Whicker: Dave Roberts’ most famous stolen base is part of Red Sox mythology

first_img Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Billy Mueller was up next, and he delivered the single off Mariano Rivera that tied it, 4-4, in the bottom of the ninth.The Red Sox still needed more. They got three scoreless relief innings from Alan Embree and Curtis Leskanic, and David Ortiz finally homered off Paul Quantrill in the 12th.Still, the Yankees led the series 3-1 in a sport that had seen nobody wipe out a 3-0 deficit to win.Joe Torre, the Yankees manager, heard the desperate roars when Roberts got the steal and Mueller got the hit.“I had a bad feeling,” he said, years later. “I knew the kind of team we were dealing with. We didn’t beat them when we had a chance.” Rivera carried a 4-2 lead into the eighth in Game 5. Ortiz homered to lead off. Jason Varitek produced a run-scoring fly to tie it. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield twirled three scoreless innings, and Ortiz’s base hit won it in the 14th.“We had some good information about Rivera by then,” Mueller said. “We’d faced him in so many playoff series, so many times during the regular season. He was still a great pitcher, but we’d had a little success against him.”In fact, Mueller ended his career with a .389 average against Rivera and had launched a game-winning homer off Rivera on July 24 in Yankee Stadium.“I wasn’t surprised Dave stole second base, because there was nobody out,” Mueller said. “Then I was able to somehow get a 27-hopper through the infield.”Not really. Mueller squared to bunt on the first pitch, then saw a cutter that veered onto the outside corner and hit a hard grounder past Rivera and into center field.“Momentum can swing on one play,” Mueller said. “It didn’t matter what had happened the night before, what the score was (Yankees 19, Boston 8 in Game 3). A lot of things had to happen after that, but it gave us something to hold onto.”The Red Sox went to New York and never trailed in 18 innings. They also didn’t lose another playoff game, after they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.The ’04 Sox had their Cooperstown candidates: Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Johnny Damon. They also had Roberts, plus Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler. They had rejects like Mark Bellhorn and Pokey Reese in the middle of the infield, and they had Kevin Millar, whose game-winning base hits and uninhibited ways paved his path to the MLB Network studios. Damon called them “the idiots,” with precisely the type of goofy self-assurance one needs to survive the electron microscope of Red Sox Nation.Related Articlescenter_img Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco BOSTON — Dave Roberts stole 243 bases in 10 major league years. As far as Boston is concerned, he stole one.The Dodgers manager won’t be able to adjust his seat in the interview room this week before someone asks him about 2004, and Game 4 of a hopeless American League Championship Series, and the stolen base that, according to mythology, led to four consecutive victories, four more in the World Series, and the liberation of Paris, also known as the Red Sox’s first world championship since 1918.“Someone mentions it every day,” Roberts said, long before the Dodgers won the NLCS on Saturday night and arranged this Madison Avenue matchup with the Red Sox that begins Tuesday night.But as Roberts would admit, The Steal was not quite as momentous as those delivered by John Havlicek and Larry Bird. It kept the Red Sox from losing Game 4 to New York. It did not win Game 4. It didn’t even tie Game 4. “Some of us weren’t exactly spewing with talent,” said Mueller, who won the 2003 AL batting title, worked in Ned Colletti’s Dodgers front office and was fired as the Cardinals’ hitting coach at midseason.“But when you look at the people that (General Manager) Theo Epstein put together in that room, and you see what they’re doing now, you realize it was pretty high-quality.”No one in the lineup or the rotation was younger than 28 years old. By 2006, the Red Sox had seven different starting hitters and three different starting pitchers, plus a new closer. A World Series victory would be their third since then. But the vagabonds of 2004 will walk together forever.Roberts was with the Dodgers then. He was blindsided by the trade, which brought Henri Stanley to the Dodgers. Stanley never played a major league game. Roberts was unhappy about the trade, but Dodgers teammate Alex Cora told him “to go there and be a hero.”He did, and now Cora is managing in the Red Sox dugout. Baseball is a very small world, and the Red Sox will warmly greet Roberts, once they have everything else locked up. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more