The iconic moment: Jason Varitek gives it to Alex Rodriguez. July 24, 2004, Fenway Park, 3rd inning. (Getty Images)
By Mike Harrington
Ten years ago today, I was in Fenway Park covering a Yankees-Red Sox game. Former executive sports editor Howard Smith had an out-of-left-field idea to cover the series and do another-will-the-Red-Sox-ever-win story. Neither he nor I ever imagined what I would see.
Here's the first paragraph to my story on the game played on Saturday, July 24, 2004: "It was a game that almost never happened. Now it will be hard to ever forget."
The numbers will show the Red Sox wiped out a 9-4 deficit and won, 11-10, on Bill Mueller's two-run walkoff homer off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth. Stunning as that was, it was a mere footnote.
This was the A-Rod/Varitek game.
Top of the third inning. Bronson Arroyo plunked Alex Rodriguez. Jason Varitek intervened as A-Rod barked at Arroyo and it was on. I was in the top row of the Fenway press box that day and was looking down at my scorecard making a couple notes when A-Rod got plunked. I quickly looked up when I heard the crowd noise, saw everything unravel -- and saw a reporter from the New York Daily News jump knees-first on the desk next to me to get a better view of things.
Here's my sidebar on the fight from The News of July 25, 2004.
The funny thing was the game really did almost never happen. It had rained in Boston overnight and the field was not in good shape. Around 2 p.m., an hour before the scheduled first pitch, unofficial word filtered to the press box the game was off. I was in a group of reporters that went downstairs and lined up to go into the Yankees clubhouse to do some interviews. When the door briefly swung inside, we clearly saw some players in street clothes. They had been told the game was off.
Media types in the line were joking about getting an early start on dinner. But after a few minutes, they didn't let us in and we were told to go back upstairs. As legend has it, the Red Sox players were irate -- and so was FOX -- and the Boston grounds crew was told to go to work on the field for another hour. They did and history happened.
The postgame chatter was surreal. At the time, the Red Sox had a tiny interview room adjacent to their clubhouse and Terry Francona was downright giddy talking about things. Arroyo and Varitek were matter of fact. A-Rod took forever to emerge in the Yankees' clubhouse but he was pretty glib too. This was, remember, just a few months after the Sox thought he was coming to them. Interesting backdrop for sure.
Ask any Red Sox fan and they'll tell you this was the moment their team made the statement that enough was enough from the Yankees. It's easy to forget Boston didn't win the AL East that year but it's impossible to forget the Sox coming back from 0-3 down to win the ALCS. The actual World Series sweep of St. Louis is an odd final chapter not discussed a whole lot, given that it was Boston's first title in 86 years).
Relive the frivolity of the full fracas here: