The week the Yankees dynasty died

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The series seemed all but over.

A blistering Game 3 rout. Mariano Rivera on the mound with a lead in Game 4, three outs from the World Series.

But instead of yet another triumph over their bitter rivals, the Yankees would finally taste what life had been like for the Red Sox for so long.

Rivera couldn’t slam the door in Game 4. The Red Sox rallied again in the late innings of Game 5 and dominated the final two games in The Bronx, becoming the first team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit in baseball history to prevail.

“The series obviously turned in that Game 4,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “Then the momentum started going their way and we couldn’t hold ‘em off.”

The Yankees took a big right hand in Game 7 and never got off the mat, trailing 6-0 by the second inning. In just 3 1/3 innings, starter Kevin Brown and reliever Javier Vasquez combined to allow eight earned runs and three homers. David Ortiz, the hero of Games 3 and 4, belted a two-run shot in the first that set the tone and Johnny Damon’s grand slam in the second started the celebration early.

By the late innings of Boston’s 10-3 massacre, it started to sound like Fenway Park, chants of “Let’s go Red Sox” heard throughout the Stadium.

“I’m embarrassed right now,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Obviously that hurts – watching them on our field celebrating.”

Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre talks with Kevin Brown during Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.
Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre talks with Kevin Brown during Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.Getty Images

It seemed unfathomable that such a turnaround could take place. The Yankees demolished the Red Sox 19-8 in Game 3, seemingly crushing their rivals’ spirits. It was 4-3 in Game 4, Rivera on the mound in the inning when everything changed. Kevin Millar walked, and pinch-runner Dave Roberts stole second base, scoring on Bill Mueller’s single. Three innings later, Ortiz’s homer extended the series. The next night, Ortiz did it again, with a walk-off single in the 14th. In Game 6, Curt Schilling atoned for his subpar Game 1 performance. In what is now known as the “Bloody Sock” game, the right-hander dominating the Yankees on a dislocated ankle tendon that bled through his sock, holding them to one run over seven masterful innings.

“When I saw blood dripping through the sock and he’s giving us seven innings in Yankee Stadium, that was storybook,” Millar said.

It was a nightmare for the Yankees.

After claiming the AL East and winning six of their first seven games of the postseason – the lone loss came to Johan Santana and the Twins — the expectation was a world title. The Yankees had a record $186 million payroll, big stars up and down their roster, and had won the pennant six of the previous eight years. They owned the Red Sox in that time, beating them the year before in a classic ALCS that went seven games. Everyone expected them to find a way again, even as Boston sent the series back to The Bronx. But it never happened.

“It’s not the same team,” Derek Jeter said emphatically. “We’ve had teams that have been good at it, but this is not the same team.”

It clearly wasn’t. This Yankees team would be forever known for blowing a 3-0 series lead. Being unable to finish off the Red Sox. Making ignominious history that may never be erased.

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