Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Yankee Elimination Day!!! (My Tongue Is In My Cheek)

Unlike Christmas, it doesn't just seem like it comes earlier every year.

9/23/08, 9:56 EST, the Red Sox beat the Indians (and Cliff Lee!) to officially put the nail through that uncharming concrete box in the Bronx.

But I must give the devil his due, as the organization handled the last game with a touch of class not usually seen from the team with 26 championships. That's right, the Yankees have 26 championships. It's not a well known fact, but it's true. 26. When I went to the Stadium last May I had to ask an usher how many they'd won because I had no idea nor were there any signs informing me that the Yankees won 26 championships. Twenty-six. None this century, but who's counting, right?

Yogi Berra's always a cutup and dispensed some wonderful, Zen-like wisdom. Even my grandfather, who hated the Yankees when they had Babe Ruth, always spoke fondly of the other number 8.

Also, they were smart enough not to invite Roger Clemens. What did you spend that silver on, Rog? Oh, right, it was in the Mitchell Report.

But, it must be said that I'm a sucker for history, and I'm glad I was able to see Yankee Stadium and Shea before the call of wrecking ball, so in tribute to the dying structure, I'll revisit the top ten moments in the history of Yankee Stadium and five from Shea (half as old, half as many).

Yankee Stadium

10. May 5th, 2000: Martinez v. Clemens

A classic pitcher's duel, with Pedro and Roger matching zeroes for eight straight innings until Nixon unknots the tie in the ninth with a two-run blast. Pedro finishes his shutout. Roger would become more famous later that season for throwing more than baseballs.

9. October 2nd, 1963 : The Jewish Kid Fans 15

After watching his performance in game one of the World Series, Casey Stengel is said to have declared, "Nevermind Walter Johnson, that Jewish kid is the best I've ever seen." Or something like it. The start of what would be one of only two World Series in which the Yankees could not win a game. Yankee fans later boo Roger Maris, as was the style of the time.

8. August 31, 2004: Tribe Wins By Three TDs

Some say this Yankee team didn't have heart. They were right, and come October we found out just how much.

7. October 10th, 1980 : Faster Going Out

Rich Gossage tries to blow one by Royal's 3B George Brett and ends up getting whiplash watching the ball sail into the stands. Brett's homer gives the Royals a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish and brings Kansas City's AL club their first pennant. After winning back-to-back titles in '77 and '78, the Yankees were beginning what was to become their longest drought (17 years) without any of those 26 championships. Yes, twenty-six.

6. August 4th, 1985 : Terrific Indeed

The greatest New York pitcher since Mathewson threw for McGraw's Giants wins number 300 in the Bronx with the White Sox. Overflowing with Mets fans, Stadium-related violence drops remarkably, only to rise again the next day. Remains the only game in Yankee Stadium history in which none of the crowd was charged with assault and battery.

5. October 9th, 1960: Wait 'Til Pittsburgh

The overmatched Pirates show the Yankees that heart and determination are more valuable than greenies. Vern Law and Roy Face hold the Yankees to two runs (after scoring 26 in the previous two games), setting up the magnificent game seven in Steel Town with Maz's famous home run. Mickey Mantle cries on the plane back to the Apple because he didn't want to live in a world where the Yankees only had 18 World Series Championships. That's right, 18.

4. October 3rd, 1956: Everything's Perfect

Don Larson throws the only perfect game in World Series history. In an unrelated matter, umpire Babe Pinelli is later declared legally blind.

3. October 25th, 2003: Beckett Turns Summer To Fall

Josh Beckett, probably only 13 or so at the time, throws shutout to end the Series as the Yankees let slip that elusive 27th World Series Championship. Free agent deluxe Jason Giambi drives in only one run the entire Series and later apologizes for something, but couldn't say what. I say it was his performance here.

2. October 19th, 2004: ALCS Game 6

Down three games to none, the Red Sox, riding the back of the all natural David Ortiz, win two in Fenway and force the LCS back to the Bronx. There, Curt Schilling, pitching with a bloody red sock, stymies the Yankee batters for seven innings before Arroyo and Foulke close it out, with some help from A-Rod. A little known fact about this game is that Rodriguez later complained to the umpires about "entrapment," insisting that previous violations of the rules by the Yankees went unpunished in the postseason (e.g., 1996 ALCS game 1, 1999 ALCS game 4) leading him to believe he would also go unpunished for similar offenses. Thankfully, his complaints fell on deaf ears.

1. October 20th, 2004: ALCS Game 7

Baseball's first reverse sweep. Ever.

William A. Shea Municipal Stadium

5. October 17th, 1999: Grand Slam Single

Robin Ventura's titular blast forces the LCS back to Atlanta, where the Mets might have had a reverse sweep of their own had Kenny Rogers not pitched with such clean hands.

4. October 10th, 1973: You Gotta Believe!

Tom Terrific and Tug pitch the Mets past the Big Red Machine and into their first fall classic since the Miracle of '69.

3. August 20th, 1985: Doc

Twenty-year-old ace Dwight Gooden strikes out 16 Giants en route to his Triple Crown sophomore campaign. My mother doesn't follow baseball with the dedication that my father and brother do, but ask her and she'll be able to tell you why they called him Doc.

2. October 27th, 1986: A Mets' Town

Game 7, as one of the great teams in baseball history brings a second title to Queens. Game 6? I don't know what you're talking about.

1. October 16th, 1969: Talent, Not A Miracle

After eight years in the cellar, the Mets climb out and stun the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles.

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