“The New York Yankees are world champions!” I have waited my entire life to hear those fateful words. Okay, maybe not. Sure, it was only nine years since the previous Pinstripe parade through the Canyon of Heroes, but I was a mere lad of 13 years old. I thought the Yankees won every year. My first baseball memory is of my father waking me up on a school night to watch Charlie Hayes squeeze the final out of the 1996 World Series. Despite a bump in the road when the Yanks lost in the 1997 playoffs, it was not until a villainous Luis Gonzalez had the nerve to flare a hit up the middle in the 2001 World Series that I understood what it felt like to lose in October.
Things got worse before they got better. There was the loss to the underdog Florida Marlins in 2003, several first-round playoff exits and of course the years of 2004 and 2007, which I have successfully eliminated from my memory. I say this not to evoke sympathy or concern. Save your sympathy for fans of the Pittsburg Pirates or the Kansas City Royals. The Bronx Bombers have earned more World Series titles than the next three teams (Cardinals, 10; Athletics, 9; Red Sox, 7) combined. However, there were some major letdowns during this nine-year drought, the third longest in team history.
Year after year, expectations fell short when free agent signings made in the offseason to ensure a championship run ended in failure. Instead of listening to Mr. Sinatra’s “New York, New York” after ballgames in October, we got the Liza Minnelli version, signifying a loss. Most Yankee-haters are unfortunately biased by a few obnoxious Yankees fans or George Steinbrenner’s deep pockets. “Just because they spend millions in the offseason, it does not entitle them to a World Series.” “It is an honor, not a right to win the World Series.” “Steinbrenner (now Hank and Hal) simply enlisted a team of mercenaries.” Frankly, I heard all the complaints before, and I do not care. Maybe if Hayes drops that ball and the Braves mount a comeback in Game 6, I would feel a little differently, but I don’t, which brings me to the present.
For over a year now, I have enjoyed the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions about the world of sports with the Cornell community. Throughout this time, I have cleverly hidden my true allegiance as a sports fan. (Sure, I’ve given subtle clues and made numerous mentions of a New York team or athlete in nearly every column, but keeping a secret becomes that much easier when one’s readership consists of only a handful of people, who bear some kind of familial relation.)
The truth is every time I sit down to type the next “great” installment of this column, Derek Jeter and/or the New York Yankees are the first topics to come to mind. Inevitably, I talk myself out of it every time. I was once advised never to write about a subject where people could go elsewhere for information. Ideally, if it is in Sports Illustrated or on ESPN, stay away from it. And, I don’t know if you know this, but unfortunately for me, the Yankees appear to be one of those teams that garner significant attention from quite a few media outlets.
However, I am proud to say that I have boldly broken my vow of silence concerning all things New York Yankees. As for the specifics of this series, it was a satisfying to watch the Core Four win “one for the thumb.” I could have devoted an entire column to Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Captain Clutch (that’s Derek Jeter for those of you who are not down with the lingo), but you don’t need me to tell you how instrumental they have been in the Yankees success.
It was nice of Ryan Howard to check out of the playoffs early. Sports Illustrated cover jinx, anyone? After tattooing the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers for two homers and 14 RBIs in the previous two series, the slugger hit a meager 4-for-23 in the Fall Classic with three RBIs and set a World Series record with 13 strikeouts.
Mariano Rivera was typical Mo throughout the playoff stretch, shattering opposing bats and mowing down hitters throughout the entire playoffs. In 16 innings, he surrendered only one run. As we witnessed every closer on the seven other playoff teams wilt under the pressure by either blowing a save or losing a game, Mo showed why at even 39 years of age is still the best in the game.
Of course there are other performances that should not go unnoticed. Damaso Marte retired the final 12 batters he faced over seven games and handcuffed the Chase Utley and Ryan Howard throughout the series. In Game 3, when Alex Rodriguez’s smashed a two-run homer off the camera to rattle Cole Hamels and change the complexion of the game. In Game 4, Johnny Damon stole two bases on one pitch prior to A-Rod notching the biggest hit of his career when he turned on 0-1 offering from Brad Lidge and drove in the game-winning run. Of Course, we cannot forget about the World Series MVP Hideki Matsui’s Game 6 performance in which he tied Bobby Richardson’s record with six RBI in a World Series game.
As much as the players celebrated on the field and in the locker room, the experience is equally rewarding for the fans. Philadelphia fans got a taste of it last year. Unfortunately for them, it seems the City of Brotherly Love likes to pace itself in terms of winning championships in any of the four major sports. As for the Yankees, they have won at least two titles in every decade except the 1980’s since making their first World Series appearance in 1921.