2001 World Series


A Rocket Boost
Game Three, October 30, 2001

By Stew Thornley
Special to Southside Journal

The New York Yankees could be excused for their anemic batting performances in the first two games of the 2001 World Series—both Arizona wins—as they faced the Diamondbacks’ dominating duo of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. With the series shifting to New York for the next three games, the Yankees also knew they’d have a chance to get well since they’d be facing Brian Anderson in the third game.

Anderson had not won in a starting role since July 22, a game in which he retired the first 12 San Francisco batters before giving up three home runs in a row. He ended up pitching eight innings in that game in picking up his third, and last, victory of the season as a starter.

But the Yankees couldn’t solve Anderson any better than they had Schilling and Johnson. It became apparent that, to avoid falling behind three games-to-none in the series, their hopes would rest on the strong arm and legs of Roger Clemens.

The Rocket allowed two runners in the first but still retired the Diamondbacks in order. Craig Counsell led off with a ground ball that second baseman Alfonso Soriano gloved and then dropped for an error. However, Clemens caught Counsell leaning the wrong way and picked him off first. Steve Finley walked, and Clemens fell behind Luis Gonzalez, 3-1. Clemens got another strike on the Arizona slugger, who then fouled a pitch off as Finley took off from first. Finley was running again on the next pitch, which Gonzalez fanned on. Jorge Posada’s throw to Derek Jeter was perfect, and Finley was gunned down at second for an inning-ending double play.

The Yankees put a pair on in the bottom of the inning, and Tino Martinez drove a pitch to deep right-center. Finley was able to track it down with a leap on the warning track to end the threat. Leading off the bottom of the second, Posada hit a drive that not even Dwight Stones could have jumped high enough to catch. The shot to left-center cleared Monument Park and sailed into the Arizona bullpen, a long home run to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

Clemens struck out five batters through three but walked Finley for the second time to start the fourth. Finley went to second on a single by Gonzalez and took third as Reggie Sanders flied out to Paul O’Neill in right. After Erubiel Durazo walked, Matt Williams lifted a fly to O’Neill that was deep enough for Finley to score the tying run. It was the fifth run batted in of the series for Williams.

The score stayed tied into the sixth when Clemens hit Sanders with a pitch with two out. Sanders stole second. Durazo then grounded a pitch toward the hole in right. Soriano dived for the ball and gloved it. His hurried throw to first was off target, but Soriano, by keeping the ball from reaching the outfield, had prevented Sanders from scoring. Matt Williams then hit a liner to left that first looked like a sure hit that would bring Sanders home. The ball stayed up, though, and Shane Spencer stayed with it, charging in and making a diving catch to get Clemens out of the inning.

Anderson pitched well after the home run to Posada and survived some shaky defense both behind and in front of him. With two out and Spencer aboard in the last of the fourth, Anderson got Scott Brosius to ground to shortstop Tony Womack, who fumbled the ball for an error. The next batter, Soriano, hit a pop fly in front of the plate. Catcher Damian Miller, who had already missed an earlier pop foul, circled under this one, stuck out his glove, and missed again. The ball landed in fair territory as Spencer zoomed around third and headed for home. Fortunately for Arizona, the ball had completely missed Miller’s glove and then bounced into foul territory. Miller was charged with an error on the play. The runners were sent back to their starting points, and Soriano resumed his at bat, which became the longest of the game. Soriano fouled off seven two-strike pitches and worked the count full before flying to Finley to finish the inning.

In the last of the sixth, Anderson gave up an infield single to Bernie Williams to start the inning. Tino Martinez then hit a pop fly near the first-base dugout. Miller and first baseman Mark Grace converged, then crashed, resulting in another ball dropping safely. Grace was charged with the error on this play. Anderson still retired Martinez, on a fly to Sanders, but then walked Posada. David Justice hit for Spencer and struck out. With two out, it was up to Brosius, who delivered a soft liner to left to bring in Williams for a 2-1 lead.

Clemens retired the bottom third of the Arizona order in the seventh, striking out the final two. He then gave way in the eighth to Mariano Rivera, the Yankees closer, who had led the American League with 50 saves during the regular season. The first batter of the eighth, Craig Counsell, dragged a bunt down the first-base line. Rivera pounced on it and tagged Counsell out. Rivera struck out the final two batters of the eighth and the first two of the ninth before getting Matt Williams to ground out to Jeter to end it.

The 2-1 Yankees victory left the New Yorkers behind in the series, two games to one.

After the game, Clemens said his biggest concern had been keeping his legs strong throughout the game. “I’ve not been afforded the luxury of doing my side work because I’ve been trying to rest my legs, so my warm-up, my pre-game routing is very important.” Clemens admitted to pausing in his pre-game warm-ups in the bullpen to take in the moment as George W. Bush came out for the ceremonial first pitch. The Rocket’s legs held up long enough to get to the steady arm of Rivera, and the Yankees were back in the World Series.

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A New York Classic
Game Four, October 31, 2001

By Stew Thornley
Special to Southside Journal

On Halloween night, the New York Yankees stared at a hole they didn’t dare fall into. Few teams have battled back from a three-game-to-one deficit to win the World Series. And of those that did, none ever had to do it against a team with starters as hot as the Arizona Diamondbacks have in Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.

That is the situation the New York Yankees faced yet desperately wanted to avoid late in the fourth game of the 2001 World Series. But Tino Martinez kept them from falling, and, an inning later, Derek Jeter earned a moniker never before possible in major league baseball. The result was a 4-3 New York win and a deadlock in the World Series.

The Yankees avoided total disaster in the previous game, winning behind the pitching of Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera after having dropped the first two in Arizona. To hang onto any reasonable chance of winning the World Series, though, the Yankees would have to find a way to get by Schilling in the fourth game. New York sent Orlando Hernandez to the mound. El Duque had once been Señor Octubre, having won his first eight post-season decisions with the Yankees, starting in 1998. But Hernandez struggled through the 2001 season, in part because he was hampered by injuries, and the pitching matchup in this game favored Arizona, even though Schilling was starting on only three days' rest for the first time in his career.

New York manager Joe Torre shuffled his lineup, hoping to find a combination to generate some offense, although he admitted that he didn’t know the answer to his team’s hitting woes. “I wish I could put my finger on it, and maybe I could fix it. I’m just fiddling with it to see if we can stimulate some offense here.” Chuck Knoblauch was dropped from the lineup, replaced by David Justice, with Jeter taking Knoblauch’s lead-off spot in the batting order. “The one thing that Knobby has been doing, he’s hitting a lot of balls in the air, and that’s not a good sign for someone who relies on his speed and is normally a line-drive guy.”

Neither the lineup tinkering nor Schilling being a day short on rest seemed to help the Yankee hitters. Schilling retired the first six batters he faced. Shane Spencer looped a home run into the right-field corner leading off the third, but Schilling came back by retiring the next nine hitters.

Meanwhile, Hernandez worked his way in and out of trouble. Arizona loaded the bases and a single, walk, and hit batter with one out in the first. But Hernandez struck out Matt Williams, who came into the game with five runs batted in during the series, and got Steve Finley to pop out to end the inning. After retiring the Diamondbacks in order in the second, El Duque walked two more in the third but retired Erubiel Durazo and Williams to get out of the inning. A leadoff single in the fourth was followed by a double play, and it looked like Hernandez would produce another scoreless inning. But Mark Grace, on a 3-1 count, delivered a home run into the upper deck in right to tie the game, 1-1.

Arizona threatened to take the lead in the fifth when Tony Womack led off with a double and went to third on Craig Counsell’s third sacrifice of the game. Luis Gonzalez, quiet since a two-run homer in the opening game of the series, lifted a fly to Spencer in left. Womack tagged and tried to score on the play, but Jorge Posada fielded Spencer’s throw, which was off the plate, and dived into Womack with the tag. El Duque had survived another inning. He finally gave way in the seventh, to lefthander Mike Stanton, after yielding another walk and hitting another batter. Stanton got Womack to ground into an inning-ending double play, and the game remained deadlocked.

The Yankees got a leadoff double from Scott Brosius in the sixth but could not score. In the seventh, they got their first two batters aboard. While they came up short again, they at least got Arizona manager Bob Brenly thinking about pulling his ace if the Diamondbacks could get Schilling the lead in the top of the eighth. Schilling delivered 19 pitches in the seventh, and Brenly said later that his split-fingered fastball “wasn’t as sharp as it had been. I thought the Yankees were starting to get some better swings at him in the seventh inning.”

Arizona did get the lead in the eighth. With one out, Gonzalez lined a single to center off Stanton. Durazo then hit a drive to center that eluded a leaping Bernie Williams. Gonzalez came around to easily score the go-ahead run. When Alfonso Soriano still came home with the relay, Durazo took third.

Midre Cummings came in to run for Durazo, and Ramiro Mendoza relieved Stanton. The Yankees had the infield in, and the Diamondbacks had the contact play on when Williams grounded to Jeter at short. Cummings came home and slid past Posada’s tag as Jeter’s throw was off target.

Arizona had a 3-1 lead, and Brenly went to his bullpen, bringing in Byung-Hyun Kim, his sidearm/submarine closer. The Yankees had never faced Kim and struggled to pick up the release point of his pitches in the last of the eighth. One hitter who wouldn’t be up that inning, Tino Martinez, went to the clubhouse to watch Kim on television.

The three New York hitters in the eighth—Spencer, Brosius, and Soriano—all got looks at Kim’s various release points as each worked the count full. However, Kim struck out all three batters, and the Diamondbacks were only three outs away from a commanding lead in the series.

With the Yankees still down by two, Jeter tried a different approach leading off the last of the ninth. He laid a bunt down the third-base on the first pitch. It wasn’t a bad bunt, but Matt Williams swooped in and threw Jeter out at first on a close play. Paul O’Neill went to left field for a single, but Bernie Williams struck out for the second out, bringing up Martinez, who had developed a plan from his clubhouse homework. “I just saw a fastball, slider,” Martinez said after the game, “so I went up there in that situation and was looking for a fastball, something over the plate I could just try to drive out.”

Martinez got the pitch he wanted and hit it a long way to right-center. The night before, he had hit a similar blast that Finley had tracked down. But this night, the ball was carrying better and Finley, despite an attempt to scale the fence, had no chance. The two-run homer tied the game, worked the Yankee Stadium crowd into a frenzy, and stunned the Diamondbacks.

Kim then walked Posada and gave up an infield single to David Justice, the first time Justice had made contact in the series after having struck out in his previous eight at-bats. However, Kim struck out Spencer to end the inning.

Game-tying home runs with two out in the ninth are not common in the World Series. The Yankees had pulled such a trick before—in 1957 when Elston Howard tied the fourth game with a three-run home run off Milwaukee’s Warren Spahn with two out in the top of the ninth. On that occasion, however, the Braves still won the game. The 2001 Yankees knew that Martinez’s home run would mean nothing if they could not come up with another run while holding Arizona scoreless in extra innings.

For the latter task, Torre called on Rivera, who had worked two perfect innings in preserving Clemens’s victory the previous night. Rivera set down the Diamondbacks in order in the top of the tenth. Kim was still on the mound in the bottom of the inning and got Brosius and Soriano to fly out.

As Derek Jeter stepped into the batter’s box, the scoreboard clock showed the time as 12:00 midnight. Halloween was over, and the date was now November 1. Never before had a major league baseball game been played in November. “Welcome to November Baseball” flashed a message on the scoreboard. Kim got two strikes on Jeter but then missed with a slider. Jeter stayed alive by fouling off a pair of fastballs, then took two more for balls to fill the count. Jeter drilled a pitch foul toward right field and then got another fastball in the same location. Jeter went the opposite direction again, this time with more punch.

Reggie Sanders looked up helplessly as the ball sailed over the right-field fence. Jeter pumped his fist in the air and completed his circuit with a triumphant leap onto home plate, where his jubilant teammates awaited him.

Derek Jeter in the clubhouse after the game“When I first hit it, I had no idea whether it was going to go out, but once it goes out, it’s a pretty special feeling. I’ve never hit a walk-off home run before, so it was a special experience,” said Jeter, who added, “The first time I faced him [Kim] I bunted the first pitch, so I didn’t get an opportunity to see him. Any time you have someone throwing sidearm or underarm, it is going to take a few pitches to pick up his release point. I think the second time I was able to see a lot of pitches, so I think that helped.”

Joe Torre said, “Surprising things happen, and yet when you really think about it, it doesn’t surprise you because this ball club never quits. I know it’s an old cliché, but I have lived it for six years. I’ve watched these guys play hard right to the last out.”

Reggie Jackson, the original Mr. October, was at the stadium that night and chatted with some of the players, including Jeter, during batting practice. But with his home run and midnight journey around the bases, Derek Jeter laid claim to the title of “Mr. November.”

Jeter coming home with game-winning home run
Derek Jeter rounds third and heads for home after his game-winning home run
off Byung-Hyun Kim in the fourth game of the 2001 World Series.

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Striking Again
Game Five, November 1, 2001

By Stew Thornley
Special to Southside Journal

Arizona manager Bob Brenly handled the questions about his decisions in Game Four—from starting Curt Schilling on three days rest and then removing him after the seventh in favor of Byung-Hyun Kim. Brenly explained his decisions but also commented on second-guessing. “If you cannot point something out ahead of time, it becomes the lowest form of journalism as far as I’m concerned to come in after the fact and say what should have happened.”

He also expressed confidence in Kim, his closer who had allowed two home runs in blowing the previous night’s game to the New York Yankees. “He’s available to pitch tonight,” Brenly said before Game Five of the 2001 World Series, “obviously in a much more limited role—maybe an inning or maybe a hitter, but he is available.” Kim, in giving up a game-tying two-run homer to Tino Martinez with two out in the last of the ninth and a game-ending home run to Derek Jeter with two out in the last of the tenth, made 62 pitches in his 2-2/3 innings of work.

As for his closer, Yankees manager Joe Torre said he would want to limit Mariano Rivera to one inning in that night’s game. “His pitch count has been pretty good, even though he’s pitched three innings in the last two games. But again, I think I’d like to just hopefully be in a position to just use him one inning.”

Torre was also hoping to get a stronger performance from Mike Mussina, who had lasting only three innings in starting the first game of the World Series. Torre and Mussina both agreed that Mussina’s command was the problem in that game, a 9-1 Arizona win. “He threw all of the stuff, but he was not able to put the ball where he wanted to. He was missing his spots.”

“There’s not much I’d like to remember,” Mussina said of his Game One performance, “so I’ll just forget about it.”

Even a stronger performance by Mussina in the opener might not have been enough as he was up against Arizona’s Curt Schilling, who is having a dominating post-season. For Game Five, the Yankees hitters would have one of their two chances in the Series to face a starter other than Schilling or Randy Johnson. Brenly rested his hopes on Miguel Batista, who was 11-8 with a 3.36 earned-run average during the regular season, a respectable record but not in the class of the Arizona Big Two.

However, the Yankees were as helpless against Batista as they as they have been recently against Schilling, Johnson, Brian Anderson, or anyone not named Byung-Hyun Kim. Batista, a 30-year-old right-hander who had floated among five different major league teams (and even more minor league teams) over the past decade before finding a home as a semi-regular in the Arizona rotation, held the Yankees to five hits and no runs over 7-2/3 innings.

Mussina also pitched a strong game. He allowed only a walk and a single in the first four innings, striking out five along the way. He got ahead of Steve Finley to start the fifth, but Finley then deposited a 1-2 pitch into the right-field seats to give Arizona a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, catcher Rod Barajas—a late replacement for Damian Miller, who was scratched because of a strained calf muscle—went deep to left with a home run that made the score 2-0. It was all the damage the Diamondbacks could do to Mussina, but it looked like it would be enough.

Batista survived the first inning, when he allowed two runners, as well as allowing the lead-off batter to reach base in each of the innings from the third through the sixth. Batista walked a pair of batters with two out in the seventh but retired Scott Brosius on a fly to right to end the inning.

With two out in the eighth, Batista issued his fifth walk of the game and then gave up a bloop single to Bernie Williams. This brought Tino Martinez to the plate, and Brenly went to the bullpen, bringing in lefthander Greg Swindell, who got Martinez to fly to left.

The Yankee Stadium crowd was again subdued as it appeared their team would have to go back to Arizona and win a pair of games against Johnson and Schilling. They did cheer as the top of the ninth ended, in tribute to Paul O’Neill, who was trotting off the field in Yankee Stadium for possibly the last night. Sure that O’Neill would be retiring at the end of the series (a decision O’Neill confirmed after the game), the New York fans saluted the right fielder for his many contributions to the Yankees over the past nine seasons.

A few moments later, the crowd let out another roar, this in response to the appearance of Byung-Hyun Kim, being called on by Brenly for the second straight night to try and close out the Yankees.

Jorge Posada greeted Kim with the same enthusiasm as the fans, driving a double to left. However, Kim retired Shane Spencer and Chuck Knoblauch, leaving himself only an out away from a save. Brosius looked at the first pitch for a ball, then turned on the next one and drilled it to left. There was no doubt in Brosius’s mind about the final destination of the ball. He began leaping in jubilation as he started down the line, watching the ball finally settle into the left-field seats.

For the second night in a row, the Yankees had shocked Kim and the Diamondbacks with a game-tying two-run homer with two out in the last of the ninth. From the dugout, Brenly stared in disbelief before coming out to the mound to replace Kim with Mike Morgan.

Morgan finished out the inning and retired the Yankees in order in the 10th and 11th. Meanwhile, Joe Torre went back to his bullpen ace, bringing in Rivera to start the tenth and staying with him in the 11th. Rivera gave up singles to Danny Bautista and Erubiel Durazo to start the 11th. The runners advanced on a sacrifice by Matt Williams. Steve Finley—with a homer and two singles in the game—was intentionally walked to bring up Reggie Sanders. On an 0-2 pitch, Sanders hit a soft liner up the middle. Second baseman Alfonso Soriano moved to his right and caught the ball with a diving backhanded grab. Mark Grace then grounded to Brosius, who ran to third and stepped on the bag for an inning-ending force.

Both teams went to new pitchers in the 11th. For the Yankees, Sterling Hitchcock quickly retired the Diamondbacks, then strolled to the dugout as organist Eddie Layton serenaded him with “Funeral March of a Marionette,” the theme to the Alfred Hitchcock television show.

For Arizona, Albie Lopez started the last of the 11th and gave up a single to Chuck Knoblauch on his first pitch. Brosius laid down a sacrifice bunt, sending Knoblauch to second. Soriano stepped in and lined a 2-1 pitch to right for a single. As Knoblauch rounded third, Reggie Sanders fielded the ball on two hops and fired a strong one-hop throw to the plate. A close play seemed imminent, but Barajas was unable to handle the bounce. The ball skipped off his glove as Knoblauch slid in with the winning run.

The victory put the Yankees ahead in the series as they teams prepared to go back to Arizona for the final game or games.

For the second night in a row, Joe Torre expressed amazement at in his post-game interview session while his Arizona counterpart, Bob Brenly, prepared himself for another round of the “lowest form of journalism.”

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