Thursday, October 16, 2003. Game 7 of the ALCS against the Red Sox. Everything was on the line: a trip to the World Series, rivalry bragging rights, The Curse of the Bambino, suffering the wrath of the Boss if they lost.
Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens squared off in a rematch of game 3. The Sox took an early 4-0 lead, knocking Clemens out in the fourth inning with two on and nobody out. Mike Mussina came in for the first relief appearance of his career. He bailed out Clemens by striking out Jason Varitek and causing Johnny Damon to hit into a double play. His three innings of scoreless relief kept the Yankees in the game with help from two solo home runs in the fifth and seventh innings by Jason Giambi.
The eighth inning came around and Boston was still up 5-2. Martinez was still on the mound and proceeded to give up a double to Derek Jeter, followed by a Bernie Williams single. In a move that was criticized and cursed for years afterward, Sox manager Grady Little went out to the mound, but left a tiring Martinez in the game. He proceeded to give up a back-to-back doubles to Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada to tie the game, and eventually send it to extras. Mariano Rivera came in for the ninth and pitched three shutout innings.
Tim Wakefield pitched a scoreless tenth for Boston and came back in for the eleventh. Aaron Boone, who had entered earlier as a pinch-runner, led off for the Yanks. On Wakefield’s very first pitch, Boone launched a home run into the left field seats continuing the Red Sox World Series drought and lifting the Yankees to their 39th AL Pennant and sixth Fall Classic since 1996.
The New York Daily News dubbed the play the “Curse of the Boonebino.” It was rated the ninth best home run of all time on Baseball Tonight and earned Aaron his adoring nickname in Boston, “Aaron Fucking Boone.”