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86 Greatest Moments vs. Boston #5-1

November 24, 2012

#1 | Ruth is sold to the Yanks

#5 | DiMaggio Sets Record | 7/2/1941

On a 3-run home run, part of a 6-run 5th inning, Joe DiMaggio set an all-time record by hitting safely in 45 consecutive games in an 8-4 Yankee win.  The Yankee Clipper would eventually extend the streak to 56 games, a number that is still one of baseball’s most sacred.

#4 | Maris’ 61st Home Run | 10/1/1961

The Boston Red Sox were in town for their final series of a disappointing season.  The Yankees had already clinched the pennant and their rivals to the north were 32 games behind them, meaning the only drama on October 1st was whether or not Maris would eclipse Babe Ruth‘s home run record.  His moment came in the 4th inning off of Tracy Stallard when he blasted one of the most historic home runs in baseball history into the right field seats, providing the only run in a 1-0 victory.

During a season in which he often felt like he was doing something wrong, in which sportswriters and fans acted like he was poisoning the record book, in which the MLB commissioner denounced his incredible season, Roger Maris displayed incredible courage and fortitude in accomplishing a transcendent feat that will forever be remembered.

#3 | The 1-Game Playoff | 10/2/1978

After 162 games the Yankees and Red Sox were deadlocked atop the AL East and a 1-game playoff at Fenway was needed to determine who would earn a trip to the pennant.  The Yanks felt confident with Ron Guidry, the eventual Cy Young Award winner, and his 25-3 record on the mound, but a Carl Yastrzemski home run and a Jim Rice single had given the Sox a 2-0 lead entering the 7th.  Mike Torrez induced a fly out from leadoff batter Graig Nettles before Chris Chambliss andRoy White followed with singles, but a fly out from Jim Spencer moved Torrez within an out of escaping.  With 2 outs Bucky Dent strode to the plate as the very picture of an unlikely hero.

The 5’9″ shortstop, hitting in the 9 spot, had mustered 4 home runs and 37 RBIs during the regular season.  His batting average was a meager .243 and just .140 over the last 20 games.  Had there been anyone, anyone left on the Yankee bench, Lemon would not have put a bat in Dent’s hand, but Willie Randolph was injured and Fred Stanley had pinch hit for Brian Doyle earlier in the inning, leaving Dent in the game.  ”I wanted to pinch hit for him but didn’t have anybody to play,” Lemon would later recall.  Dent dug in, choked up on his bat, and stared in at the 6’5″ Torrez, two greasy strips of shoe polish beneath his eyes, with the Yankees season on the brink.

Dent took the first pitch for a ball, then fouled the second off of his bad ankle, crumpling to the ground in pain.  While a trainer checked on him, Mickey Rivers, standing in the on-deck circle, noticed the bat had been cracked.  Pick me out a winner, Mickey.  Rivers let Dent borrow his bat.  On the very next pitch the diminutive infielder entered Yankee lore and the lexicon of Boston expletives when he took Torrez’ hanging breaking ball over the 37’2″ Green Monster to vault the Bombers into a 3-2 lead.

The Yanks tacked on a 4th run in the inning when Thurman Munson doubled in Rivers, who had walked and stolen 2nd.  They pushed the lead to 5-2 on a Reggie Jackson home run in the 8th, but Boston scored 2 off of Goose Gossage in their half of the 8th to trail 5-4 entering the 9th.  Gossage induced a fly out, then Rick Burleson followed with a walk, moving to 2nd on a single by Jerry Remy.  A Jim Rice fly ball moved Burleson to 3rd with 2 outs and Yastrzemski at the plate, the 1967 Triple Crown winner.  Gossage was at his best in the most pressure-packed moments, and stayed true to form as Yaz popped out to Nettles at 3rd to give the Yankees their 100th win of the season and a return trip to the ALCS.

#2 | Boone Wins It | 10/17/2003

After 6 games in the American League Championship Series, that included a vicious brawl in game 3, the Yankees and Red Sox were deadlocked at 3-3.  Aces Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, the owners of a combined 9 Cy Young Awards, faced off for the 3rd time in ALCS history, each claiming a previous victory over the other.

After a quiet first inning, the Red Sox put the 56,279 at the Stadium on edge with a 3-run second, courtesy of a 2-run home run by Trot Nixon and a throwing error by Enrique Wilson at 3rd base.  The Sox tacked on another run in the 4th on a 1st pitch home run by Kevin Millar to give Boston a stunning 4-0 lead.

In the 5th the Yanks finally got off the mat.  To that point Martinez was at his dominant best, limiting New York to 2 hits through 4 innings, but Jason Giambi cracked the 1st pitch of the 5th to deep right-center, cutting the deficit to 4-1.  The designated hitter struck again in the 7th, tagging a 2-2 pitch for his 2nd home run, but it was all Pedro would allow in the inning.  When David Ortiz hit David Wells‘ 1st relief pitch of the game over the right field wall for a home run, hope began to wane in the Bronx.

As the game moved to the 8th, Martinez induced Nick Johnson to pop out, brining the Red Sox within 5 outs of their 1st World Series berth since 1986.  5 outs away from perhaps ending the Curse of the Bambino, from dispelling the demons of Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner; but standing between the Sox and the Promised Land was the heart of the Yankee order, and no part of that heart was more vital thanDerek Jeter.  The newly minted Captain doubled on an 0-2 pitch to right field, bringing up Bernie Williams who, after falling behind with 2 strikes, laced a single to center, sending Jeter home with the Yanks’ 3rd run.  When Hideki Matsui followed with an 0-2 ground-rule double, manager Grady Little emerged from the Boston dugout to, presumably, remove Martinez from the game after a gutsy effort.  But in a move that would be scrutinized for the rest of his life, he left Martinez in to face Jorge Posada with runners at 2nd and 3rd and a season hanging in the balance.

For the 4th straight time Martinez got to 2 strikes on a Yankee batter, only to come up short.  The Yankee catcher dunked a 2-2 pitch for a double to shallow centerfield, between a triangle of Johnny Damon,Nomar Garciaparra, and Todd Walker, that tied the game at 5, chased the former Cy Young-winner from the game, and rejuvenated a packed house at the Stadium.  The Yankees did not score again in the 8th, but a subtle managerial decision by Joe Torre would lead to one of the most important moments in Yankee history.  Ruben Sierra drew a 2-out intentional walk from Mike Timlin that brought a man named Aaron Boone into the game as a pinch runner.  After being acquired by the Yankees from Cincinnati midway through the season, Boone saw action in 54 games for New York and batted a meager .254 with 6 home runs.  If Torre had been asked before the game who the hero of game 7 would be, he may have come up with 24 names before mentioning his part-time 3rd baseman; but therein lies the magic of October.

In the 9th, Mariano Rivera began one of his greatest postseason performances by holding the Sox scoreless, while his counterpart moved the game into extra innings with a 1-2-3 inning.  In the 10th, Rivera worked around a 2-out double by Ortiz for a 2nd scoreless inning, while Tim Wakefield faced the minimum in the bottom half.  In Rivera’s 3rd inning of work he was at his sharpest, knifing through Nixon, Bill Mueller, and Doug Mirabelli on 11 pitches with 2 strikeouts, lowering his career postseason ERA to 0.75.  In his first 3 -inning stint since 1996 Rivera was flawless, snuffing out Boston’s last chance to stave off elimination.  The finest closer in baseball history would go on to nab the ALCS MVP award.

In the bottom of the 11th Aaron Boone got his first at bat after entering the game as a pinch runner in the 8th.  He has just 2 hits in 16 ALCS at bats and a lone RBI, but in October it takes just 1 pitch to become a legend, and 1 pitch was all he needed.  On Wakefield’s only pitch of the 11th inning he hung a knuckleball that Boone launched deep into the left field seats, propelling the Yankees to their 39th pennant and the Red Sox to their 85th straight year of disappointment.

They had played 26 times in 2003.  They had brawled in game 3.  They had battled beyond midnight in game 7.  They had used every bullet in their arsenals.  And it all resulted in a 6-5 Yankee win, one of the greatest games in baseball history.

A dejected Wakefield dropped his head and walked off the mound, a disbelieving Martinez cinched his sweatshirt hood closed, an exhausted Rivera collapsed on the mound, the stands boiled, the Yankee men turned into boys, and the greatest chapter in the storied rivalry of the Yanks and Sox ended with an exclamation point by an unlikely author.  See the story of Boone’s historic home run here.

#1 | The Babe Ruth Trade | 12/26/1919

Boston’s owner Harry Frazee was in debt and facing a demand from his star pitcher for a $10,000 raise.  When Babe Ruth refused to play until he got his raise, Frazee decided to trade him.  Chicago offered Shoeless Joe Jackson and $60,000 while Yankee owners Jack Ruppert and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston countered with a cash deal of $125,000 which the Red Sox quickly agreed to.  Additionally, the Yankees loaned Boston $300,000 with the mortgage to Fenway Park as collateral.  On January 6th The Boston Globe quoted Frazee:

I should have preferred to take players in exchange for Ruth, but no club could have given me the equivalent in men without wrecking itself, and so the deal had to be made on a cash basis.  No other club could afford to give me the amount the Yankees have paid for him, and I don’t mind saying I think they are taking a gamble.  With this money the Boston club can now go into the market and buy other players and have a stronger and better team in all respects than we would have had if Ruth had remained with us.

Frazee’s prophecy could not have been more off base.  The trade would propel the Yankees to a dynastic rule over baseball and would leave Boston with “The Curse of the Bambino” as they went without a championship for 86 years after trading him.

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