A Look Back

Yankees postseason walk-offs

Since it took a walk-off hit by Aaron Hicks for the Yankees to clinch a postseason spot, so I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some of the Yankees’ most memorable postseason walk-offs.

Some are indelibly stamped in our minds, while others may surprise you. Set the time machine for 1927, Sherman.

Murderer’s Row

Considered to be the Yankees greatest team of all time due to arguably the most imposing lineup of all time (Babe Ruth 60 HR 165 RBI; Lou Gehrig 47 HR 173 RBI), the 1927 Yankees faced off against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.

The Yankees won the first three games with Game 4 set for Yankee Stadium. The Bombers were up 3-1 in the 7th inning but the Pirates tied it up with a pair of runs off Yankees’ starter Wilcy Moore.

While this Yankees’ championship clincher didn’t have the pizzazz of Joe Carter’s 1992 World Series-ending home run, it was a World Series-winner nonetheless.

Pirates’ starter Johnny Miljus walked Earle Combs to start the 9th inning. Shortstop Mark Koenig bunted his way on and the two runners advanced a base on a wild pitch. Predictably, Ruth was then intentionally walked. Bases loaded no one out and Lou Gehrig up. Game ov…not so fast.

Miljus struck out Gehrig and Bob Meusel, and just like that there were two outs. With a chance to get out of the jam and go into extra innings, Miljus threw a wild pitch that allowed Combs to score the winning run. It was the franchise’s second championship.

Four of the Yankees hitters that stepped to the plate in the 9th – Ruth, Gehrig, Combs, and Lazzeri – are in the MLB Hall of Fame, as well as pitchers and teammates Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock.

Billy the Kid

Though his antics off the field often outweighed his on the field reputation, Billy Martin was a solid baseball player and a very good postseason player.

His game and World Series-saving catch in the 7th game of the 1952 World Series is well known. But, Martin also made the history books one year later, in 1953 against the same Brooklyn Dodgers.

The home team protected their turf through the first four games but the Yankees won Game 5 in Brooklyn, 11-7. The teams returned to the Bronx for Game 6 with the Yankees having the opportunity to win their fifth straight World Series.

The Yankees jumped out to an early 3-0 lead but Yankees starter Allie Reynolds served up a game-tying two-run home run to the Dodgers’ Carl Furillo in the top of the 9th inning.

Hank Bauer drew a leadoff walk from Dodgers’ starter Clem Labine to start the bottom of the 9th inning and one batter later, Mickey Mantle reached on an infield single. Martin then singled through the middle to plate Bauer with the game-winner.

Martin led the Yankees in the Series with eight RBI and tied a then-Major League record with 12 hits.

Bern Baby Bernie

Center fielder Bernie Williams owns the distinction of being the only Yankee to have two walk-off hits in the postseason.

The Yankees returned to the playoffs in 1996 after a 15-year absence. After dispatching Texas in the Division Series, the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles met in Game 1 of the ALCS. Unfortunately, the actions of a 12-year old boy have made many of the details of the game itself forgotten.

The “Jeffrey Maier game” as it has become known, determined the course of the series. The Orioles had a 4-3 lead when Derek Jeter lofted a fly to right field. Orioles’ outfielder Tony Tarasco reached the edge of the right field wall and prepared to make the catch…or at least attempted to make the catch.

That’s when the now-34-year old Maier, (who would like to forget the attention he received more than anyone else), stuck his black baseball glove out and interfered with play. Umpire Richie Garcia ruled it a home run when the ball ricocheted into the seats.

Tarasco and Orioles’ manager Davey Johnson were livid. But, with no instant replay review, the home run stood.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the 11th when Bernie went boom. Batting right-handed against the Orioles’ lefty closer Randy Myers, Williams hit a 1-1 pitch deep into the left field seats for the Game 1 winner.

It was the first of the postseason walk-offs for the 1996-2000 Dynasty.

Deja vu All Over Again

Three years later, in 1999, in what was their first ever postseason meeting, the Yankees and Boston Red Sox squared off in the ALCS.

Game 1 took place at Yankee Stadium and saw the Red Sox take a 3-0 lead after just 1-1/2 innings of play. But, Scott Brosius‘ two-run home run in the bottom of the 2nd inning cut into the lead, and Jeter’s RBI single in the 7th tied the score. Derek Lowe struck out Chili Davis to end a threat later in the inning.

Both teams put goose eggs up on the scoreboard in the 8th and 9th innings and the game headed to extra innings. Mariano Rivera allowed a leadoff single to Jose Offerman in the 10th inning, but John Valentin bounced out and Brian Daubach hit into an inning-ending double play.

Red Sox manager Jimy Williams called on reliever Rod Beck to pitch the 10th but he barely got the chance to break a sweat. Batting from the left side against the right-handed Beck, Bernie delivered on the first pitch, sending it into the right field seats for another Game 1 difference-maker.

Ending the “Declinasty”

The Yankees endured a terrible time in the mid-to-late 1960’s. It was one that saw them take a nasty fall from grace into the lower half of the American League standings.

But, with Martin at the helm in 1976, there was renewed hope for the franchise.

The Yankees won the AL East and met the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. The teams split the first two games of the best-of-five series in KC and headed to NYC for what had become the best-two-of-three.

Down two game to one, the Royals rallied in Game 4 for a 7-4 win to force a decisive fifth game.

The Yankees were up 6-3 in the 8th inning of the finale when nemesis George Brett hit a game-tying three-run home run against reliever Grant Jackson.

A boisterous Yankee Stadium crowd suddenly became tense. Yankees’ reliever Dick Tidrow worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the 9th to keep the game tied.

Royals’ reliever Mark Littell worked a scoreless 8th inning but Yankees first baseman Chris Chambliss wasted no time in ending the Yankees’ 12-year World Series drought.

Chambliss drilled Littell’s first pitch over the right-center field wall for a 7-6 victory. With the fans quickly pouring onto the field, Chambliss rounded the bases like an NFL fullback clearing a path as a lead blocker.

Chambliss arrived at home plate only to discover it had already been ripped out of the ground. Members of the NYPD would later escort him back out onto the field so he could touch where home plate was supposed to be.

Mr. November and the Sori Kid

The 2001 World Series did not start out well for the Yankees. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson dominated the first two games out west to give the Arizona Diamondbacks a 2-0 lead in the Series.

The action moved back to New York for Game 3, which the Bombers won 2-1 behind a dominant performance by starter Roger Clemens. Schilling and Orlando Hernandez then hooked up in a pitcher’s duel in Game 4.

With the game tied at one apiece in the top of the 7th inning, Erubial Durazo doubled in the go-ahead run against Mike Stanton and the Dbacks added an insurance run for a 3-1 lead.

Arizona manager Bob Brenly went to his closer Byung-Hyun Kim in the 8th and the righty responded by striking out the side. In the bottom of the 9th, Paul O’Neill reached safely with a one-out single but Williams struck out. Down to their last out, Tino Martinez swung at Kim’s first offering and sent the baseball deep into the Halloween night to tie the game.

After Rivera produced three ground ball outs in the top of the 10th, Brenly sent Kim back out for a third inning of work. He retired the first two batters but after the stroke of Midnight, Jeter hit a 3-2 pitch into the right field seats for a 4-3 win. “Mr. November” was born and the Series was tied at two games apiece.

The momentum of Game 4 didn’t translate to Game 5 for the Yankees. While starter Mike Mussina held the Dbacks to two runs over eight innings and struck out 10 hitters, the Yankees couldn’t put a run on the board against the Dbacks’ Miguel Batista.

Despite his performance in Game 4, which including throwing 61 pitches, Kim was called upon to get the final three outs. Jorge Posada led the off 9th inning with a double but Kim retired Shane Spencer and Chuck Knoblauch. Down to their final out again, Scott Brosius stepped up and hit Kim’s 1-0 pitch into the left field seats for a game-tying home run.

The game headed into extra innings for the second straight night. Rivera threw two scoreless frames and Sterling Hitchcock blanked Arizona in the 12th inning.  Mike Morgan threw 2.1 scoreless innings for the Dbacks and turned things over to Albie Lopez in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Knoblauch singled to start the inning and Brosius bunted him over to second base. Alfonso Soriano then lined a single to right and Knoblauch was waved home. Catcher Rod Barajas couldn’t handle Reggie Sanders’ one-hop throw as Knoblauch slid across home plate with the winning run.

While the Diamondbacks ultimately won the World Series, despite a poor job of managing by Brenly, Games 4 and 5 will always be remembered by fans of both teams.

And Boone hits it to deep left…

The Red Sox entered the 2003 playoffs with an 85-year drought since their last World Series win. It appeared they would have a chance to snap their winless streak in the final game of the 2003 ALCS. The Red Sox built up a 5-2 lead entering the bottom half of the 8th inning and had their ace Pedro Martinez on the mound.

But, with one out, Jeter doubled and Williams followed with an RBI single. Red Sox manager Grady Little conferred with Martinez and catcher Jason Varitek and decided to stick with Martinez. Hideki Matsui then lined a ball down the right field line that ricocheted off of a fan’s hands for a ground-rule double.

With the tying runs on base, Jorge Posada hit a pop-up that fell between shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, second baseman Todd Walker, and center fielder Johnny Damon for a two-run double that knotted the game at five apiece.

The game remained tied as Rivera tossed his third straight scoreless inning in the top of the 11th inning.

Tim Wakefield tossed a scoreless 10th inning but his first pitch of the 11th inning was solidly met with pinch-hitter Aaron Boone‘s bat. With arms spread out like wings, Boone broke out his home run trot as the ball fell among a sea of crazed fans in the left field seats.

The Yankees were once again going to the World Series and the Red Sox once again had their dreams crushed.

Martinez tossed him firmly under the bus for leaving him in and Little lost his job as a result. Of course, Little’s decision would also have been questioned had he gone to the bullpen earlier and lost the game.

15 years later Yankees manager Aaron Boone is hoping for a Wild Card win and a Division Series against the Red Sox. And, maybe some postseason walk-offs.

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