|Pedro Martinez, Kevin Millar, Keith Foulke reflect on ’04: ‘Mission accomplished’||09.25.12 at 9:51 pm ET|
In a season that has offered few feel-good moments, the Red Sox flipped the calendar back eight years prior to the start of Tuesday’s game. As the team concludes the season-long 100th anniversary celebration of Fenway Park, the 2004 championship team, which offered an oasis after an 86-year title drought, paraded around the premises.
The pregame celebration featured numerous members of that club — with manager Terry Francona; pitchers Pedro Martinez, Keith Foulke, Tim Wakefield, Mike Timlin and Alan Embree (along with more obscure contributors such as Phil Seibel, Jason Shiell and Joe Nelson); and position players such as Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon and Kevin Millar along with Dave McCarty and Adam Hyzdu — riding around the warning track in Duck Boats, in homage to the parade that took place following that title run.
After the ceremonies, Martinez, Millar and Foulke reflected on their accomplishments of that season.
Martinez, of course, had the deepest appreciation for what 2004 meant. That was the last of his seven extraordinary seasons in Boston, during which he had experienced nearly everything imaginable while bearing the responsibilities of a franchise icon. Asked how he would have felt if he’d been unable to win a title in Boston prior to leaving as a free agent following that 2004 campaign, he suggested, “I would probably retire right after then. I would have been so disappointed that I came in here with a purpose, and that was the purpose. I’ll probably say that I was the only player out of all the players that felt like he had something to achieve for this team. I was called in to build the team around me as the ace of the team. It took me until the last year to actually finally get it, but I could easily say, ‘Mission accomplished.’
“I’ve actually been to the Green Monster many times,” he added. “Everybody normally has the history of signing the Green Monster. I refused to until I won it for Boston. I keep forgetting — every time I come back I keep forgetting — but now I feel like I can sign it, and leave my name in the Green Monster. I haven’t signed it yet.”
Foulke pointed out that former teammate Manny Ramirez “is probably in the Wall,” Martinez clarified, “I’m going to sign really high so that Manny doesn’t pee on it. Now we can all go and sign and say mission accomplished. To me, it would have been the most disappointing thing that ever happened in my career [to leave without winning].”
Foulke, by contrast to Martinez, was naive to the weight borne of the trophy-free stretch that had reached 86 years. He signed with the Sox as a free agent after the 2003 season (“That’s what we missed in ’03 — we didn’t have Foulkie,” noted Millar), and so in some respects, he could not understand what that team was at stake for that team until after the World Series.
“We didn’t really know what we were getting into,” said Foulke. “To do what we did, that team, after the story behind 86 years in this city, it’s the greatest thing ever.
“Obviously it was my first year, big city, big market team and all that. But I never once thought about what could happen [in the ninth inning of a clincher],” said Foulke. “If you start looking too far ahead and start dreaming, well then all of a sudden someone is going to slap you in the face where you’re at and then all of a sudden bad things happen. It wasn’t until the parade, when it sat in for me. When you see three, four million people out there and everyone’s crying — and I’m probably going to start crying now — but the family, what you did for my mom, brother, grandfather, whatever it was, that’s when it set in. But I don’t look forward. I don’t think any of us did, because that’s when you lose sight of where you’re going.”
The three members of that 2004 Sox team insisted unanimously that the unique chemistry of that club played a considerable role in the accomplishments of that club. All suggested that the club that claimed the identity of the “Idiots” experienced camaraderie unlike anything else they’d experienced.
“The truth of the matter is that group of guys, the family — it wasn’t just a team. It was a unit that literally hung out together and ate together and liked each other. That doesn’t go on. You can’t buy that,” said Millar. “We had so many different guys from Billy Mueller to Trot Nixon to Pedro Martinez to crazy-ass Manny Ramirez to Keith Foulke (who had every coolest car in the world and cool little gadget thing) to Fake Cowboy Millar to David Ortiz. The group, it was a group. That was the one thing, coming back now and seeing everything, you remember the tightness. We weren’t the best players. We had a few superstars in Pedro and Manny, but we were the best unit, if that makes sense.”
The atmosphere surrounding the Red Sox changed forever with that championship, something that Martinez could appreciate given his broader perspective on what the club faced in the years building up to that title.
“The thing that sticks in my mind the most is the last out, knowing that we got rid of the burden on every player that passed through the organization,” said Martinez. “It was a moment of relief for everyone that played the game in Boston. That’s probably the biggest one — just getting that last out. I kept thinking about getting that last out, and when he finally flipped that ball and they called him out, that was it.”
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