In my illustrious career as a Red Sox fan, I’ve had the good fortune and privilege to attend a handful of postseason games at Fenway Park. Although I’ve as of yet been unlucky in procuring tickets to any of this year’s ALDS games at Fenway, I still cling tenaciously to the memories of those playoff games I’ve witnessed in person. And ’round this time of the year, I always get a bit nostalgic for them… ::cue sweeping music::

1998 ALDS vs. Cleveland, Game Four, October 3, 1998: My first-ever playoff game, and I came up with the bright idea of drinking myself into oblivion before getting to the park. I should have seen it coming; it was cold and I was with Matt and Mike and Mark–three guys whose blood is about 80 proof–and there was a touch of anxiety in the air: the Sox were down, two games to one, and it was win or hang up the cleats. And we had Pete Schourek on the hill.

Needless to say it was an abomination of a game, with the Sox offense unable to conjure more than a single run off Bartolo Colon, Jim Poole, Paul Assenmacher, et al, despite a “Legion of Super Heroes” line-up containing Nomar (who homered for the Sox’ only run), Mo, Mike Stanley, Troy O’Leary and Darren “I’m Not There” Bragg. The highlight of the game was heckling Manny, then left-fielder for the Injuns, who went 0-for-4. In the end, when it was clear that the season was ending that very night, Nomar came out of the dugout to cheer on the fans. “Cool,” we thought. But winning would have been even cooler. Also, I lost a G betting on the Sox at M88.

2003 ALDS vs. Oakland, Game Three, October 4, 2003: Dad, god rest his soul, was like a magic ticket shaman. He’d make a few calls and bam, tickets just arrived in his hands and before I even knew what was happening we were bundled up and heading to Fenway to cheer on the lads who were already down two games.

We sat in the bleachers, wearing gloves and drinking cocoa and staring in disbelief during that play where Eric “I left that book in my locker, Mr. Hand” Byrnes slid home, missed the plate, decided to give Tek a good shove, and found himself tagged out. A grueling game that was tied 1-1 and went into extras, but the vibe in the stands was amazing–even though at that point, we’d all only known failure and heart-crushing defeat, it was as if everyone knew we were taking this game. Or, to put it better, we were likely to tear down half the city if they’d lost.

But there was nothing to fear; Trot Nixon stepped up in the bottom of the eleventh and launched a game-winning, two-run bomb that landed about seven rows away from us. And shit went nuts. Strangers hugged and high-fived and stuck tongues down each other’s throats. Cups and gloves and hats and popcorn and scorecards went flying. People screamed and gasped and cried because, quite frankly, we were half-crazed from the cold but deep down, something triggered that feeling that this could be the year. That the magic that had continued to elude us might somehow be within our grasp. That this was the team that was going to wipe away the pain and carry us to the promised land.

As we barrelled into the streets, I remember a drunk college chick screaming into her cell phone, “We fuckin’ won!” And me and Dad just smiled and kept on dreamin’.

2003 ALCS vs. New York, Game Five, October 13, 2003: If life were like the movies, the aforementioned ALDS game would have been the last playoff game me and the old man attended. Alas, Dad’s power over tickets proved unparalleled, and he scored us another pair for the ALCS. This was the series that had it all: Zimmer getting his rhino on, Jeff Nelson tussling with Fenway groundskeepers, and another visit from the Rocket. But this game was nothing but Boomer Wells stickin’ it to us good. Seven solid innings, giving up one measly run, and frustrating us at every turn–particularly a Manny ground-out with the bases loaded in the fifth, at which point the crowd got a bit “ornery.” I remember walking out and wondering if the Sox could take two at Yankee Stadium, unaware of the madness that lay ahead…

It all starts up again tonight, people. Are you ready to rock?