Most Yankee fans have mixed emotions and feelings on the 2001 World Series. It was the first time the Yankees lost a World Series since 1981. We had won four of the last five championships up until this point with just two outs away from winning our fourth in a row, but what made this series memorable was the events that took place less then two months back.
New York was devastated over the attacks of 9/11, lives lost, confusion of what had happened.. who to blame. Anyone you met had a story to tell, either they lost someone close, or had a close friend that did. Everyone was affected in some way by those horrible events of 9/11.
At the time it felt like life would not go back to normal, everything seemed to be on pause. Sports were canceled for reasons other then weather, schools closed indefinitely, no one wanted to go to work, if work was even open for business or even worse, was there a job to go to. People scared to go to manhattan, or even leave their homes in fear of what would happen next. It was a difficult time to say the least, and a time that my generation never quite experienced before.
The Yankees started the playoffs down 0-2 to the Oakland Athletics, both losses occurring at Yankee Stadium, most new yorkers figured they were finished, yet no one was terribly upset about it like they normally do for Yankee playoff games. Game 3 shifted back to Oakland and its the game everyone remembers because of the 7th inning and the series changing play that Derek Jeter made. Jeter raced across the field, ended up down the first base line, picked off the off centered throw (that missed two cutoff men), and managed to send a perfect back hand flip to Posada to tag Giambi out at home plate. The play known only as “The Flip” changed the game, and helped carry the Yankees to the World Series.
The championship series was against the Seattle Mariners, the team who broke the record for most wins by an American League team that year, winning 116 games. The Yankees easily defeated the Mariners in 5 games.
The Yankees would go onto the World Series to face the Arizona Diamondbacks, and found themselves down 0-2 again, outscored 13-1 in the first two games in Arizona. The series shifted back to New York for Game 3 and got off to a goose bump inducing, stadium shaking chants of U.S.A when George W. Bush threw out the first pitch. Roger Clemens would later pitch 7 almost perfect innings and the Yankees would hold on to win to make the series 2-1.
Game 4 was another close game with the Yankees trailing 3-1 going into the 9th inning Byng-Hyun Kim started off against Jeter, who tried to bunt his way on but was out by a step, O’Neil singled, Bernie struck out, which then brought up Tino Martinez with 2 outs and one runner on. Tino sent the first pitch he saw over the right centered field wall. The crowd went nuts, it was one of the loudest I ever heard the stadium get. Kim stayed in to pitch the next inning and retired the first two batters. Derek Jeter would be the third hitter up and with a full count drove a line drive shot to right field barely clearing the wall for a walk off, series tying home run. Thus earning the nickname “Mr November”.
Game 5 was like watching a replay of game 4, neither team wanted to score any runs. The Yankees down 2-0 going into the 9th inning had Posada leading off with a double, Spencer grounded out, Knoblauch struck out. So the Yankees AGAIN down to their last out, down 2, with a runner on and Scott Brosius coming up to the plate. Brosius took the second pitch he seen over the left field wall to tie the game up, second night in a row, whats the chances of that happening? It felt like the Yankees were destined to win the series. After that everyone knew the Yankees would close out the game, even if it took 12 innings. It may have been the most incredible two nights in New York sports ever, all happening within a 24 hour period.
Heading back to Arizona, the Yankees got blown out 15-2 in game 6, the worst loss for the Yankees in almost 300 playoff games.
Game 7 featured Clemens and Johnson battling each other in a classic pitching dual. Fast forward to the 8th inning, Soriano leading off with a home run to give us the lead at 2-1 off Schilling, who came on in relief. At this point Yankee fans, knowing Mo was coming in at the bottom half, felt like it was over. Mo comes into the bottom of the 8th and looks great, striking out 3 of the 4 batters he faced. Bottom of the 9th inning, Mark Grace leads off with a single.. ok not a problem, double play cleans that up… Miller drops a bunt, mo throws the ball off line to second base and both runners are safe. Panic sets in… Bell bunts this time and mo fields it clean and gets the force out at third, but Brosius holds on to the ball and doesn’t attempt to throw out Bell.. ?. 1st and 2nd, one out, we can still get a double play if Womack keeps it in the infield. 2-2 pitch Womack pulls the ball down the right field line and ties the game, I don’t even remember any of the specifics after Womack, I just remember the infield playing in and Luis Gonzalez blasting the ball (sarcasm) barley past the infield grass, what a cheap hit to end a great series. Everything happened so fast, we didn’t know what just happened, Mo never blows a save, especially in the post season, this isn’t suppose to happen, not after those 2 magically games in New York, we are suppose to win!
In all fairness the series should have never been that close, Arizona outplayed the Yankees, 3 of the 4 wins for the Diamondbacks came as blowouts, while the 3 wins for the Yankees were all decided by 1 run but the series was important to the city of New York and anyone that was affected by 9/11. It took our minds off things for a short while and helped us get back into a regular routine. It showed the power of sports and why people love rooting for their teams. Even thought the Yankees lost, in heartbreaking fashion, it was a great World Series, one that any Yankee fan can look back on with good memories.