‘Wow’: Remembering one of the greatest days in Boston sports history on its 10-year anniversary

Red Sox

Tom Brady and David Ortiz helped give Bostonians a day to remember forever.

Torii Hunter came so close to robbing David Ortiz and Red Sox fans of an iconic moment. Globe staff photo by Stan Grossf

Tom Brady and David Ortiz delivered in the clutch for well over a decade, giving Boston sports fans many joyous moments over the years.

There was one day when both delivered signature moments in the clutch that will forever live in the minds of Boston sports fans.

Oct. 13, 2013, ended up being a day for the ages in Boston sports. Both the Patriots and Red Sox captured dramatic wins that day. The Patriots defeated the Saints, 30-27, while the Red Sox defeated the Tigers, 6-5, in Game 2 of the ALCS to even up the series. But both games were on the doorstep of being disappointments, to say the least.

Tom Brady’s game-winning touchdown pass

The day began in Foxborough, where the Patriots took on the 5-0 Saints. The battle between Brady and fellow future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees lived up to the expectations for much of the first three quarters. New England held a 17-7 lead at halftime.

The Saints crawled back into it, though. New Orleans scored 10 straight points to open up the second half before New England responded with two straight field goals. However, the Saints took the lead, 24-23, when Brees capped off an 81-yard scoring drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills with 3:29 remaining.

Hope of a Patriots win continued to sink when they went four-and-out in the ensuing drive, giving the Saints the ball at the Patriots’ 24-yard line with 2:46 remaining. New England held New Orleans to a field goal, getting the ball back with 2:24 remaining.

But the Patriots’ hopes of winning appeared dead right after Brady threw an interception on a deep pass to Julian Edelman.

The tide changed, though. The Patriots forced the Saints to go three-and-out, giving Brady one last chance for a comeback win with 1:13 remaining, trailing 27-23, with no timeouts and 70 yards to go.

Brady stepped up right away, completing his first three passes of the drive for a combined 38 yards to get the Patriots to the Saints’ 26-yard line. The Patriots were faced with another make-or-break moment after Brady threw incompletions on the following two plays, but he completed a 9-yard pass to Austin Collie to get the first down on fourth down.

Following a quick spike, Brady completed his magic. He found wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in the end zone with five seconds left for the 17-yard winning score, giving the Patriots a 30-27 win.

Kenbrell Thompkins made an impressive, leaping touchdown grab to help the Patriots beat the Saints on Oct. 13, 2013. – (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

The touchdown pass was another vintage Brady moment, made even more memorable by Patriots radio commentator Scott Zolak.

“Brady’s back! That’s your quarterback!” Zolak first yelled. “Unicorns! Show ponies! Where’s the beef!?!?”

“We had everybody going to the end zone and [Thompkins] kind of snuck into the corner and I put it up there for him and he came down and made a great catch,” Brady told reporters of the play following the game.

Brady’s fourth-quarter heroics in that game actually came during a weird spot in the iconic quarterback’s career. He completed just 56.6 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and three interceptions with an 80.5 passer rating through the first five games as the receiver and tight end rooms underwent major changes in the offseason.

That’s why Thompkins, an undrafted rookie, and Collie, who signed with the Patriots earlier that month, were two of Brady’s key receivers on that drive.

“I have confidence in those guys,” Brady said of his group of receivers at the time. “We’re certainly not perfect out there. We’re definitely just grinding.”

For Thompkins, it was the fourth touchdown reception of his career, and by far the most dramatic.

“Coach Bill [Belichick] said that it might come down to the final seconds,” Thompkins said. “You had to stick with the system. We just had to go out there and fight to the finish.”

The win was the 24th of Brady’s NFL record 46 career fourth-quarter comebacks. Belichick certainly knew that Brady thrived for those moments.

“That’s what he does,” Belichick said of Brady. “That’s what he gets paid for. That’s why he’s so good.”

That day, the often dry football coach also cracked some humor in his postgame press conference.

“Sorry if you have to rewrite some your stories there at the end,” Belichick said.

“What a football game,” Belichick added. “That took about five years off my life.”

David Ortiz’s grand slam

Up the road from Gillette Stadium, the Red Sox were preparing to try and even up Game 2 of the ALCS against the Tigers. A cheer roared during pregame when fans caught the ending of the Saints-Patriots game in Foxborough, which some fans at Gillette Stadium missed that day as they had already hit the exits.

Any sort of cross-sport momentum from the Patriots’ dramatic win didn’t immediately carry over into Fenway on that Sunday autumn night. After they failed to record a hit until the ninth inning in Game 1, the Red Sox’ bats went quiet again. They failed to record a hit through the first five innings as Tigers ace Max Scherzer silenced them throughout the night.

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz ran out of gas in the sixth inning, giving up homers to Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila as they scored four runs in the frame to take a 5-0 lead. The Red Sox were able to get a run back that inning, but Ortiz stranded a runner in scoring position when Scherzer struck him out to end the sixth.

Boston continued to stare down the possibility of falling down to a 2-0 hole with the series moving to Detroit over much of the next two innings. Scherzer retired the side, in order, in the seventh. In the eighth, Stephen Drew grounded out to open up the inning. Will Middlebrooks doubled and Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk in the ensuing at-bats, but Shane Victorino struck out for the second out of the inning.

Dustin Pedroia kept the faint hope alive though, hitting a line drive single to right field that came off the bat so quickly that Middlebrooks was held at third. The hit loaded the bases up for Ortiz as the Red Sox trailed, 5-1.

The Tigers called upon right-handed reliever Joaquín Benoit to replace Al Alburquerque and face Ortiz. The Hall of Famer didn’t waste any time welcoming Benoit into the game, connecting with his first pitch, a changeup.

Ortiz’s swing looked like it had a chance to send the ball over the wall in right-center field at the crack of the bat. Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner and well-regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders of all time, quickly closed in on the fly ball, trying to get himself under it as he approached the fence.

Hunter ran out of room as he jumped up to try and make the grab. His hip connected with the wall, flipping him over as the ball sailed just over his glove and into the glove of the Red Sox’ bullpen catcher.

Ortiz had done it again. His home run tied the game and gave the Red Sox new life as Hunter nearly snatched it away.

“I tell you — Torii always scares me,” Ortiz told reporters of Hunter’s chase to get the ball. “He’s one of the best outfielders I ever saw in my life.”

Hunter also thought he had a chance to make a catch for the ages.

“I jumped up; I thought I had a bead on it,” Hunter said. “Next thing you know I’m falling over the fence.”

Oritz’s homer obviously didn’t win the Red Sox game — Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit the game-winning single in the ninth — but it was all that anyone talked about after the game. Several fan clips of the home run at Fenway emerged the following day, with each capturing the magic of the moment.

Ortiz’s teammates and members of the Red Sox were in as much awe as they were.

“David, so many times, has come up big, whether it’s the regular season, postseason,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “None bigger than tonight.”

“I guess David really is the most clutch hitter we’ve ever had,” Red Sox owner John Henry said. “Wow.”

“We needed something to happen,” Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks added. “Getting David to the plate in the eighth inning was huge. I grew up watching the guy come through in moments like that.”

The Red Sox celebrated after Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s game-winning hit in the ninth inning in Game 2 of the ALCS. – (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

Ortiz’s home run was a statistical anomaly. It marked the first time in MLB postseason history that a player hit a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning or later. As the Red Sox trailed 5-0 earlier in the game, it marked just the 15th time in 474 instances that a team came back to win from a deficit of at least five runs in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

While many thought Ortiz was swinging for the fences to try the game, he said that wasn’t the case at the time.

“My idea wasn’t to go out and hit a grand slam,” Ortiz said. “If I was telling you about thinking about hitting a grand slam, I’d be lying to you now.”

Regardless of Ortiz’s intent, the moment is, without a doubt, one of the greatest in Red Sox’ history.

“I’ve seen him do some pretty cool things. But that’s pretty special,” Pedroia said.

The Aftermath

As many likely remember, the Red Sox went on to win the ALCS, defeating the Tigers in six games as Shane Victorino’s grand slam in Game 6 decided the outcome.

Ortiz didn’t have a moment as dramatic as he did in Game 2 of the ALCS in the World Series, but he put on a hitting performance for the ages in the Fall Classic. He hit an astonishing .688 with two home runs and six RBIs, proving to be the catalyst of the Red Sox’ six-game World Series win over the Cardinals, giving the city a title to celebrate just over six months after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Ortiz’s performance that October is often cited as one of the main reasons he became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2022. Just about every member of that Red Sox team has since retired, with Xander Bogaerts being the only player on an active roster in 2023.

The Patriots’ 2013 season didn’t end in a title. Those wide receiver woes they had were among the reasons for their downfall that season. But it did give Julian Edelman a chance to breakout, setting the stage for the next five seasons as he became Brady’s top target during that time en route to three more Super Bowl titles.

As for Thompkins, that touchdown grab was the last of his NFL career. The Patriots cut Thompkins early in the 2014 season. He signed with the Raiders shortly after but was cut before the start of the 2015 season.

Thompkins signed with the Patriots’ practice squad following his release from the Raiders before signing with the Jets later in the 2015 season. He was on and off the Jets’ roster from that point through the start of the 2017 season, when he was released for good.