Mark Bellhorn hit the ball down the right–field line, and Boston manager Terry Francona couldn't bear to look.
The ball kept going, out toward Pesky's Pole before it clanked off the screen for a two–run homer in the eighth inning, giving the Red Sox an 11–9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in a World Series opener that had been spinning out of control.
At first, Bellhorn had no idea whether the ball would stay fair.
"I hit it pretty good, but depends on which way the wind was blowing," he said. "The wind was blowing pretty hard."
It was a raw autumn night, with the wind blowing from left to right at about 30 mph.
Boston had been ahead 7–2 early, but it was 9–9 in the bottom of the eighth. The Red Sox were on the verge of becoming the first team to take a five–run lead in Game 1 and lose.
Leading off, Jason Varitek reached on Edgar Renteria's error on a ball deep into the shortstop hole. Then up came Bellhorn, fresh off his heroics in the American League championship series.
Four nights earlier at Yankee Stadium, his opposite–field, three–run shot down the left–field line sent the Red Sox on to a 4–2 victory that tied the series 3–3. Then he homered again in the 10–3, pennant–clinching win the next night, also off the foul pole in right.
Against St. Louis reliever Julian Tavarez, Bellhorn took a strike and then fouled off a pitch down the right–field line.
"I thought I hit the first one" out, Bellhorn said, "and it kind of blew pretty hard to the right."
Bellhorn took the third pitch for a ball, then he pulled another one down the right–field line – and the 35,035 fans at Fenway Park watched and waited.
"The first ball he hit I thought was a home run off the bat, and it went so far foul I was afraid to even get up and get excited on the second one," Francona said. "The first one ended up 50 feet foul."
Right fielder Larry Walker went into the corner. The ball hit the pole and bounced back to the field behind him.
"If the pole wasn't there and if the stands went in about 50 more feet, I would have caught it," Walker said.
It was a mirror image of Carlton Fisk's famous World Series shot off the left–field pole that won Game 6 against Cincinnati in 1975.
"The playoffs are a weird game," Manny Ramirez said. "Anyone out there can be the hero."
Bellhorn had struck out 177 times during the regular season, a Boston record, and was just 1–for–14 in the first four games against the Yankees.
No matter. His teammates trust him.
"In clutch situations, that's when players stand out," closer Keith Foulke said. "He's been doing it all year for us."
David Ortiz had been the star earlier in the night, hitting a three–run homer that went above – that's right, above – Pesky's pole.
Then Papi added a run–scoring single in the seventh that hit the lip of the infield, hopped up and hit Tony Womack in the collarbone, knocking him out of the game.
Ortiz's homer was the first for the Red Sox at Fenway in the Series since Fisk's. His four RBIs matched the most for Boston in a Series game, tying Carl Yastrzemski in the second game of 1967, also against St. Louis. And with 19 RBIs, he's already tied the postseason record, shared by Sandy Alomar Jr. and Scott Spiezio.
But it wasn't a night for the stars in the middle of the order. In the opener of Boston's first World Series since 1986, the No. 9 hitter made the difference.
"I'm not here to try to be a hero," Bellhorn insisted. "I'm just here to try to win four games."
Ten months ago, when he was on the roster of the Colorado Rockies, they didn't even want a player in exchange. Boston wound up sending cash.
"He was acquired for a player to be named later who turned out to be nobody," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "He's the ultimate low–profile acquisition."
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