- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2003


Cowboy up. Red Sox down.

The New York Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 American League Championship Series yesterday with a 4-3 win at Fenway Park and, in essence, ended the series, which may not even return to New York for the final two games.

The Red Sox lost with the pitcher they can’t afford to lose with on the mound, Pedro Martinez. Tonight, David Wells goes against John Burkett in Game 4, and though Wells has not pitched well at Fenway, you have to like the Yankees’ chances to pound Burkett, who struggles to get through five innings in a good start.

But the Yankees won this series yesterday when the Red Sox suffered an emotional meltdown and turned into the motorcycle gang that surfaced during moments in the division series against Oakland.

Here’s all you need to know about yesterday — Pedro threw 72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground. (After the game, Zimmer was taken to a hospital by ambulance.) When that happened as the benches cleared in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Red Sox lost their moral standing as the lovable underdogs. When that happened, the Red Sox, with their now insufferable “Cowboy Up” rallying cry, had become the Evil Empire, and America started rooting for the New York Yankees — a seemingly impossible development. Talk about your Curse of the Bambino.

Martinez, a notorious headhunter, turned what had been a highly anticipated pitching matchup against New York starter Roger Clemens into an ugly scene when he threw a fastball at Karim Garcia’s head in the fourth inning after Boston had taken a 3-2 lead on an RBI double by the previous batter, Hideki Matsui. Garcia ducked as the purpose pitch came in, but home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled the ball hit Garcia on the back.

“There’s no question in my mind that Pedro hit him on purpose,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He can thread a needle at any time he wants. … I didn’t care for that.”

Garcia stood at home plate and stared out at Martinez, and the two had words. Then, when Alfonso Soriano followed by hitting into a double play that allowed a run to score to put New York on top 4-2, Garcia slid hard into Boston second baseman Todd Walker, who was several feet away from the bag. Walker and Garcia exchanged words, and players from both teams started coming out on the field.

The fuse for this entire incident was Martinez, and he only fueled emotions when he yelled to the Yankees dugout and pointed to his head, appearing to threaten to hit more Yankees. New York catcher Jorge Posada had to be held back by teammates from going after Martinez, and Marquez came out and warned both teams that the next batter to be thrown at would result in the pitcher being ejected.

Enrique Wilson popped up to second for the third out, and as Clemens came out of the dugout, Marquez and fellow umpire Tim McClelland walked him to the mound, talking to him. Manny Ramirez was the first Boston hitter, and after Clemens got a 1-2 count on him, he threw a ball that sailed high but not close to Ramirez, who overreacted and ducked as if he had been thrown at.

Ramirez, who only solidified his reputation as a child, walked toward the mound with the bat in his hand as he and Clemens yelled at each other. Not even Boston manager Grady Little thought it was close.

“After looking at the video, I don’t think it was that close,” Little said. Clemens, when asked whether he was throwing at Ramirez, said, “You guys are doing yourselves a disservice by even asking that question.”

Both dugouts emptied again, and there were nearly several brawls as players grabbed and shoved each other. But the most startling scene was Zimmer — who nearly died as a player 50 years ago after being hit in the head with a pitch in a minor league game — making a beeline for Pedro and throwing a roundhouse left. Pedro grabbed the coach and threw him to the ground.

Cowboy up. Gerbil down.

Zimmer stayed on the ground for several minutes until he was finally able to get up, visibly shaken and with a cut on his nose. As police stepped in, it took about 15 minutes before the game finally resumed, and Ramirez swung at strike three.

But the fighting wasn’t over. Just when it appeared the game would end without further incident, a fight broke out as the bottom of the ninth inning was about to start between Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson and a Red Sox security guard. Before order was restored yet again, Garcia, who had jumped over the fence in right field into the bullpen, cut his hand in the fight and had to leave the game. But Mariano Rivera closed out the game before any more fights broke out — at least on the field. The streets of Boston may have been a different story.

“I think when this series began, everyone knew it would be emotional and there would be a lot of intensity,” Little said. “I think it has been upgraded from a battle to a war.”

The war is over. For these Boston cowboys, it is the last roundup.

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