I was too tense -- the old saying, "Act like you've been here before" did me no good. The whole time, I felt like it was not the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees that were the team that hadn't been to the Playoffs time and time again, that hadn't been to the Playoffs in 15 years.
It felt more like a Devils Playoff series. And, no matter what their regular-season record, the Devils are never treated like the favorites.
That said, the Yankees did manage to finally put the Baltimore Birds away tonight. And, no, it wasn't easy.
As I've said before, Carsten Charles Sabathia is a beast. If you doubt this, you should have seen the sign a fan held up so the TBS cameras would focus on them:
In the top of the 4th, CC allowed a single to Nate McLouth. In the top of the 5th, he allowed a walk to Matt Wieters -- whom he erased on a ground-ball double play. In the top of the 6th, he allowed a long fly ball down the right field line to Robert Andino, and it was foul by inches. It was reviewed, and, for a moment, I thought the ball actually deflected off the pole. The umpires decided it was foul, and CC proceeded to induce another fly to right, which Nick Swisher was able to catch with comparative ease.
And for the 1st 7 innings, that was all CC allowed. You need your ace, or whoever is pitching a win-or-go-home game (because he must pitch like an ace, or it's see you in April), to pitch like that. He did.
But it doesn't matter if your starting pitcher is The Man, if you don't get The Man some runs. In the top of the 5th, Mark Teixeira led off with a single, and stole 2nd. Raul Ibanez, starting as the DH, singled him home. 1-0 Yankees.
In the bottom of the 6th, Eric Chavez, starting at 3rd base because Joe Girardi was sure that Alex Rodriguez simply wasn't going to come through, led off with a strikeout. (Hell, the $275 Million Man could have done that.) But Derek Jeter drew a walk, and Ichiro Suzuki nearly hit one out, doubling the Captain home. 2-0 Yankees.
In the bottom of the 7th, Swish, who remains ice cold, led off with a strikeout. Curtis Granderson, who is also ice cold, came up. He heated up: He hit a no-doubt-about-it home run.
3-0 Yankees. I began to relax, ever so slightly.
And, sure enough, that's when the O's struck back. Wieters led off the top of the 8th with a single. Then CC walked Manny Machado, and, suddenly, the beast was looking tired. And who was up? Only the man who'd done so much to make the O's chipaway of the Yanks' 10-game AL East lead possible: Mark Reynolds.
Well, CC dug deep, and he left Reynolds wrapped. Struck him out swinging. One out.
Lew Ford singled to left, ending the shutout. Machado got to 2nd. Andino hit a grounder back to the mound, and, like Andy Pettitte in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, CC thought to throw to 3rd -- but nobody was covering 3rd! So he threw to 2nd to try to get Ford on a forceout, but the hesitation of his looking toward 3rd ensured his throw would be too late.
Bases loaded, 1 out, and a 2-run lead. And McLouth, one of the few guys on either side of this series that was doing any hitting, is up. Oy vey...
CC sent McLouth south. Struck him out swinging. Two outs.
Up next was J.J. Hardy, who got the winning hit last night. He hit a slow dribbler to short, Jeter went after it, fired to 1st... Got him! Out of the jam. And what a hand CC got from the fans at Yankee Stadium II.
Girardi rewarded CC by sending him out for the 9th -- or maybe he just knew that he'd shot the entire bullpen last night, and needed to give them a rest, what with Game 1 of the ALCS being tomorrow, maybe less than 24 hours away. Once again, Bud Selig showed his scheduling skills are about on a par with Henrik Lundqvist's goaltending: When it counts, not good enough.
CC got Adam Jones -- no relation to the football player of the same name, a.k.a. Pacman Jones -- to fly to left. He struck out Chris Davis. And he got Wieters to ground back to him for a last out that was a lot easier than the 1st 26.
Ballgame over! American League Division Series over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!
So now it's on to the American League Championship Series, against the Detroit Tigers. We lost ALDS to the Tigers in 2006 and 2011, and now face them in the ALCS. Just like we faced the Whatever They Were Calling Themselves In Those Seasons Angels of Anaheim in the ALDS of 2002 and 2005, and then beat them in the 2009 ALCS. Maybe the pattern will hold.
Here's the ALCS schedule, with starting pitchers not yet announced, but I'm guessing, based on who's pitched when so far:
Game 1 at Yankee Stadium II: Tomorrow night, 8:00. Pettitte vs. Anibal Sanchez.
Game 2 at Yankee Stadium II: Sunday afternoon, 4:00. Hiroki Kuroda vs. Max Scherzer.
Game 3 at Comerica Park in Detroit: Tuesday night, 8:00. Phil Hughes vs. Justin Verlander, who can't go any sooner than that because he pitched Game 5 of the Tigers' ALDS with the Oakland A's.
Game 4 at Comerica Park: Wednesday night, 8:00. CC vs. Doug Fister. Because we needed CC tonight, this will be the only game he can pitch in the ALCS, unless Girardi wants to risk him on 3 days' rest in Game 7.
Game 5 at Comerica Park, if necessary: Thursday afternoon, 4:00. Pettitte vs. Sanchez.
Game 6 at Yankee Stadium II, if necessary: A week from tomorrow night, 8:00. Kuroda vs. Scherzer.
Game 7 at Yankee Stadium II, if necessary: A week from Sunday night, 8:00. Hughes vs. Verlander. So let's not make this thing go to a Game 7, huh, fellas? Either that, or start CC on short rest and have Hughes ready to go in case CC can't go more than 5.
October 13, 1775: The Continental Congress orders the creation of the Continental Navy, the forerunner of the United States Navy.
This would seem to have nothing to do with baseball, but, during World War II, it would be the Navy that would have, arguably, the three greatest catchers in baseball history: Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. (I thought Johnny Bench served in the Army Reserve during Vietnam, but I can't find any record of this.)
The WWII Navy would also have Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and, through the Marine Corps which is officially part of the Navy, Ted Williams, Jerry Coleman, and broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Ernie Harwell. The Army would have Hank Greenberg, Warren Spahn, Jackie Robinson, and, through the Army Air Corps, forerunner of the U.S. Air Force, Joe DiMaggio.
October 13, 1862, 150 years ago: In a game against Unions of Morrisania (now part of The Bronx), Jim Creighton of the Brooklyn-based Excelsiors hits a 6th-inning home run, after doubling in each of first 4 times to plate. When he crosses home, the 21-year old Brooklynite complains of having broken his belt. It turns out to be a suspected ruptured inguinal hernia caused by the torque created by his all upper-body hard swing with the bat. Medicine being what it was during the years of the American Civil War, he dies in agony 5 days later.
Creighton was the first true baseball superstar, and his monument in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery is rather outlandish. Had this not happened to him, he could have lived to see baseball in the 20th Century.
Also buried in Green-Wood are pioneer sportswriter Henry Chadwick, Dodger owner Charles Ebbets, actor DeWolf Hopper (famed for his recitings of "Casey at the Bat), "New York, New York" lyricist Fred Ebb, conductor Leonard Bernstein, pianomaker Henry Steinway; Theodore Roosevelt's parents, uncle and first wife; minister Henry Ward Beecher; publishers Horace Greeley, James Gordon Bennett and Henry J. Raymond, and reporter Nellie Bly; artists Nathaniel Currier and James Ives, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Jean-Michel Basquiat, inventors Samuel Morse and Elias Howe, New Jersey's first Governor William Livingston; the two people for whom the male and female components of New Jersey's State University are named, Henry Rutgers and Mabel Smith Douglass; New York Governor DeWitt Clinton and "Boss" William Marcy Tweed, actors Lola Montez, Laura Keene (onstage when Lincoln was shot) and Frank Morgan (the title role in The Wizard of Oz); and mob boss Albert Anastasia and the man often suspected of killing him, "Crazy" Joey Gallo.
October 13, 1899: The Louisville Colonels score 4 runs in the 9th to take a 6-5 lead over the Pirates‚ but heavy black smoke from the Pittsburgh steel mills spills over the field, and the game is called because of poor visibility. The score reverts to what it was at the end of the previous inning: Pirates 5, Colonels 2. The Colonels, led by shortstop Honus Wagner, end the season today in 9th place at 75-77.
It will be their last season, as the National League contracts from 12 to 8 teams. The Pirates’ owners buy the Colonels franchise, lock, stock and Honus, and will win 4 of the next 10 NL Pennants and be in the race for most of the rest. Louisville has since been one of the top minor-league cities of the last 100 years, but it has never returned to the major leagues.
October 13, 1903: The Boston Pilgrims, forerunners of the Red Sox, win the first World Series, 5 games to 3, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0 in Game 8. Hobe Ferris singles home 2 runs in the 4th, and Bill Dineen, pitching his 3rd win of the Series, outduels Deacon Phillippe, pitching his 5th complete game. Boston is the champion of the baseball world.
As with my previous mention of the 1904 Pilgrims/Red Sox, the last survivor was shortstop Freddy Parent, who lived on until 1972. Right fielder Tommy Leach is the last surviving 1903 Pirate, living until 1969.
October 13, 1914: The Boston Braves complete a shocking four-game sweep, the first in World Series history, over the mighty Philadelphia Athletics, winning Game 4, 3-1 at Fenway Park. Johnny Evers, former second-base star with the Chicago Cubs, singles in the 5th to make the difference.
The “Miracle Braves,” who came from last place on the 4th of July to win the whole thing, had abandoned South End Grounds, at whose location they had played since their founding as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871, in mid-season, because the new stadium they were building was not yet ready, and because Fenway Park had a larger seating capacity. A year later, Braves Field would open, and because it was the largest stadium yet built, with a capacity of 40,000, the Red Sox would play their 1915, ’16 and ’18 home games there. It would be 1946 before Fenway Park hosted another postseason game.
Fighting the rise of salaries caused by the Federal League, A’s owner-manager Connie Mack sold off most of his stars after this Series, ending a run of 4 Pennants and 3 World Championships in 5 seasons. In fact, he had won 6 of the first 14 AL Pennants and was in the race nearly every year. In 1915, the A’s would collapse to last place, and in 1916 they would produce a record of 36-117, the most losses in the major leagues between the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and the 1962 New York Mets, and still the lowest winning percentage since 1899, .235. To this, Mack is alleged to have said, perhaps coining the now-familiar phrase, “Well, you can’t win them all.” It would take Mack until 1927 to get the A’s back into a Pennant race and 1929 to get them back into the Series.
The Braves would not be unable to maintain their prosperity, either. They finished 2nd in 1915 and 3rd in ’16, but in ’17, catcher Hank Gowdy, a key figure in their ’14 run, became the first big-leaguer to enlist in World War I. (In fact, he would go on to become the only big-leaguer to serve in that war and World War II.) Like the A’s, the Braves would go on to become symbolic of baseball frustration: From 1917 to 1932, the Braves would have one season above .500, and 4 seasons of at least 100 losses. A 4th-place finish in 1933 was followed by a 38-115 season in 1935, a .248 winning percentage that’s the lowest in baseball in the last 95 years and the lowest in the NL in 112, even less than the 40-120 ’62 Mets’ .250. Not until 1947 would they get back into a Pennant race, not until 1948 would they win another Pennant, and by the time they won another World Series, 1957, they would be in Milwaukee, and the Red Sox would be in Boston all alone.
The last survivor of the 1914 Miracle Braves was 3rd baseman Charlie Deal, who lived on until 1979.
October 13, 1915: The Boston Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4 in Game 5, and win the World Series. The Sox would get to the next World Series, and another 2 years later. The Phillies would not get to another for 35 years.
This would be the last game in a Boston uniform for their superstar center fielder, Tris Speaker, who is soon traded to the Cleveland Indians. The trade doesn't hurt the Sox much, though, as a new star had his first full season in 1915, although he did not appear in the Series: Babe Ruth.
October 13, 1921: For the last time, the World Series is a best-5-out-of-9 affair. Game 8 is played at the Polo Grounds, home for one more season after this of both the National League’s Giants and the American League’s Yankees. George “Highpockets” Kelly of the Giants hits a ball through the legs of Yankee shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh in the first, scoring a run. It is the first time Peckinpaugh has blown it in a Series game, but it will not be the last.
The game is still 1-0 in the 9th, when Aaron Ward draws a walk with one out. Frank “Home Run” Baker, previously a Series star for Connie Mack’s A’s against the Giants, hits a line shot that Giant second baseman Johnny Rawlings snares, and throws to first to get Baker with the second out. Ward, thinking the ball had gone through, heads for third base, and Kelly throws across the infield to Frankie Frisch, and Ward is out. That’s the game and the first “Subway Series” (although the term wouldn’t be used for another few years), as the Giants win, 5 games to 3.
For the Giants, it is their 2nd World Series win, their first since 1905. For Giants manager John McGraw, it is proof that his scrappy, run-scratching, pitching-and-defense-leading style of baseball, is better than the Yankee style, which is to get guys on base and wait for someone (most likely Babe Ruth, who was ineffective in this Series) to hit a home run. For the Yankees, their first World Series ends in disappointment. They will, however, be back.
The last survivor of the '21 Giants was Kelly, who lived until 1984.
Also on this day, Louis Henry Saban is born in Brookfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
October 13, 1931: Edwin Lee Mathews is born in Texarkana, Texas. The Hall-of-Famer is the only man to have played for the Braves in Boston (his rookie season, 1952, was their last there), Milwaukee (all 13 years the franchise played there) and Atlanta (their first season there, 1966, was his last with the team).
His 47 home runs in 1953 was a franchise record, tied by teammate Hank Aaron in 1971, until Andruw Jones broke it with 51 in 2005. Mathews hit a 10th-inning walkoff home run to give the Braves Game 4 of the 1957 World Series, which they would win in 7 games. He hit his 500th career home run as a Houston Astro in 1967, finished his career as a World Champion with 512 home runs with the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and managed Aaron when he became the all-time home run leader in 1974. The Braves retired Mathews’ Number 41, and along with Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Brooks Robinson, he is one of the top four 3rd basemen of all time -- or top five, if you count Alex Rodriguez as a 3rd baseman.
October 13, 1941: Paul Frederic Simon is born in Newark, New Jersey. In 1967, looking around at a world seemingly falling apart, he wrote a song that was used in the film The Graduate: “Mrs. Robinson.” A Yankee Fan, he included a tribute to a Yankee player who exemplified a seemingly (but hardly) simpler, more innocent time: “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
Simon later met DiMaggio, who said, “I haven’t gone anywhere.” Simon explained that the line was a longing for what DiMaggio represented. When Mickey Mantle asked Simon why his name wasn’t used, Simon, who turned 10 as DiMaggio was replaced by Mantle, said that the rhythm and the syllables of the song wouldn’t have worked for Mantle’s name.
Simon recorded it with his singing partner, Art Garfunkel. “Mrs. Robinson” hit Number 1 in June 1968, and it was on top of the charts when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, making its search for meaning and hope even more poignant.
In 1972, now gone solo, Simon released “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.” In 1988, he made a video of the song, and he’s shown pitching to kids in a stickball game. And Mantle shows up. I guess Paul had to make it up to Mickey, and while Mickey whiffs on Paul’s first pitch, Mickey blasts the next one, and then lip-synchs the title (though it’s still Simon’s voice we hear).
October 10, 1960: Bill Mazeroski hits a home run off Yankee Ralph Terry in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the World Series, to give the Pittsburgh Pirates their first World Championship in 35 years.
After the Series, Yankee owners Del Webb and Dan Topping fired Casey Stengel. They made Casey read a statement in which he said he was resigning, but Casey put the paper down, and told the press, “I guess this means they fired me.” He later said that they forced him out due to his age: “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.” Well, in 2003, Jack McKeon managed the Florida Marlins to a World Championship. He was about to turn 73. In 2009, the most successful Yankee manager since Casey, Joe Torre, managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to a second straight NLCS berth. He was 69.
The Baseball Gods were cruel to Ralph Terry that day in Pittsburgh, but they would be kind to him for the next 2 years, allowing him to win 39 regular-season games for back-to-back Yankee World Championship teams, and to add his own shutout in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. Which brings me back to one of my points: As bad as certain moments of Yankee history have been, there’s usually a sequel that sets it all right, and goats become heroes.
Of the men who played in that game, 52 years ago, the following are still alive:
Pirates: 2nd baseman Mazeroski, shortstop Dick Groat, center fielder Bill Virdon, left fielder Bob Skinner, catcher Hal Smith, pinch-runner Joe Christopher (lost in the 1962 expansion draft to the Mets), and pitchers Vernon Law, Bob Friend and Elroy Face. Not entering the game but on the roster and still alive: Shortstops Dick "Ducky" Schofield and Dick Barone, outfielder Roman Mejias, catchers Bob Oldis and Danny Kravitz, and pitchers Joe Gibbon, Bennie Daniels and Red Witt.
Yankees: 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson, shortstop Tony Kubek, substitute shortstop Joe DeMaestri, left fielder Yogi Berra, pinch-hitter Hector Lopez, and pitchers Bob Turley, Bobby Shantz, Jim Coates and Ralph Terry. Not entering the game but on the roster and still alive: Outfielder Bob Cerv; and pitchers Whitey Ford, Art Ditmar, Luis Arroyo, Eli Grba, Bill Short, Fred Kipp, Johnny James and Hal Stowe.
Today, William Stanley Mazeroski is retired and living in Panama City, Florida, and is a spring-training fielding instructor for the Pirates. The Pirates have retired his Number 9, and in 2010, on the 50th Anniversary of the homer, dedicated a statue to him outside PNC Park. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, the same year PNC Park opened.
October 13, 1962, 50 years ago: Jerry Lee Rice is born in Starkville, Mississippi. He may be the greatest player in the history of American football. Certainly, he is the greatest receiver.
Also on this day, Kelly Preston is born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and grows up there and in Adelaide, Australia. A high school classmate of Barack Obama, the actress played Kevin Costner’s love interest in the film For Love of the Game. And, of course, she is married to John Travolta.
Hmmmm, Hawaiian-born, Australian-raised, married a goofy Scientologist... Ah, but Kelly is still married to Travolta, whereas Nicole Kidman is no longer married to Tom Cruise.
October 13, 1965: Jim “Mudcat” Grant wins Game 6 of the World Series, pretty much all by himself. He pitches a one-hitter, and hits a three-run home run. The Minnesota Twins beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, and the Series goes to a Game 7.
October 13, 1967: Trevor William Hoffman is born in Bellflower, California. Having spent most of his career with the San Diego Padres, he finished his career as baseball’s all-time saves leader with 601.
Sports Illustrated dedicated their May 13, 2002 issue to Hoffman, calling him “the greatest closer in MLB history.” I guess they forgot about Mariano Rivera: Not only has Mo now broken Trevor's record, but the question was settled in the 1998 World Series, when Rivera got 3 saves and Hoffman blew one against... Scott Brosius? Still, Hoffman is a class act, and a sure Hall-of-Famer -- he will be eligible in January 2016. His brother Glenn Hoffman was also a big-league player, and briefly managed the Dodgers.
Also on this day, the American Basketball Association has its first game, at the Oakland Coliseum Arena: The host Oakland Oaks defeat the Anaheim Amigos, 134-129. The ABA will last 9 seasons, and 4 of its franchises will be absorbed into the NBA in 1976: The 2-time ABA Champion New York (now Brooklyn) Nets, the 3-time ABA Champion Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets (who lost to the Nets in the last ABA Finals) and the San Antonio Spurs (who never won anything in the ABA but have been consistently successful in the NBA, winning 4 titles).
October 13, 1970: In Game 3 of the Fall Classic played at Memorial Stadium, Dave McNally goes deep with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning off the Reds right-hander Wayne Granger to become the first pitcher to hit a grand slam in World Series history. The Orioles' hurler's offensive output contributes to the Birds' 9-3 victory over Cincinnati, and gives Baltimore a commanding 3-0 game advantage in the seven-game series.
October 13, 1971: The first night game in World Series history is played. The Orioles blow a 3-0 lead, and the Pirates win 4-3, on a pinch-hit single in the 8th by backup catcher Milt May. The Pirates have tied the Series at 2 games apiece.
October 13, 1978: Game 3 of the World Series. Joe DiMaggio throws out the ceremonial first ball at Yankee Stadium. The Dodgers lead the Yankees 2 games to 0. The Yankees are desperate for a win. They send out Ron Guidry, who has already won 26 games (including the Divisional Playoff against Boston and the Pennant-clincher against Kansas City) against only 3 losses, but is exhausted. And he doesn’t have his best stuff: He strikes out only 4 and walks 7.
But... Graig Nettles puts on a clinic at third base, much as Brooks Robinson did 8 years to the week (including the day) earlier. He makes 6 sensational plays, including 2 scintillating stops that end innings with forceouts at 2nd base.
Roy White’s 1st-inning home run gets the Yankees going, and, somehow, Guidry goes the distance in a 5-1 win, striking out the dangerous Ron Cey for the final out. The Yankees are still alive in the Series.
October 13, 1984: Franklin Michael Simek is born in St. Louis, once considered the capital of American soccer. He was the first American ever to play for Arsenal Football Club, the pride of London. And that was just one game, at right back in the League Cup against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Highbury on December 2, 2003. Arsenal won, 5-1, although he had neither a goal nor an assist. He now plays for Carlisle United, up in Cumbria near the border with Scotland, and they play in League One, English soccer's 3rd division.
Only one other American has ever played for Arsenal, Danny Karbassiyoon, a forward from Roanoke, Virginia who played 3 League Cup matches for the Gunners in the 2004-05 season, scoring a goal on his debut. He is now Arsenal's chief North American scout.
October 13, 1985: The Cardinals rout the Dodgers 12-2, to even the NLCS at 2-2‚ but also lose rookie sensation Vince Coleman to one of the most bizarre injuries in sports history. Coleman is stretching before the game when his left leg becomes caught in Busch Memorial Stadium's automated tarpaulin as it unrolls across the infield‚ trapping him for about 30 seconds. He is removed from the field on a stretcher and will not play again this year.
This will turn out to be a critical injury – not for Coleman’s life, or even for his career, but for the Cards’ lineup, as they will not have their leadoff man and sparkplug for the World Series, in which they put up one of the most pathetic batting performances in postseason history.
October 13, 1993: The combined pitching of Tommy Greene and Mitch Williams give the Phillies a 6-3 win over the heavily-favored Atlanta Braves and the National League Pennant, only the 5th flag in Fightin’ Phils history. Dave Hollins hits a 2-run homer for the winners‚ while Mickey Morandini and Darren Daulton also drive in 2 runs each. Curt Schilling is named the NLCS MVP despite no victories: He gave up just 3 earned runs and struck out 19 in 16 innings, 2 no-decisions.
And, lest Phils fans forget, they would not have gotten that far if Williams hadn’t been a terrific closer all year long, including getting the final out tonight at Veterans Stadium. I was at a Phillies game in August 2011, when John Kruk was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Hall of Fame. Williams was one of the guests, and he got a nice hand. So Philadelphia sports fans do have some class, and some understanding.
With long hair, chewing tobacco, in a few cases being well overweight, and some bad manners, the 1993 Phillies were known as “Macho Row,” and remain, despite the dream ending a little sourly in the World Series, one of the most popular teams in the history of Philadelphia sports. And, while they share Lenny Dykstra with the similarly slobbish 1986 Mets, any resemblance to the 2004 Red Sox "Idiots" is strictly coincidental.
October 13, 1996: The Yankees defeat the Orioles‚ 6-4 at Camden Yards‚ giving them the Pennant, 4 games to 1. The victors score all of their runs in the 3rd inning‚ which features homers by Jim Leyritz‚ Cecil Fielder‚ and Darryl Strawberry. Scott Erickson gives up all 3 homers in one inning‚ a first in the LCS. Bobby Bonilla‚ Todd Zeile‚ and Eddie Murray homer for the losers.
The last out of the game is a bit of a torch-passing moment: Cal Ripken, the face of the Oriole franchise, for the last few years and possibly for the rest of his life, hits a ground ball to the Yankee shortstop, a rookie named Derek Jeter, who goes on to become the face of the Yankee franchise. Jeter throws to Tino Martinez at first, and Ripken, desperate to keep the series alive, slides head-first. He’s too late, and the Yankees have their first Pennant in 15 years.
There’s another torch-passing fact: The Orioles’ manager is Davey Johnson, who, 10 years ago, managed the Mets to New York baseball’s most recent Pennant; while the Yankees’ manager is Joe Torre, who, after 4,279 combined games as a player and a manager, more than anyone who’s never participating in a World Series in either role, has finally made it.
I’ll never forget (and this is another torch-passer) Reggie Jackson, in the Yankee dugout, with a big smile, giving Joe a big hug, and Joe trying to maintain his composure as Mr. October gives him his long-worked-for due. However, after the game, Reggie is interviewed in the locker room, and he speaks a truth he knows full well: “They’ve got another leg to go. They’ve got another lap to make. Not done yet.” There’s still the matter of winning 4 more games against either the Cardinals or the Braves.
The Orioles, who last won a Pennant 13 years ago, are frustrated, not in the least because of the Jeffrey Maier incident in Game 1; however, they lost all three home games in the series, and a team that can’t defend its home field in the Playoffs needs to zip their lips. Especially since that Oriole team had Rafael Palmeiro (proven steroid user), Brady Anderson (almost certainly a steroid user, because the 50 homers he had that year far outpaced his previous high of 21 and his next-best later total of 24), and Bobby Bonilla (never proven a steroid user but the guy had some incidents that suggest “roid rage”).
October 13, 1998: The Yankees win Game 6 of the ALCS over the Indians, 9-5 at Yankee Stadium, to take their 35th American League Pennant. Chuck Knoblauch, in his first game back in The Bronx after his Game 2 “brainlauch,” leads off the bottom of the 1st, and gets a big hand from the fans, who’ve seen the big double plays he started late in both Game 4 and Game 5. “Apparently, all is forgiven,” says Bob Costas on NBC.
October 13, 1999: Bernie Williams, who had previous hit one to win Game 1 of the '96 ALCS (the Jeffrey Maier Game), becomes the first Yankee to have hit 2 walkoff home runs in postseason play. His drive off Rod Beck goes over the center field fence to lead off the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees win the first official postseason Yankees-Red Sox game, 4-3. (The 1978 “Boston Tie Party” is counted by MLB as a regular season game.)
Red Sox fans, buoyed by the success of Pedro Martinez and Nomah Gahciahpawhah – or, at least, that’s how Nomar Garciaparra’s name sounded in their New England accents – were sure that this was The Year that the Red Sox were finally going to “Reverse the Curse” and stick it to the Yankees. But Bernie remembered the script handed to him earlier that day by Yankee legend Yogi Berra: “We’ve been playing these guys for 80 years. They cannot beat us.” Not yet, anyway.
October 13, 2000: Extending his streak to 33.1 innings, Mariano Rivera breaks the 38-year-old record of Whitey Ford for consecutive scoreless frames in postseason play when the Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners, 8-2 in Game 3 of the ALCS. The Yankees' Hall of Fame lefty had established the record from 1960 to 1962 with 33 innings as a World Series starter.
October 13, 2001: The Yankees enter Game 3 at the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever corporate name the “Mausoleum” had at the time) down 2 games to 0 against the Athletics, and are desperate for a victory.
Jorge Posada homers in the top of the 5th, to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. That lead holds in the 7th, but Terrence Long drives one into the corner. Right fielder Shane Spencer heaves the ball home, but it’s off the line. Jeremy Giambi, brother of star Oakland slugger Jason Giambi, will score for sure.
Except... out of nowhere comes Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who sprints in, grabs the ball, and, holding it for less than half a second, flips it to Posada at the plate, and Posada juuuust barely tags Giambi on the back of the knee, before his foot touches the plate, completing one of the most amazing defensive plays in baseball history.
“The Flip” allows Mike Mussina and, in the 9th, Mariano Rivera to preserve the 1-0 shutout, and keep the Yankees from being eliminated. The Yankees would win the series in Game 5 at the old Yankee Stadium, with Jeter making another amazing play, tumbling into the stands to catch a foul pop, also off the bat of Terence Long.
Has it really been 11 years? Of the men who played in that game for the Yankees, only Jeter is still on the active roster, although Andy Pettitte has returned and Mariano Rivera says he's coming back. For the A's, though, none are left. In fact, 3 of them would go on to become Yankees: Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and now Eric Chavez.
Did somebody mention that Billy Beane was a genius?
October 13, 2002: The Anaheim Angels – as they are officially known at the time – score 10 runs in the 7th inning on their way to a 13-5 win over the Minnesota Twins, winning the first Pennant in the team's 42-season history. Adam Kennedy is the hero for Anaheim with 3 homers and 7 RBIs. Scott Spiezio also homers for the Angels‚ with Francisco Rodriguez getting the win in relief.
Prior to the Angels' first Pennant, they were considered "cursed": The Curse of the Cowboy was legendary entertainer Gene Autry, who founded the team and died without them ever winning a Pennant. This one wasn't funny, as men had died while still active with the Angels, in addition to their 1979, '82 and '86 ALCS collapses, and their late-season swoon that cost them the '95 AL Western Division title.
Between 1959 and 1988, their rivals up Interstate 5, the Los Angeles Dodgers, had won 9 Pennants in a 30-year stretch, including 5 times winning the World Series. Since 2002, however, the Angels have been in the postseason 5 times in the last 10 years, including a World Championship; the Dodgers, twice, and still no Pennants in the last 23 years. It's premature to say that the Angels have surpassed the Dodgers as Southern California's most popular baseball team, but they are certainly the more successful one now.