Twenty years ago today, the Boston Red Sox suffered a loss from hell. It wasn’t the most important or meaningful loss in franchise history. It isn’t up there with the Bucky Dent or Aaron Boone games. But of all the painful losses in meaningless regular-season games, it was among the most horrible.
On Sept. 18, 1993, the Boston Red Sox were in the Bronx to face their hated archrival, the Yankees. Of course a horrible loss had to come against the Yankees. Their rivalry was at a low moment at the time. The Yankees hadn’t been to the postseason in over a decade, and Boston was barely .500, but still, they were rivals.
At any rate, heading into the bottom of the ninth, Boston appeared to have this one well in hand, up 3-1. Relief pitcher Greg Harris looked to put the Yankees away easily, retiring the first pair of batters in the inning.
Sure, blowing a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth when there were two outs and none on would be heartbreaking, but it wouldn’t be anything worth writing about 20 years later. No, this would be an extra-special way to blow a two-run lead in bottom of the ninth with two outs and none on.
Stanley was a hitter you had to take seriously. He’d end the season batting .305 with 26 homers—nothing to sneeze at it. But Harris wasn’t intimidated. He threw the first pitch past Stanley for strike one.
Next, Harris swung and connected. The ball flew to left, where Mike Greenwell circled under it for an easy, game-ending out. Greenwell kept his eye on it, the ball landed in his glove, and it was over. Out No. 27 to end the game as a Boston victory.
Except for one thing.
Apparently, that last swing—and the entire play coming from it—didn’t count. Just before Harris threw the ball, some jag-off Yankee fan ran onto the field. Third-base umpire Tim Welke had called time, but it was too late for Harris, and Stanley couldn’t take the risk that it was the umpire or someone else yelling time.
But it was the umpire who called for time. The play that ended the game wasn’t a play. It was all nullified.
You can guess what happens next, right? Given new life, Stanley swung at the next pitch and again hit it to Greenwell in left, but it was a clean single. Pinch runner Gerald Williams steamed into second for the Yankees with the potential tying run in Stanley on first.
Up next was former Red Sox great and future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. Harris had Boggs at a 2-2 count, putting the Yankees down to their last strike. Then Boggs fouled off a pair before doing what he did what he did best, hit a single.
It was actually an infield single to second, a rarity for the speed-challenged Boggs, but it was enough to score Williams. Now the game was 3-2 and the tying run was in scoring position. This was rapidly turning into a nightmare for Boston.
Batter up, left fielder Dion James. And a battle ensued. Harris soon had James down in the count 1-2, again putting the Yankees down to their last strike. James fouled the next pitch off to stay at 1-2. He then took the next pair for balls, giving him a foul count. The seventh pitch he fouled off, keeping his hopes alive. Finally, on the eighth pitch, James won the fight by drawing ball four.
Harris must have felt mentally tested on the mound. He’d thrown 16 pitches since getting the apparent last out of the game. Seven of those pitches came with the Yankees down to their last strike. But three straight batters had reached against him, and now the bases were loaded with the tying run 90 feet from the plate and the winning run for the Yankees in scoring position. A single was all the Yankees needed.
And that’s exactly what the Yankees got. With longtime franchise stalwart Don Mattingly at the plate, Harris threw one more pitch. Mattingly ripped it into right field, and two runs came around to score.
The Yankees had won, 4-3. And they owed it all to everyone’s least favorite creature, a drunken jerk who ran on the field.
Yeah, that was a mighty rough loss for Boston, and it was 20 years ago today.