ESPN 30 for 30: Four Days in October (2010)

Directed by Gary Waksman

While doing some research on the series before I kicked off this ESPN 30 for 30 marathon, I found that the episodes produced by the production arms of the sports organizations, such as MLB Productions which helped produce this particular film, I found that these installments were not very well received by most. From that bit of information I can probably see where they’re coming from without even having to see the films. Of course they are going to champion and dramatize any events which happened within their sport, it only makes sense, but what about when that event is truly historically significant? There are few moments in baseball in the past 20 years as remarkable and dramatically important as the subject of this film.

After the 1919 season, the Boston Red Sox sold pitcher Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Yes, that Babe Ruth who then became a hitter and proceeded to become the best hitter in the game, the home run king until Hank Aaron was able to break his record, and perhaps the most famous baseball player of all time. The Curse of the Bambino was placed in the Red Sox, who after the sale had never won the World Series. They seemed to run so close and every time they fell short, often at the hands of their heated rival New York Yankees. In 2004 the Red Sox went down 0-3 in the AL Championship Series. No team had ever come back to win even two games down 0-3. The Red Sox came back and won four in a row to win the series, ultimately reversing the curse and going on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four games for the World Series title.

That was one of the craziest playoff series I have ever seen in my short life. And it happened in high school  for me so sadly I was often forced to go to bed before the end of these games, but there are moments throughout these games which will live forever in baseball history, Red Sox fan or not. And I’m not, in fact I loathe the Red Sox and the Yankees and most especially the media attention they receive for their rivalry, but the fact of the matter is that they have played some of the best, most heated games in baseball. The Yankees blew out the Red Sox in game 3 and no one gave them a chance, except themselves, led by a misfit among misfits, Kevin Millar and their famous “Cowboy Up” mentality. They were a unique bunch with the likes of Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, but they were just the right combination to get the job done.

The film is fairly basic creatively, using mostly archive footage to tell the story of those four days in October of 2004 in chronological order. And honestly, like June 17, 1994 before it, this film would have been marvelous with all archive footage because it was such a crazy, remarkable series of events. But as it stands the short interviews with players were nice enough. The only real problem is the conversation between Bill Simmons and Lenny Clark at a local bar. I do not need the commentary of these two schmucks to help me understand what it meant to the players or fans. Let it breath.

But of course that is a minor part of the film and I would embrace the opportunity to relive these moments time and again. That stolen base by Dave Roberts in Game 4, when the entire world knew he was stealing, the walk off home run that followed innings later by David Ortiz, the bloody sock Game 6 by Curt Schilling, who went out and gave one of the gutsiest performances in years, and of course the ridiculous swat by Alex Rodriguez seen above. These are moments that are impossible to forget. Heck, I will never remember how the Red Sox just started to blow out the Yankees in Game 7, proving the curse was no more. The World Series becomes an afterthought when thinking about the 2004 postseason. All focus is on this series, and with good reason. There was little this film could have done to ruin a story like this. It does its job and nothing more.

*** – Good


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