09/25/12 10:42 PM ET
Red Sox celebrate title-winning '04 squad
Remembered as 'idiots,' championship club gathers for Fenway Park centennial
By Jason Mastrodonato / Special to MLB.com
Both Soriano and Jeter were sent to the hospital for X-rays after being plunked in the hand by the Red Sox ace more than eight years ago.
Martinez admitted this before Tuesday's game against the Rays, when he returned to Fenway Park with a crew of old teammates for a pregame ceremony that honored the 2004 World Series championship squad that broke the Red Sox's 86-year drought.
Martinez, who last pitched in the Majors in 2009, could now speak freely, without fear of being fined or suspended.
He plunked the Yankees on purpose.
Teammate Kevin Millar was sure Roger Clemens had been throwing at him two days earlier.
"What makes us family is that you had each other's back, you cared for each other," Millar said. "The quote was, 'You hit one of your guys, I'm taking down two of yours. You tell Clemens that.' That's what that team was about. It wasn't a tough-guy [thing]. It's just the way it was."
There was passion on the Red Sox in 2003, and even more the following year.
That's why, when asked to pinpoint key memories in the special season of 2004, Millar said, "The group. It was a group. That was the one thing, coming back now and seeing everything, you remember the tightness.
"We weren't the best players. We had a few superstars in Pedro and Manny [Ramirez], but we were the best unit, if that makes sense."
Tuesday's ceremony, held in honor of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, brought back a lot of memories while reuniting, among others, Martinez, Millar, Keith Foulke, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and David Ortiz.
Foulke, who reenacted the final pitch of the World Series, with Varitek jumping into his arms, talked about how he never once felt like that season was going to be special, but it just happened that way.
"We didn't really know what we were getting into," he said.
Martinez said he never had been on a team that ate dinner together as often as the Red Sox in '04.
"We used to go out, all of us together," he said. "Six in one pack, six in the other pack. 'Where you going to be? We'll be in this place. We're having dinner in this place.' But we were all in the same place at the same time."
"Latin, white, black, that's what made it cool," Millar said.
That season's Red Sox, who playfully referred to themselves as "idiots," all genuinely liked each other. And on a team that became the first group to ever come back and win a seven-game playoff series after falling behind, three games to none, they needed to.
"You've got to pull for each other," said Millar. "You're not fooling us. We can fool [the media]. You can say the right thing, and we know a few of the teams out there that say the right thing in front of the cameras. But you can't fool your teammates.
"If someone is pulling against Keith Foulke because he wants to be the closer and doesn't know his role, you feel that. If someone is pulling against Pedro Martinez because he wants to be the guy, you feel that. We pulled for each other."
Even former manager Terry Francona was a perfect fit, Millar explained: "The strength that Francona has is there's very little ego. The door's always open. ... He allowed you to be who you are.
"It's a little bit like [Rays manager] Joe Maddon. I was talking to him today. This man allows you to be who you are. We're all different."
And the decisive move of the 2004 season, Millar said, was when the Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra, who was hitting .321, to the Chicago Cubs in the middle of the season.
"We were, like, .500," Millar said. "We were 45-45, we couldn't get hot, and it was one of those years. Then, all of a sudden, it was like they traded Ted Williams. Nomar Garciaparra was the closest guy in our generation, right? Two batting titles, where you say, 'What is going on?' It took a lot of [guts] for [former general manager Theo Epstein], but something had to be done. That's what he chose ... It all worked. It just worked."
Millar, a career .274 hitter, batted .297 that season. Varitek, a career .256 hitter, batted .296. The list goes on, with Doug Mirabelli (.231 career, .281 in '04), Trot Nixon (.274 career, .315 in '04) Orlando Cabrera (.272 career, .294 in 58 games after he was traded to Boston in '04), among others, all having seasons that outperformed their career averages.
The players try to put their finger on why, but they can't. It's one of those teams in sports history that may have excelled because they were simply happy together.
Martinez said he probably would have retired after the 2004 season had the Red Sox not ended the season with a World Series championship. Instead, he pitched five more seasons.
Martinez still hasn't signed the wall inside the Green Monster, usually a rite of passage for Red Sox players. He wanted to wait until he felt like he deserved it.
But after spending Tuesday with his old teammates, feeling that joy again and being reminded why 2004 was so special, he thinks he can sign it now.
"Now we can all go and sign and say mission accomplished," he said. "I'm going to sign really high [on the wall], so that Manny doesn't pee on it."
Jason Mastrodonato is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.