2003 American League Championship Series
The 2003 American League Championship Series was played between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees from October 8 to October 16, 2003. The Yankees won the series 4 games to 3 to advance to the World Series.
This series delivered yet another blow to Red Sox fans' hopes of winning a World Series for the first time since 1918. The series seemed evenly matched, with the lead being held first by the Red Sox, then by the Yankees. The Sox forced the series to a full seven games, with the seventh game setting another major league record for the rivalry between the two teams: it marked the first time two major league teams have played more than 25 games against each other over the course of a single season. The Red Sox also set an ALCS record with 12 home runs in the series.
In Game 3, a classic matchup between Sox ace Pedro Martinez and Yankees ace Roger Clemens, a surreal brawl interrupted play. When a Clemens pitch came in high against Sox hitter Manny Ramirez, Ramirez and Clemens exchanged words, and both benches cleared. In the ensuing events, Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer charged Martinez, who grabbed Zimmer's head and brushed him to the ground. The events caused a 13-minute delay, and increased police presence thereafter.
The Red Sox held a 5-2 lead in Game 7, behind Martinez. Sox manager Grady Little left Martinez in for the 8th inning, despite signs of Martinez tiring, and having two strong relievers - Scott Williamson and Mike Timlin - in the bullpen. Martinez collapsed, and the Yankees tied the game at 5-5. The Yankees then won it in the 11th inning behind a solo home run by announcer Bret Boone's brother Aaron Boone to advance to the World Series.
The loss was crushing for Red Sox fans, who widely blamed Little for leaving Martinez in when indications suggested he should be removed, and he hadn't pitched effectively beyond 100 pitches. Little defended his move by saying that he felt a tired Martinez was a better option than anyone else on the team. Little's contract as Sox manager was set to expire, and management chose not to renew it for the following year; he was replaced by Terry Francona.
Until the final game of the pennant race, some baseball fans had been hoping for a rematch of the 1918 World Series: a showdown between the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, one of only two major league teams to have played for a longer period of time since winning the World Series (the other is the Chicago White Sox). The Cubs reached the 2003 National League Championship Series, and they also battled a full seven games; but as with the Red Sox, they lost their series with a 3-run lead and 5 outs to go, and the World Series was won by the Florida Marlins, who defeated the Yankees.
The Sox and Yankees would meet again in the 2004 American League Championship Series, which was at least as memorable and had a very different outcome.