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  Sun, October 10, 2004


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Heavyweight rivals are set to slug it out in ALCS
By BOB ELLIOTT, TORONTO SUN

Relaxing for the announcement last night were the Boston Red Sox. And in this corner ... the New York Yankees.

Thanks to bouncing back from a 5-1 deficit against the Minnesota Twins last night, the stars are aligned. Boston-New York, New York-Boston. Yankees suck! Boston sucks!

Armageddon II.

The two heavyweights begin their best-of-seven American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.

If you were living anywhere but Anaheim or Minnesota, it was the matchup fans wanted.

The 85-year cycle of failure is not over for the Sox. They did prevent the Anaheim Angels from adding any chapters to Boston's lengthy dead sea scrolls of pain and heartbreak.

Vladimir Guerrero, the present-day Bambino, hit a seventh-inning grand slam to tie Game 3 and give Sox fans a scare.

David Ortiz made sure Guerrero, or another Angel, didn't fit alongside Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone in a Boston fan's memory bank of wrongdoers.

Ortiz smoked the Fenway fear and the ball over the wall in the 10th to advance Boston.

The Sox said all the right things after eliminating the Angels, and before the Yanks rallied to beat the Twins 6-5 in 11 yesterday.

They Sox resemble the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies -- "They look like a bunch of truck drivers" as Juan Guzman said after seeing the Phillies -- compared to the clean-shaven, button-down, business-like Yanks.

Plus, they hate each other worse than two warring mothers-in-law. The Sox said the right things after they won. It didn't matter who the opponent would be. Yada, yada, yada.

AWESOME HISTORY

"We're trying to win a world championship," Curt Schilling said after beating the Angels. "I don't care how. The Sox-Yankees history is awesome. If they're good enough to get past the Twins and we play, fine. If not, we'll play the Twins.

Schilling, along with Pedro Martinez, gives the Sox an edge.

"We've seen the Yanks 19 times," Johnny Damon said. "There aren't any secrets. Whoever plays the best is going to win."

Both Damon and Ortiz brought goggles to Fenway Park before Friday's Game 3 -- for protection against the sting of champagne -- and they needed them. Champagne was spritzed, beer was poured. Manny Ramirez dumped buckets of water on people.

"It's like a frat house in here, on an ordinary day, never mind when we have cause to celebrate," Kevin Millar said. "But that's the way this team has been for a few years now. We're a bunch of brothers. We look stupid and sometimes we play stupid but we never quit on each other."

A quick tour around the Sox clubhouse and a gaze at the hairdos: Game 3 starter Bronson Arroyo has corn rows; outfielder Damon has long locks that makes him look like an extra from The Passion of the Christ; Martinez has a jeri-curl and Ramirez could work at a nursery on an off day -- as a shrub. Then, you have all the beards and shaved heads.

"We're not cowboys anymore," Damon said during the Anaheim series, referring to the "Cowboy Up" slogan of the 2003 Sox.

"We are just the idiots this year," Damon said. "We were a bunch of cowboys last year, enjoying every minute.

SOMETHING TO PROVE

We know we have something to prove. We don't want to be remembered as a team that kept making it and kept having tough losses."

It is a stretch to compare the joy of Ortiz's homer to those of Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk in 1975 or Trot Nixon's a year ago in extras, when the Red Sox were down 2-0.

Try yelling that to someone dancing with a beer in one hand and a sausage in the other dancing on Yawkey Way hours after the game, while screaming: "We want the Yankees!"

The Jays would have to enter the 2079 Series winless to match the levels of the Sox frustration.

The Sox need eight wins to break their 85-year cycle of failure.

Four against the Yanks. Four more in the World Series.

There is, as Grady Little might say, a long way to go.