BOSTON — Now nearly 18 years removed from the moment, it’s difficult to capture just how large of a celebration followed the Red Sox’ World Series victory in 2004. Generations’ worth of pain and frustration evaporated, as Boston baseball fans soaked in the pure ecstasy that had evaded them for so long.
Yet through it all, one snapshot that has always endured from those days has been the image of Manny Ramirez joyfully holding up a fan’s sign while parading through Boston on a duck boat during the World Series rolling rally.
“Jeter is playing golf today,” the sign read. “This is better!”
A fan made that sign, but it delighted Ramirez enough to grab it and show it off to the world.
That’s something that still doesn’t sit well with Jeter.
In the fifth episode of Jeter’s ESPN’s docuseries “The Captain,” he begrudgingly discussed what he went through after the Yankees blew the 3-0 ALCS lead over the Red Sox in 2004.
“It’s misery, you know. Sick to my stomach,” Jeter shared. “Got out of New York, went back home, Boston won the World Series. Manny Ramirez had a sign saying ‘Jeter is playing golf right now’ during the parade. Someone had sent it to me. Um … so yeah that made me sick.”
Based on the way Jeter is reflecting on the moment all these years later, it’s clear that he’s still not over it.
Earlier in the episode, Jeter talked about the famous Dave Roberts steal in the ninth inning of Game 4.
“I mean, if the ball was six inches on the other side, he’s out. It didn’t happen and that’s the way it goes,” Jeter said. “But I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
That comment was couched with a chuckle, but much of the early part of the episode showed how much psychological damage that series did to the Yankees.
“I didn’t sleep for a while,” catcher Jorge Posada said.
“For all the success that we had against the Red Sox, I think 2004 made up for all of it for them,” Bernie Williams said. “I mean, there is no more embarrassing way of losing a series. I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can top that.”
One specific issue that was discussed was the Yankees’ unwillingness to drop down a bunt to test Curt Schilling’s mobility, as the pitcher had his ankle tendon sutured to a bone to allow him to pitch.
“We didn’t have guys that wanted to do that — that was willing to win at all costs,” Gary Sheffield lamented. “This ain’t what I pictured the Yankees to be.”
It took a moment, but Jeter came around to a sliver of regret on that topic.
“I don’t know how many guys that we had that really could bunt,” Jeter said. “I guess I could have.”
While the pain for the Yankees remains evident, manager Joe Torre seems to have gotten over the blown 3-0 lead rather quickly.
“It was one postseason that you wish hadn’t happened, but I don’t think I ever lost sleep saying ‘I wish I had done this instead of that,'” Torre said.
Yankees fans — and players — might feel differently.