November 4th, 2001
World Series Game 7: New York Yankees @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Game Location: Phoenix, Arizona
My Location: Ship Of Fools (an Upper East Side bar) with several friends and dozens of fellow Yankee fans
My Age: 24
Before I start this one, let me just say that I am well aware of the fact that I, like all other Yankee fans (or at least those born in the 20th century) have been spoiled beyond belief. I am more understanding than you would think of the view that we Yankee fans are generally unworthy of sympathy from anyone else.
But 2001 was different.
The MLB playoffs started less than a month after 9/11. I was personally very fortunate not to have lost anyone on that horrible day, but several of my friends and so many of my fellow New Yorkers did. The chasm between the way our city felt for most of that season and the way our city felt in October was palpable at every moment.
The playoffs brought with them a temporary but meaningful return to normalcy; An opportunity for unbridled joy, where there had been none for weeks. It was almost an extremely temporary return for the 3-time defending champs. The young upstart A’s, who had taken the Yankees to five games the year before, won the first two games in New York and held the Yankees to just two hits and a single run in Game 3. But that single run held up, thanks in no small part to The Flip. The Yankees came back to beat the A’s in five, then upset the 116-win Mariners in five to make their fourth straight World Series.
The problem was they were facing a Diamondbacks team with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in their absolute prime. Johnson and Schilling each made three appearances in the series, combining for 38⅔ innings and a 1.40 ERA. Going into Game 7 the Diamondbacks had outscored the Yankees 34-12. But the aging Yankees lineup had just enough mystique and aura left in the tank to keep the dream alive.
Game 7 was a terrific pitchers’ duel between Roger Clemens and Schilling. Tied 1-1 in the top of the 8th, rookie Alfonso Soriano somehow golfed a homer to left off a tough 0-2 splitter. Six outs to go and the best postseason pitcher of all time warming up in the bullpen. Holy shit we’re gonna win this thing, 14-35!!??
The bottom of the 8th went according to plan, but the bottom of the 9th most decidedly did not. A leadoff single. An errant throw on a bunt. And one out later Tony Womack’s game-tying double followed by Luis Gonzalez’s series-winning broken-bat blooper over the drawn-in infield.
Just like that, the mystique and aura – our mystique and aura – were gone.
Tom Brady has said that he would trade two Super Bowl Rings to have beaten the Giants in 2007. Well, they’re obviously not my rings to trade, but I would definitely trade the 1999 and 2009 Yankees’ Championships for Mo to have gotten those last two outs in 2001. For myself and my city.