowering in another room.

I was so excited, I stopped chanting and the Yankees couldn’t pull ahead in the eighth. I was hoping they’d end the game in the ninth because the momentum was theirs and they needed to close it out sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Now, I know everyone who watched this game will claim that they called the Aaron Boone home run. Revisionist history is really amusing, isn’t it? But I really did call it. And if I remember correctly, I posted that prediction on the message board just before he came to bat. I have no idea why I thought it was going to happen, considering how awful he had been but it was a feeling I had in my gut. It’s always the guys you least expect. Did people actually think Bucky Dent would hit that home run in 1978? Probably not. And you can ask friends of mine, I have been known to predict key home runs in the playoffs.

Anyway, as the game came back from commercial for the start of the bottom of the 11th, we didn’t have much time to react to the first pitch of the inning because Boone immediately sent it into the left field seats:

My reaction was basically, “OHMYGODOHMYGODHOLYSHITOHMYGODWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” and then I fell to my knees, nearly bashing my face into one of the dining chairs. I could have easily lost three or four teeth and I probably wouldn’t have cared, that’s how happy I was.

After I stood up, I started running around my apartment not knowing what to do with myself. Picture the scene of the late Jim Valvano looking for someone to hug after NC State won the 1983 NCAA Tournament. That was me in my apartment. Maybe I was looking for my cats? Thank goodness no one was videotaping me. Horns started beeping outside on the streets of Inwood and people began yelling out their windows in jubilation.

As I was running around, my phones started ringing. First it was the house phone – my dad and brother called from Rockland – and then my cell – my friend Matt who is a Red Sox fan, called to congratulate me on a great series. Then the call waiting beeps began as I was juggling calls from different people. I was so out of breath, you would have thought I had just been playing the game.

I watched the post game footage, I watched the highlights over and over again on Sportscenter and I think I had maybe two hours of sleep that night but it was so worth. I didn’t even care that I felt like death warmed over the next day at work.

And even though things went in a different and much more horrific direction in the following year’s American League Championship Series, nothing will take the Aaron Boone home run away from us. It was still a great moment in Yankees history and it is worthy of reflection and celebration.

So happy anniversary, Mr. Boone and thanks for the memories.

(Please share your memories of that night in the comments whether you were lucky enough to be there or just watching it on TV like I was.)

Here’s the YouTube link to the entire game.