Keith Foulke, most iconically known as the man who recorded the final out of the 2004 World Series, discussed his demon-exorcising tenure as a member of the Boston Red Sox via a quarantine podcast interview.
December, 2003- Following the gut-wrenching defeat in the hands of the New York Yankees yet again, general manager Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox pulled soon-to-be demon-exorcising trigger in signing the franchises most reliant closer in the past half decade.
Just a few months prior, Foulke was a member of the Oakland Athletics and the on the verge of recovery from his own gut-wrenching playoff elimination. Ahead two games to zero in a best of five series, the Red Sox proceeded to win the next three consecutive games en route to a ALCS appearance against the New York Yankees.
“Being a free agent for the first time was pretty exciting. Ya know, I remember after… we basically lost to Boston after being up 2-0… was very gut-wrenching for me”
“After it was all said and done, even my dad says… you’re gonna be a Boston Red Sox next year” (Foulke on watching 2003 ALCS)Keith Foulke on 2003 offseason approach
Foulke, 31-years-old at the time, initially envisioned a return to the Oakland Athletics, stating, “I just kind of anticipated going back to Oakland”, following Foulke’s agent informing him that the Red Sox were likely to make a run after him at free agency.
It would be on December, 13, of that 2003 off-season in which the two would agree on a three-year contract worth $20.75 million. “We couldn’t be happier to have added Keith Foulke”, Theo Epstein stated following having landed a right-handed relief arm who’d maintained a 2.04 ERA through 72 games in the season prior with the Athletics.
“I wanted to go back to Oakland, but part of me kind of wanted the challenge of going into a big market”
“That and a call from Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins 1966-1975 ) and it was all set and done”– Keith Foulke
With wearing a Red Sox uniform through 162-games a year, comes the alliance of partaking in one of the most iconic rivalries in the history of professional sports.
Foulke proceeded to speak in regards to being instantly thrown into the fire of a rivalry which reached one of its purest peaks during his tenure. Foulke referred to his past seasons with both the Athletics and White Sox, in which, “there was never a game that went by where you didn’t at least hear a handful of ‘Yankees Suck’ chants.”
That very 2004 season, Foulke’s debut in Boston, would be in which he’d get a first-hand view of the rivalry through a series of some of baseball’s most well-remembered events.
On July 24, 2004, Yankees third-baseman Alex Rodriguez didn’t take exception to being plunked by Bronson Arroyo of the Red Sox, initiating one of the rivalries most iconic brawls. One which would be followed by a Bill Mueller walk-off home-run off Mariano Rivera.
Months later the Red Sox are on the verge of pulling off the greatest comeback in the history of sports, one that came with not only the hurdle nine innings, but that of avoiding conflict with a shower of beer bottles, baseballs, and other debris, being showered their way in a sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd in October.
“We have great fans, but very respectful. I will say that not every place you go into has that same level of fans”
“There’s certain cities you go into, its like, you know you’re going to have shit thrown at you. They’re gonna do something stupid, I understand. You guys live here, you guys are very angry people.”– Keith Foulke
As previously stated by Foulke above, performing in a big market was a key factor and challenge in swaying his decision towards Boston as a free-agent. However, with that challenge comes being able to perform while also dealing with the media. One harsh critic during the time of Foulke’s career in Boston, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, infamously referred to that 2004 Red Sox team as a “pack of frauds” who “failed to show up”. A column written by Shaughnessy prior to game 4 of the ALCS, in which the Red Sox found themselves down three games to zero.
Foulke spoke on his perspective and experience with the media back in 2004 after being asked if he ever felt a sense of betrayal in members potential desire to witness their downfall.
“Some of the best advice I got as a young player was ‘don’t get caught up in the media. Don’t read the papers, don’t listen to talk-radio”
“However good things are going, eventually at some point, they’re gonna turn around, and you’re not gonna be doing so well, your teams not gonna be doing so well.”
“Drama sells… if the reporters are always on your side and the teams winning, great, but it gets boring.”– Keith Foulke
Nevertheless destiny via an Edgar Renteria ground-ball being chopped “back to Foulke”, would overwrite all, officially exorcising the demons which have haunted generations upon generations of Red Sox fans who time and time again endured the pain of absolute turmoil in somehow, someway, watching their beloved organization do as they did best for 86 years. Come up short.
A staple in the history books of not only Red Sox history, but sports in general. Yet despite having waited until the World Series to allow his first an only run through 14 games (0.64 ERA), 19.0 innings of relief, Foulke didn’t take home the series’ Most Valuable Player award, something that Foulke claims to this day, “still bothers [him].”
“After I tossed that ball when we were in St. Louis, that was really a lifelong dream… the weight of the world fell off my shoulders.”
“That was one of the greatest moments of my life.”
“When you have people going to the cemeteries and having parties with their lost loved ones, it’s very emotional, and it’s one of those things, I’m very proud to say I was a part of that team.”– Keith Foulke on recording the curse-ending final out in 2004