They say this time of year is the “Season of miracles”. However, no matter what time of year it is, you hear about miracles all the time when it comes to sports…”It’s going to take a miracle to win this one…” Whether it was the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team and Al Michaels’ query of the television audience, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” or the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Immaculate Reception” against the Raiders in an NFL playoff game.
Whether you believe there is divine intervention in sports or a higher power has more important things to think about than who wins the World Series, here are some baseball miracles that the Yankees have been a part of.
I’ve got it! I’ve got it! No, I don’t.
The rivalry between the New York Yankees and New York Mets is one of the most iconic in sports. And, the rivalry between their fans is even more intense than the rivalry between the two teams. Until interleague play came along, the Yankees and Mets only played one another in Spring Training or in the annual Mayor’s Trophy Game.
The two finally had their ultimate showdown in the 2000 World Series, with the Yankees winning their third title in four years. Since then, the once-six, now four games played in annual interleague play have been the only times the two teams have met.
June 12, 2009, is a date that will definitely live in Mets’ infamy. The Mets led the Yankees 8-7 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning with closer Francisco Rodriguez on the mound. The Yankees had runners on first (Mark Teixeira) and second (Derek Jeter), with Alex Rodriguez up at-bat. It all came down to a K-Rod vs. A-Rod showdown.
K-Rod fell behind in the count, 3-1, but A-Rod popped up on the next pitch. As he trotted towards first base, A-Rod slammed his bat down in frustration. Mets’ second baseman Luis Castillo drifted back onto the outfield grass for what appeared to be an easy game-ending out. Moments later, the ball popped out of Castillo’s glove as he attempted to make a one-handed catch, and it fell to the ground. Jeter scored easily with the tying run and Teixeira chugged around third and headed for home.
That’s when Castillo’s second mistake on the play occurred. Instead of throwing the ball home to prevent Teixeira from scoring, a clearly flustered Castillo threw to second base. Teixeira slid home with the winning run, well ahead of shortstop Alex Cora‘s throw to the plate. A-Rod’s frown turned upside down.
That didn’t just happen
Though the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series in heartbreaking fashion, Games 4 and 5 were classics. On consecutive nights the Yankees were down to their last out in the bottom of the 9th inning. On both nights, the amazing happened.
The Yankees entered Game 4, on Halloween, down two games to one and desperately needing a win. The Yankees hitters were in a slump and trailed 3-1 in the 9th. Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim had entered the game an inning earlier. In the 9th, he allowed a one-out single to Paul O’Neill but struck out Bernie Williams. With the game on the line, Tino Martinez swung at Kim’s first pitch and sent it into the bleachers in right-center field to tie the game at three apiece. One inning later, Jeter became Mr. November when he hit a two-out walk-off solo home run off Kim.
Mike Mussina pitched a gem through eight innings in Game 5. His only bad inning was the 5th when he gave up solo home runs to Steve Finley and Rod Barajas. But, the Yankees were held scoreless and once again found themselves down two runs in the 9th inning. Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly went to his closer again despite Kim having pitched in three innings the night before.
Jorge Posada reached on a leadoff double, but Kim got Shane Spencer to ground out and struck out Chuck Knoblauch. But, then “it was Deja vu all over again”. Brosius sent Kim’s 1-0 deep into the night sky and into the left field seats to tie the game 2-2. The game played on until the bottom of the 12th when Alfonso Soriano‘s one-out single scored Knoblauch with the winning run. The Yankees went ahead three games to two and headed back to Arizona. We’ll just skip the rest of that story.
Good Day Sunshine
If you are a Yankees fan, the 1978 season was one for the record books. The team overcame injuries, a bad start, and a 14.5 game deficit in the AL East to win the World Series. But, before the champagne was uncorked in the locker room, the Yankees had to beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park in the 163rd game of the season.
October 2nd in Boston was a bright and beautiful Fall day. While Bucky Dent‘s unexpected three-run home run was the big offensive blow of the game, a significant defensive play sometimes gets overlooked. Without it, the Yankees might not have won the game.
The Yankees were up 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning after closer Rich Gossage had allowed a pair of runs in the 7th inning. He retired the first hitter in the 9th but then walked shortstop Rick Burleson. Second baseman Jerry Remy followed with a hard hit ball to right field.
Right field was awash in the glare of the late afternoon sun. Despite wearing sunglasses, right fielder Lou Piniella had trouble picking up the flight of the ball. He stretched his arms outward from his body in hopes the ball would hit him. Burleson saw Piniella’s actions and thought he had a chance to catch the ball. At the last moment, Piniella picked up the flight of the ball and snared it on one hop.
Burleson took a big turn at second base but retreated back to the bag. Had the ball gotten past Piniella, Burleson would have scored easily with the tying run and Remy, at a minimum, would have made it to third base. Piniella’s play and Burleson’s base running changed the dynamic of the inning and the entire game. Had Burleson picked up the flight of the ball immediately, he would likely have advanced to third on Remy’s hit.
When Jim Rice followed with a deep fly out to right, Burleson could only advance to third instead of scoring the tying run. Carl Yastrzemski then hit a foul pop out to third baseman Graig Nettles to end the game. Burleson has unfairly taken some heat over the years from some teammates and fans. Just as Piniella couldn’t see the baseball, neither could Burleson and he was completely faked out by Piniella’s unintentional bluff.
Enough is Enough
The Yankees teams of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s struggled to win baseball games. They bottomed out with 67 wins in 1990. It was the first non-strike season that the Yankees failed to win 70 games since 1925. But, in 1993 the team had begun to take on a different look.
They had brought in hard-nosed players like Paul O’Neill, Wade Boggs, and Mike Gallego, and things began to turn around. The California Angels didn’t care. On July 25, 1993, they pounded Yankees’ starter Melido Perez and reliever Rich Monteleone for eight runs in the 2nd inning. A lot of teams might roll over and give up when down that much that early in a game. That 67-win team by might have, but not the 1993 squad.
The comeback against Angels’ starter Hilly Hathaway began slowly. Mike Stanley hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 2nd inning. In the bottom of the 3rd, Danny Tartabull and Bernie Williams singled in a run apiece. Angels 8 Yankees 3. Meanwhile, Monteleone held the Angels in check after the 2nd inning.
In the 4th, Gallego, who had made a costly error in the Angels’ big inning, led off with a single and eventually made his way over to third base. Boggs brought him home with a ground out to cut the lead in half. Jim Leyritz started the 8th with a double off of former Yankee Gene Nelson and came around to score on a pair of ground outs. Stanley followed with a single and Williams walked. O’Neill followed with a line-drive double to plate both runners and cut the lead to a single run.
The Yankees’ bullpen continued to do its job. Monteleone got the team through the 6th inning. Paul Gibson struck out three in 2.1 innings and John Habyan retired both runners he faced in the 9th. The Halos called on Steve Frey to work the bottom of the 9th inning.
Frey walked Tartabull to start the inning, and the Yankees got a break when shortstop Gary Disarcina misplayed Stanley’s grounder for an error. A passed ball by Ron Tingley advanced both runners into scoring position. To set up a double play scenario, Williams was intentionally walked to load the bases. O’Neill skied to left field to bring home Tartabull with the tying run.
After Gallego flew out, Kelly lined a single through the left side of the infield to bring home pinch-runner Hensley Meulens with the winning run. The victory was the Yankees’ fourth straight and gave them a 56-44 victory after 100 games. Though they would miss out on the playoffs, the team’s competitiveness was on the rise.