NEW YORK, October 21, 2004 (AP) - Hard to believe this could happen.
Hard to believe the fabled New York Yankees could come apart in such an epic collapse.
Right here, at their hallowed home, in the shadow of all that history, all the monuments, all the championship banners.
After 86 years of domination in baseball's most bitter rivalry, the Yankees finally folded against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night, losing 10-3 in Game 7 of the AL championship series.
This was much more than a season-ending defeat - it was an unprecedented choke job. Just three outs from a sweep on Sunday, the Yankees dropped four games in a row, becoming the first team in postseason baseball history to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
It's never happened in the NBA. It's happened only twice in the NHL.
And now the New York Yankees, the most storied team in all of sports, are right at the top of an embarrassing list.
It will be a painful piece of infamy for everyone in pinstripes. And it will certainly bring the wrath of owner George Steinbrenner this winter - probably sooner.
When pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra grounded to second for the final out, the Red Sox rushed to the mound and celebrated in the middle of Yankee Stadium. Boston fans chanted and cheered behind the third-base dugout.
It was a sight many New York fans thought they'd never have to witness. The Yankees are the team that pulls off improbable comebacks - especially against Boston.
Not this time.
After winning the first three games of the series, New York just couldn't close it out. Star reliever Mariano Rivera had his chance - a ninth-inning lead in Game 4 at Fenway Park. He blew the save, Boston won in 12 innings, then rallied again for a 14-inning victory the next day.
When the Yankees returned home, it was no better. Curt Schilling shut down New York in Game 6, and panic began to set in.
New York trotted out all the mystique it could muster. The scoreboard played a tribute to Mickey Mantle before the game. Bucky Dent threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra.
A sign hanging high above home plate reminded the Red Sox of the B's who have tortured them, with one hoped-for addition: "Babe, Bucky, Buckner, Boone, Brown!!"
But Kevin Brown was awful, and Boston had a "B" of its own in response - for blowout.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press