ST. LOUIS (USA TODAY) -- Boston Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes, standing in the bathroom Sunday afternoon, combing his shaggy beard in the mirror, dropped the news on a few of his teammates.
Shane Victorino is hurt. He's just been told he's in the starting lineup.
"Oh, wow,'' Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster said, "that's cool.''
Gomes kept combing his beard, looked over his shoulder, and said, "Yep, this is my turn to shine.''
Well, five hours later, after the Boston Red Sox's 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, evening the World Series at two games apiece, there were Baseball Hall of Fame officials waiting at his locker.
Gomes was handing over his bat and batting gloves for them to display in Cooperstown.
The beard stayed.
Yes, that's how Gomes spent the greatest day of his life.
It was Gomes' three-run homer in the sixth inning that broke 1-1 tie, assuring that the World Series will be headed back to Boston after Game 5 tonight [8:07 ET] at Busch Stadium.
The Red Sox will now have the opportunity to win their first World Series championship at home at beloved Fenway Park since 1918.
Yes, the home run was that significant to this historic franchise, silencing the crowd of 47,469 at Busch Stadium, and stunning perhaps everyone but himself.
Gomes, after all, was the one who called his night of glory.
But give Dempster credit for calling the actual shot.
Well, even better, calling the actual pitch.
While John Lackey was warming up in the bullpen, and Gomes was working the count to 2-and-2 with reliever Seth Maness on the mound, Dempster leaned over and whispered to reliever Craig Breslow.
"I had my glove behind me, and when it was 2-2,'' Dempster said, "I said, "Hey, man, I should probably grab my glove so I can catch the ball.''
No, not catch a ball in the bullpen.
Catch Gomes' home run ball.
"I stood up, and as I was standing up,'' Dempster said, "he hit it. I just wanted to catch the home run ball.''
So he caught it on the fly?
"No, I caught it on the hop,'' Dempster said, shaking his head. "Lackey was throwing BBs in the bullpen. I didn't want to wear one in the rib cage.''
The bullpen went ballistic, but as they'll tell you, they weren't half as excited as Gomes.
Gomes pumped his fists and screamed circling the bases, nearly knocking down everyone in his wake when he reached home plate.
"Jonny leads the team in excitement,'' Dempster said, laughing.
Hey, can you blame him?
This is a guy who had never hit a postseason homer in his career, and was hitless in nine at-bats this World Series.
He had the lowest postseason career batting average, .125, of any active player with at least 40 at-bats.
He wasn't even supposed to be in the starting lineup, playing only when Victorino couldn't get loose before the game.
It may be the injury that saves the Red Sox season.
Then again, Gomes never had any doubts it would turn out this way.
"When I first met him in spring training,'' Dempster said, "I asked him, "So, how are you doing?
"He said: "Hey, we're one day closer to the parade.'
"He told us all spring that we were going to win the World Series.''
The nervous laughter in that clubhouse has now turned into belief.
"What's going on inside here is pretty special, magical,'' Gomes said. "There are so many people, and so many mentors and so many messages, and so many helping paths, and helping ways for me to get here.
"Then, I step into the box in the World Series, and I'm all alone.''
And, yes, just as predicted, he shines.
"The one thing I've always wanted out of this game was the opportunity,'' Gomes said. "It's all I fought for in this year of mine is the opportunity. So when my number is called, I'm stepping up. I'm not dodging any situation.''
Oh, yeah, and besides being in the lineup, he's told that's he's batting fifth.
He didn't have to be reminded what that spot meant in the lineup.
"Now you're going to have to protect David Ortiz,'' Gomes said that he told himself. "Good luck, with all of that.''
Just in case he needed any inspiration, Ortiz came into the dugout before the sixth inning, called everyone into a huddle, and told them to relax.
"He said, "Hey guys, let's be ourselves,'' Red Sox catcher David Ross said, "let's have some fun and grind this thing out. Let's take advantage of this opportunity because it doesn't come around too often.'
"He was so fired up. And when he speaks, everybody's ears perks up.''
It was also the inning break when the two teams, and the entire stadium, held up placards with the names of loved ones affected by cancer, called, "Stand Up to Cancer.''
Gomes, who was due up fifth that inning, held up two cards. One was for Bob Leslie, his high school coach who died. The other for 4-year-old Brady Wein, who's battling cancer.
"It was just pretty ironic that happened at the top of the sixth [inning],'' Gomes said. "And I think there were some angels above the stadium looking down on me, and looking down on everybody else.''
The Red Sox, whose only hits the first two innings were by Ortiz, got a two-out walk by Dustin Pedroia. Cardinals starter Lance Lynn pitched around Ortiz. Maness was brought into face Gomes.
And on that 2-and-2 pitch, a legendary moment was made.
"It's mind-boggling,'' Ross said. "You know they're saying, "There's no way we're going to let David Ortiz beat us.' So Jonny Gomes does.
"And I'm sure he expected to do that.
"He expects to succeed. He's like, "Yeah, I'm going to go deep today. If you doubt me, watch it.' ''
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