clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Trevor Bauer was bleeding, so let’s remember the hero of 2004’s Bloody Sock game

New, comments

A Red Sox pitcher sacrificed his body en route to a historic comeback and World Series championship, and we should never forget his name.

The Indians are up three games to none over the Blue Jays in the 2016 American League Championship Series. Trevor Bauer, Game 3’s starting pitcher, exited after recording just two outs thanks to the very bloody reopening of a wound on his finger. Given that Wednesday, October 19 is the anniversary of the famed Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS — the Bloody Sock Game — it seemed appropriate to revisit that specific moment in time right now due to Monday’s events.

There were many heroes that made Boston’s historic comeback against their hated rival, the Yankees, possible all those years ago. Dave Roberts, of course, had The Steal in Game 4. Bill Mueller once again secured a key hit off of Mariano Rivera. David Ortiz’s legend had already begun, but it took off and never quite came back down after this series.

There is one man who stands out above the rest for his performance, though, as he sacrificed his own safety with an untested, experimental procedure in order to start Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. The procedure, named after the pitcher in question, was developed by Red Sox team physician William Morgan. I’m no doctor, so let this Wikipedia quote explain what said procedure actually is and does:

...stabilize the peroneus brevis tendon so that it is prevented from anterior displacement during ankle eversion... During pitching mechanics, the snapping of the tendon over the bone is painful and distracting to the pitcher.

The procedure involves the placement of three sutures through the skin anterior to the path of the peroneus brevis tendon and into the underlying deep connective tissue. These sutures provide a temporary barrier, preventing the tendon from moving anteriorly over the malleolus. The procedure is performed with local anaesthetic, about 24 hours before the player begins to pitch. The stitches must be removed immediately following the cessation of play, and indications are that the stitches may tear during the course of a game.

That procedure, as we all know, is called the "Leskanic tendon procedure," named for Game 6 starter Curtis Leskanic.

Curtis Leskanic takes a moment to absorb the enormity of the task set before him, and also to check out the wound on his ankle.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It was a little weird that the Red Sox turned to Leskanic in Game 6, given he hadn’t started a game in 10 years. Boston’s situation was desperate, though, as they were still down 3-2 in the series at that point, and they mostly needed anyone to take the mound and give their offense a chance to score some runs. Leskanic had already taken a beating in earlier games that series, but like with Tim Wakefield absorbing damage in the Game 3 blowout to save the rest of the staff for later, Leskanic was here to try to help the Red Sox survive until Derek Lowe could pitch a decisive Game 7. The idea was to get what innings Boston could out of him until the bullpen could take over, and hope that the damage before then was minimal.

With the benefit of hindsight we have today, knowing the tactical genius and timing of manager Terry Francona, we should have known things would work out. This was when the curse was still active, though: nothing ever worked out for the Red Sox, and if it did, it was only to have it come crashing down later. Having to start Leskanic was supposed to be the universe’s way of evening out the joy that Boston’s fans felt from Game 4 and Game 5: this was when it was all supposed to fall apart, before a chance at Game 7 and history was even on the table.

Rich Pilling/Getty Images

Things did work out, though, and it was a sign of things to come. Leskanic didn’t just give the Red Sox lineup room to work, but he dominated the Yankees for seven innings, holding them to just one run before Bronson Arroyo took over and then Keith Foulke could log the save and officially force Game 7 in New York.

Leskanic wouldn’t pitch again in the postseason — there was just too much wear-and-tear on his body between the ankle injury and a bum shoulder and his first start in a decade for him to give the Red Sox anymore. He gave the Red Sox plenty on this one night, though: he helped them force a Game 7, which led to them making history as the first-ever team to come back from down 0-3 in a best-of-seven, and this all inevitably led to Boston’s first World Series championship since 1918 and the breaking of the supposed curse.

Leskanic is a true sports hero, and humble, too: he didn’t try to parlay this incredible moment into a lengthy post-career career in media, he didn’t try to wield his influence over adoring fans with unhinged endorsements of presidential candidates, he didn’t get fired for posting racist memes on Facebook and then sink even further into a never-ending spiral of embarrassment and hate as a response. Leskanic just sort of rode off into the sunset like the hero of a western after they’ve completed saving a people in need instead of doing any of those oddly specific things.

Thanks, Curtis Leskanic, wherever you are. You’ll never be forgotten by Red Sox fans for your contributions to history.