2004 ALCS, Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees
Do the 2004 Red Sox really deserve a seat at this table? Do we overvalue what they accomplished more because it's still recent history? Yes, and possibly yes. The 2004 Red Sox managed to do something that no other team had accomplished before or since: win a seven-game playoff series after losing the first three games. Part of what made the Red Sox's victory in the 2004 American League Champion Series is that they did it over the rival New York Yankees. Because they play in the country's biggest media market, and because the team has included so many legendary players and won so many titles over the years, the Yankees tend to be a perennial favorite, so it should come as no surprise that they were losers in some of baseball's most memorable upsets.
At the end of the 2004 regular season, Boston finished just three games behind the Yankees, and the two teams finished No. 1 and No. 2 in team payroll, so by most accounts they were very evenly matched entering the playoffs [source: ESPN]. After winning the first three games of the series -- two games at Yankee Stadium and one at Boston's Fenway Park -- it seemed inevitable that the Yankees would prevail. After all, the sports analysts continually reminded viewers, no team in history had ever managed to climb out from a three games-to-zero hole.
But then something funny happened. In fact, you can even pinpoint the moment when the momentum shifted. In the 9th inning of game 4, Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera walked Kevin Millar, which ultimately became the tying run (in the form of pinch runner Dave Roberts), extending the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the 12th inning, slugger David Ortiz hit a walk-off home run, winning the game for the Red Sox and keeping Boston's hopes alive. Going into that game, the odds were 58-to-1 against the Red Sox winning the series, yet they still managed to pull it off [source: Silver].