Prior to 2002, when John Henry and Tom Werner purchased the Boston Red Sox, fans were subjected to generations of misery and torment through an annual tradition of the team coming up short in October.
At the time, the city of Boston hadn’t hosted an October Fall Classic in 16 years with the last victory coming 84 years prior. Whether it’d be 1975, 1986, or decades of New York Yankees fans rubbing in the “curse of the Bambino,” Red Sox Nation knew a much different normal within the nature of their fandom, with history seemingly always appearing to be against them.
However, two decades and four World Series titles later, the expectations of a Red Sox fan have normalized to a much different standard. The expectations have risen with the organization transforming into baseball’s most winningest franchise — title-wise — since 2000. That’s resulted in plenty of champagne popping, duck boat rides and championship ring ceremonies at Fenway Park for Boston to rejoice.
With that being said, here are the five greatest Red Sox moments from their 2004 World Series win over the St. Louis Cardinals:
David Ortiz’s three-run home run (Game 1, Oct. 23)
Named the MVP of the 2004 American League Championship Series in which the Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit to eliminate the Yankees in seven games, Ortiz was an unstoppable force at the plate. During the series, Ortiz crushed it at the plate, hitting .387 with 12 base hits including three homers and a triple — if you could believe it — and 11 RBIs in the series.
In just his second campaign in a Red Sox uniform, 2004 served as the year Ortiz was exclusively referred to as “Big Papi” in Boston — cementing the nickname as his unofficial trademark amongst the fanbase.
Kicking off the 2004 World Series, in front of 35,035 in attendance at Fenway Park, Ortiz picked up right where he and the Red Sox left off — going yard in the first inning against Cardinals starting pitcher Woody Williams. With runners on the corners (Johnny Damon and Orlando Cabrera), Ortiz rocketed Williams’ 1-0 offering to deep right field, past the pesky pole to put Boston on top early.
While the Red Sox have since played in four total World Series matchups since, this was unarguably the most electrifying Game 1 of them all.
After 20 runs had crossed the plate in an 11-9 Red Sox victory, Ortiz finished his Fall Classic debut by going 2-for-3 at the plate with a game-leading four RBIs.
Mark Bellhorn’s home run (Game 1)
As previously mentioned, 2004 included the most electrifying Game 1 among the four most recent Red Sox World Series matchups.
While Ortiz opened up the night in typical Big Papi fashion, it was anything but a cakewalk from there against the Cardinals. After St. Louis knotted the game up at 7-7 in the top of the sixth inning, then took the lead, which Boston answered in the eighth inning, Bellhorn played hero for Boston.
With the game tied up at nine apiece, Bellhorn took a page from Ortiz’s first-inning at-bat, going yard against Cardinals — and eventual ex-Red Sox — reliever Julián Tavárez. With one out and Varitek at first base, Bellhorn took Tavárez deep, right off the pesky pole to plate two runs, giving the Red Sox the go-ahead — and eventually game-winning — homer to take Game 1.
Bellhorn went 2-for-3 in the batter’s box with three runs and two walks.
Jason Varitek’s triple (Game 2, Oct. 24)
Before being named captain of the Red Sox in December 2004, Varitek — like Ortiz — also assembled an impressive showing in the ALCS. During his age-32 campaign, Varitek batted .321, going 9-for-28 at the plate with two homers, a double, and seven RBIs versus the Yankees.
With the Red Sox opening the series in victorious fashion, Varitek — also like Ortiz — helped get Boston started off on the right note in the first inning of play.
On the 26th pitch thrown from Cardinals starter Matt Morris, Varitek delivered a massively crucial swing, knocking a triple into Fenway’s center field triangle, plating Manny Ramirez and Ortiz to put the Red Sox ahead with a quick 2-0 lead — a lead the Red Sox wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the night.
Varitek’s triple served as a major lift after Ramirez and Ortiz — Boston’s No. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup — combined to go just 1-for-7 with no RBIs and two strikeouts.
Varitek finished 1-for-3 at the plate, serving as one of three Red Sox hitters to contribute two RBIs in the game with Boston taking a 2-0 series lead following the 6-2 final.
“2004 served as the year Ortiz was exclusively referred to as “Big Papi” in Boston — cementing the nickname as his unofficial trademark amongst the fanbase.”
Trot Nixon’s double (Game 4, Oct. 27)
Following Damon’s leadoff round-tripper in the first inning, Nixon came through huge with his biggest at-bat throughout the 2004 postseason.
In the top of the third inning, with the bases loaded, and against Cardinals starter Jason Marquis, Nixon launched a triple to deep, deep right-center field at Busch Memorial Stadium on a 3-0 pitch — just a few feet shy of hitting a grand slam.
The Red Sox right fielder led the game in both hits and RBIs as Nixon saved his most dominant showing at the plate for the best time possible, finishing 3-for-4 with three doubles and two RBIs. Aside from Damon, Nixon was the only other Red Sox to deliver a multi-hit performance as the lineup was set down on strikes seven times versus Cardinals pitching.
Nixon finished hitting .357 with five hits and three RBIs in the series following Game 4.
Keith Foulke records the final out (Game 4)
Two things remained consistent in Boston’s favor throughout the series: The Red Sox lineup’s ability to break open each game in the first inning and Foulke’s dominance on the mound in save opportunities.
Throughout the entire playoff run, Foulke made 11 appearances for the Red Sox out of the bullpen, recording one win and three saves while notching an 0.64 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 19 strikeouts. The splits, in each series, speak for themselves. In the AL Division Series against the now Los Angeles Angels and in the ALCS against the Yankees, Foulke hadn’t allowed a single run to cross the plate.
It wasn’t until Game 3 against Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker, Foulke finally showed he was human — allowing a solo homer en route to an easy 4-1 win for Boston.
Yet, despite that minor blemish, Foulke easily could’ve been named the MVP of the series, and for good reason. In Game 4, the right-hander showed he wasn’t fazed, even the slightest. After being called upon in a demon-exorcising opportunity by Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, Foulke came through for the city of Boston, yet again — allowing no runs and just one hit while cleanly fielding the final out against Cardinals’ Edgar Renteria to officially clinch the first Red Sox World Series victory in 86 years.
Honorable mention: Mariano Rivera 2005 Opening Day reception at Fenway Park
While nothing beats unforgettable in-series memories, consider this moment the well-earned cherry on top.
After playing a major role in helping to propel the Red Sox to the top and simultaneously sinking the Yankees’ postseason ship, closer Mariano Rivera was welcomed back to Boston with a colossal standing ovation in 2005 while the Red Sox were presented with their 2004 World Series rings.
Rivera only blew four saves in the postseason in 46 opportunities in his entire Major League Baseball career.
Rivera, like a first-class champ, tipped his cap to the roaring Fenway crowd with a smile on his face, proceeding to put assemble a Hall of Fame career while the Red Sox soon after followed with World Series titles in 2007, 2013 and 2018.
Nevertheless, 2004 was when it all began.