Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which is pretty crazy to think about. Someone born on the day of the attacks would be taking their driver’s test today. For those of us from the New York/New Jersey area, the attacks hit particularly close to home because you surely knew those who lost loved ones that day. It was the greatest tragedy to ever happen on American soil. Our nation was hurting, and looking for any way to try and numb the pain, it turned to sports.
After a six-day hiatus, Major League Baseball finally resumed games after the attacks. Ultimately, the New York Yankees found themselves in their fourth straight World Series, and fifth in six seasons. Their opponent was the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team playing just their fourth season after joining MLB in 1998. The result was the best World Series ever played. I know there have been plenty of legendary Fall Classics. You have Pirates over Yankees in 7 in 1960, The ’86 Mets taking down the Red Sox, Kirby Puckett’s Twins beating the Braves in 1991, Cardinals over Rangers in 2011, and of course the Cubs ending their 108-year title drought over the Indians just two years ago. But this series had so much emotion behind it and late-game heroics that it’s the clear choice in my mind.
After losing the first two games in Arizona, the Yankees returned home to the Bronx for Game 3. They were greeted with a ceremonial first pitch from a pretty special guest.
That video still gives me the chills every time. This was a stadium full of people who had lost loved ones just a few weeks ago, turning to baseball as their way to escape the pain. After the Yankees won Game 3 behind Roger Clemens, they suddenly found themselves with their backs against the wall in Game 4, down 3-1 with two outs. They were at risk of a dreadful 3-1 series deficit. Tino Martinez, however, had other plans.
I can’t even imagine how much the old Stadium must’ve been shaking. I swear I want nothing more than the opportunity to experience what playoff baseball was like in the Bronx during the late-90’s/early-2000’s dynasty. The Yanks won Game 4 in extras thanks to a walk-off home run from none other than Derek Sanderson Jeter himself.
The season delay from the 9/11 attacks caused the series to start later than usual, making Game 4 the first ever November MLB game. Therefore, Jeter’s heroics earned him the nickname “Mr. November.”
Game 5 was, as the late great Yogi Berra would say, “deja vu all over again.” The Yankees once again found themselves down two runs with two outs in the ninth inning. This time, Scott Brosius provided the heroics.
Absolute madness. Once again, the Yanks won it in extras, thanks to Alfonso Soriano.
The rest of the blog is painful for me to write as a Yankee fan, but I would be remiss to not include the last two games in what I consider the “best World Series ever.” After the series returned to Arizona, the D-Backs drubbed the Yankees 15-2 in Game 6. There is nothing like a Game 7 in sports. To me, I don’t know how you could even begin to consider a series as the “best ever” without a Game 7. Fortunately, this Game 7 did not fail to live up to the hype.
Arizona’s Curt Schilling and the Yanks’ Roger Clemens were stuck in a pitcher’s duel, with the game tied at 1 in the eighth. Soriano came up big again, homering off of Schilling to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead. This was huge, as manager Joe Torre was able to turn the game over to the best reliever of all-time, his closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera was especially potent in the postseason, and after working a scoreless eighth, he lowered his career playoff ERA to 0.70. However, after a leadoff single, an errant throw by Rivera on a bunt, a double, and a hit by pitch, this happened.
It hurts to watch. But at the end of the day, the Yankees did their job; they helped heal a city in pain. This series had it all. A first pitch by the President in the same city where the largest terrorist attack in history happened weeks earlier. Back-to-back two-out ninth inning comebacks/extra inning walk-offs. A team that just joined the league winning it all in Game 7 off of the greatest reliever of all time. Not to mention Hall of Fame caliber players like Jeter, Rivera, Schilling, and Randy Johnson. Please try and explain to me how this wasn’t the best World Series of all-time, you can’t.
And to all first responders to the 9/11 attacks, thank you so much. To those who served our country following the attacks, thank you for your service. To anyone who lost loved ones in the attacks, our thoughts and prayers are with you. God Bless America and we will never forget.