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THE 90's: - 1996 - 1998 - 1999
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1996 World Series

"I have a really strong feeling inside that this is just another hill that I have to climb." - 1996 Yankee / World Series participant Darryl Strawberry

PINSTRIPE PERSPECTIVES: Events off the field

After years of investigation, federal law enforcement officials finally captured the Unabomber otherwise known as Ted Kaczynski. The anti-social academic, who developed mail bombs, was captured in a remote cabin after his own brother recognized his writing style in a lengthy manifesto that he anonymously submitted to the Washington Post.

The Summer Olympic Games celebrated its Centenary in Atlanta Georgia as a record-setting seventy-nine nations won medals and fifty-three won gold. Unfortunately, the festivities were interrupted after a terrorist bomb was detonated in Centennial Olympic Park killing one person and injuring one-hundred ten more.

After capturing an unprecedented third straight U.S. Amateur in August, twenty year-old Tiger Woods turned pro and promptly won two tourneys for $790,594. Sports Illustrated selected Woods as the "1996 Sportsman of the Year" and he was only getting started.

FALL CLASSIC: Atlanta Braves (2) vs. New York Yankees (4)

The 1996 season witnessed what would eventually become the fourth installment of the New York Yankees dynasty. To date, the "Bronx Bombers" had already dominated three separate decades en route to thirty-three Fall Classics and twenty-two World Championship titles. This year's Yankees dominated the American League throughout the entire regular season on the arms of one of baseball's top pitching staffs that featured Andy Pettitte, David Cone and one of the game's best closers in John Wetteland. New York's newest skipper Joe Torre had also risen to a "folk-hero-like" status, by returning the franchise to the Fall Classic, after succeeding Buck Showalter, who had repeatedly fell short. A true "hometown hero", Torre had grown up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and made his name as an All-Star catcher and infielder for both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves. His experience and demeanor made him a natural for managing, and he was a good one, for the Mets, Braves and Cardinals. After being fired three times, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner offered him the job despite critical responses from his colleagues. The daring decision proved to be one of Steinbrenner's best, as Torre became one of the most successful managers in baseball history.

The defending World Champion Atlanta Braves also boasted an equally dangerous rotation with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, Denny Neagle and John Smoltz (some had controlled the previous Series with a combined 2.67 ERA). In capturing their fifth-straight divisional crown, the Braves set a Major League record with five consecutive first-place seasons. Their pitching staff recorded several major league marks including most strikeouts (1,245) and fewest walks (451). The '96 team also set several franchise records, including most home wins (56), best team batting average (.270) and third all-time in homeruns (197).

Despite the rich postseason history of New York victories, Atlanta still remained the heavy favorite. Later, the "upset" caused by the Yankee underdogs led to the uncovering of a major gambling scandal at Boston College, when the University's athletes were forced to "go public" after being unable to pay off their wagers to illegal bookies.

Game 1 resembled the '95 opener, with an astonishing ten separate pitchers making appearances on the mound, starting with Smoltz and Pettitte. Fred McGriff mirrored his last debut with a homer and teammate Andruw Jones followed as the youngest player (nineteen) in World Series history to hit a home run. One inning later, he became only the second player in World Series history to hit a second homer (in his first two at-bats) and Atlanta and its newest sensation sent the Yanks packing with a 12-1 massacre. The opening loss was especially devastating to Pettitte who was christened "Sigh Young" in the New York papers the following day.

The Braves continued their momentum in Game 2, as Maddux and company held New York to seven meaningless hits for a 4-0 win that put the National League champs up, two games to none. Despite their efforts, the injury-plagued Yankees were falling fast and a sweep appeared on the horizon. David Cone set out to right the sinking ship for New York in the third outing and combined with relievers Rivera (the 95-mph set-up man), Graeme Lloyd and John Wetteland to deal Glavine his first loss, with a clutch 5-2 Game 3 decision.

Game 4 clearly belonged to the hitters and topped the opener with thirteen different arms taking the mound. Surprisingly, neither rotation performed well, as both were battered for a combined twenty-one hits. Things clearly appeared to be in Atlanta's favor until Jim Leyritz stepped up to the plate and ignited a new era in New York Yankee baseball. Amazingly Leyritz, was sure that he wasn't going to play and spent much of the game working out in the weight room as the Braves built a 6-0 lead through five innings. A startled Leyritz finally entered the game as a defensive replacement for Joe Girardi in the sixth inning, after New York had cut the deficit to 6-3. Despite surrendering eight homers during the regular season, closer Mark Wohlers was given the call in the eighth inning by Bobby Cox to finish the job for the Braves. After two runners reached base, Leyritz stepped into the box and worked the count to 2-2, fouling off two blistering fastballs in the process. The next swing sent a hanging slider over the wall for a three-run homer and a Series-tying triumph. Most baseball analysts believe that Leyritz's hit was the turning point of the Series while many Yankee fans believe it was the turning point of the franchise.

Now squared at two-games apiece, the Braves had blown a two game advantage and were winless in two consecutive meetings. Things didn't get any better the following day, as the Yankees dealt a bitter 1-0 loss to the home team (in the last ballgame ever to be played at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium). Pettitte finally had his revenge, after shutting out the Braves with a five-hit effort over Smoltz.

As the Series returned to "The House that Ruth Built", Atlanta had gone from two up to down one and were now on the brink of elimination. Maddux was the Braves' obvious choice in Game 6, but the future Hall of Famer fell short after surrendering three early runs in a single inning. With the Braves still trailing 3-1, Gold Glove center fielder Marquis Grissom reached first on a one-out hit and broke for second, when a pitch to Mark Lemke bounced a few feet away from Yankee catcher Joe Girardi. Television replays clearly showed Grissom beat the throw, but umpire Terry Tata called him out. Grissom understandably reacted in anger, coming close to bumping Tata before two Atlanta coaches pulled him away. An equally upset manager ran onto the field to continue the argument. Still screaming on his way back to the dugout, Cox was ejected by third-base umpire Tim Welke.

Despite the controversy and the loss of their skipper, Atlanta managed to rally in the fourth inning when the Braves had their best chance to get back in the game. Terry Pendleton came to the plate as a designated hitter, with the bases loaded, one out and a run already in. He managed to work the count to 3-1 against Jimmy Key, and then hit a three-hopper right to Derek Jeter for an easy double play. That would be all the Braves could muster as the Yankees went on to win the game (and the Series) with a 3-2 victory.

The performances by both teams on the mound (throughout the contest) as well as the repeated one run differentials reinforced the modern theory that pitching had finally overpowered hitting as the deciding factor in World Series baseball. Over the years, hitters had become bigger, stronger and faster, but the pitchers that faced them had also evolved into elite athletes, capable of throwing 90+mph fastballs and a variety of specialty pitches with extreme precision. The New York Yankees had assembled a roster that fit both categories and they would continue to dominate the Fall Classic four out the next five years. The Atlanta Braves would also continue to dominate divisional titles, but unfortunately, not much more.


Game 5 of the 1996 World Series was the last ballgame ever played in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.

On October 20, 1996, Andruw Jones became the youngest player, nineteen (19), in World Series history to hit a home run. One inning later he became only the second player in World Series history, Gene Tenace was the first (1972 World Series), to hit a home run his first two (2) times up in a Series.

Many great moments occurred during this Series, but for Yankees' fans the best one might have easily been the Game 5 over-the-shoulder catch by Paul O'Neill to preserve a 1-0 nail-biting victory for Andy Pettitte.


1998 World Series

"You don't win 114 games by being lucky." - Mike Hargrove manager, Cleveland Indians, (on the 1998 Yankees)

PINSTRIPE PERSPECTIVES: Events off the field

Senator John Glenn blasted off for the second time at age seventy-seven to participate in a study of the effects of weightlessness and space stress on the elderly. The veteran astronaut had no difficulties performing his duties aboard the Space Shuttle and returned to earth with flying colors.

President Bill Clinton was accused of having improper relations with a young, White House intern. Despite denying the allegations, a thorough investigation was conducted and the house proposed the possibility of impeachment. All would be revealed the following year.

Seventy-six million people tuned in to view the last installment of a "show about nothing" as Seinfeld broadcasted its farewell performance. The series is still the most widely viewed sitcom ever in syndication and has made creator Jerry Seinfeld one of the wealthiest royalty recipients in the history of television.

FALL CLASSIC: San Diego Padres (0) vs. New York Yankees (4)

In 1998, the perennial champion New York Yankees set a new standard for excellence in baseball, outplaying the 1927 franchise considered by most expert analysts as the greatest team ever to play the game. With an all-star lineup known as "Murderer's Row", New York outscored its opponents by nearly four hundred runs and hit .307 as a team in 1927. Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest player ever, set the original single season mark with sixty homeruns, which was more than any other American League team had combined. The "Sultan of Swat" also had plenty of help from his fellow sluggers in pinstripes. Outfield counterparts, Earle Combs in center and Bob Meusel in left, hit .356 and .337 respectively. Lou Gehrig had his first big season, batting .373 with forty-seven home runs and a league-leading one hundred seventy five runs-batted-in. Second-year man Tony Lazzeri ranked third in the loop with eighteen home runs. The pitching staff boasted four men who won eighteen or more wins, led by Waite Hoyt at 22-7. Herb Pennock and Wilcy Moore gained nineteen victories apiece while Urban Shocker added eighteen. This lethal trio complemented the dominant offense by claiming the league's three best ERAs. Moore, who pitched primarily in relief, led the way with a 2.28 mark. With a 110-44 record, the "Bronx Bombers" ran away with the American League pennant, winning by a staggering nineteen games.

If '27 was considered the best, then 1998 certainly was the greatest. Manager Joe Torre's version had finished the season with one hundred fourteen regular-season wins and eleven postseason victories (the most by any team in one hundred twenty-three years of Major League baseball). Their lineup card included names like Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius. In the year of the "pinstriped homer", eight Yankees hit fifteen or more and ten players hit at least ten home runs for an amazing two hundred seven total. New York's newest pitching rotation was equally lethal and featured David Cone, Orlando Hernandez, Ramiro Mendoza, Andy Pettitte, Mike Stanton, David Wells and the game's top closer in Mariano Rivera.

Their opponents, the San Diego Padres, would certainly have their work cut out for them and although they didn't have any all-time records, they sure had their share of National League All-Stars including Andy Ashby, Kevin Brown, Trevor Hoffman, Greg Vaughn and fan favorite Tony Gwynn. After finishing 98-64, the Nationals took the division 3-1 over the Houston Astros, then defeated the Atlanta Braves (four games to two) in the National League championship. Manager Bruce Bochy's team had scored seven hundred forty-nine runs (behind the Yankees nine hundred sixty-five) but only allowed six hundred thirty-five (under New York's six hundred fifty-six) with a strong pitching staff led by Kevin Brown and Sterling Hitchcock.

Game 1 opened with a "touch of class" at Yankee Stadium, with Tony Bennett singing the National Anthem and Sammy Sosa throwing out the first pitch. David Wells, better known as "The Boomer" took the hill for the home team against Kevin Brown and company. After New York tallied two runs in the second inning, San Diego answered with two of their own in the third. Down 7-1 (going into the eighth inning) Brown was replaced by Donne Wall - who was replaced by Mark Langston - who was replaced by Brian Boehringer - who was inevitably replaced by Randy Myers. However, no reliever in a Padres uniform could match up to Jeff Nelson or Rivera who closed the doors on the visitors with a 9-6 opening win. Both Chuck Knoblauch and Martinez dented the cheap seats and were matched by Gwynn and Vaughn (who both had two). Game 2 belonged to the home team as "El Duque" Hernandez (with support from Stanton and Nelson) held on for a 9-3 triumph that featured home runs from both Williams and Jorge Posada.

Now down two games to none, the Padres hoped to fare better back at their own Qualcomm Stadium. Hitchcock (and three relievers) were given the unenviable task of turning the Series around, but failed to overcome the powerful trio of Cone, Mendoza and Rivera, who maintained the 5-4 advantage. Brosius nailed two homers during the heartbreaker adding to his ever-growing stats that topped out at eight hits, two homers and six runs-batted-in. The third baseman would go on to win the Series MVP award finishing with a whopping .471 batting average. On the brink of elimination, the National League champions had one last opportunity to prevent a sweep and extend their "Cinderella" season for another day. Brown and Pettitte went head-to-head for five innings, but the Padre pitcher stumbled in the fifth (for one) and the eighth (for two) before being pulled in favor of Dan Miceli and Myers. Although neither would surrender any additional runs, it was too little - too late as Nelson and Rivera (who finished with a 0.00 ERA) went on for the 3-0 clincher and their twenty-fourth World Championship. It was the perfect ending to a perfect season and was summed up perfectly by the players: "Tell them, it wasn't easy. When they look back and see one hundred twenty-five wins, tell them we never took a single one for granted. Teach them about our passion and our patience. If they ask who was our star, give them twenty-five names. And if you forget our names, just tell them we were YANKEES. And in the season of our lives, we became a team. A team that made people believe that baseball could be magic, and men could be perfect."


This World Series Championship by the New York Yankees was their twenty-fourth (24th) title - the most by any team from any league.

Scott Brosius won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award after finishing with a .471 batting average, eight (8) hits, two (2) home runs and six (6) runs batted in.

Mariano Rivera and Jeff Nelson both pitched in three-of-the-four World Series games and both finished with an amazing 0.00 ERA.


1999 World Series

"I think this is a better team because we had to do it again to validate what we did last year." - Yankee skipper, Joe Torre

PINSTRIPE PERSPECTIVES: Events off the field

President Bill Clinton was acquitted of impeachment charges and remained in office despite originally denying that he had improper relations with a White House intern. After a thorough investigation it was later discovered that the President had lied under oath and he eventually confessed and apologized to the American people.

The disturbing trend of violence in American schools reached an all-time high as two students entered Columbine High School with an arsenal of weapons and explosives killing thirteen of their classmates before taking their own lives. In response, schools around the country instituted "safe-school" security programs incorporating armed security guards, metal detectors, zero-tolerance "bullying" policies and intruder alert drills.

John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister in-law were killed as their plane, piloted by JFK Jr., crashed en route to a Kennedy cousin's wedding ceremony. After an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, the accident was reportedly caused by a combination of inclement weather and pilot-error.

FALL CLASSIC: Atlanta Braves (0) vs. New York Yankees (4)

As baseball prepared to close its books on the twentieth century, it seemed fitting that the team that dominated most of it was returning for the thirty-sixth Fall Classic. Following one hundred fourteen regular season wins and eleven postseason victories (the most by any team in one hundred twenty-three years of Major League baseball) as well as a four game sweep in the Series, the perennial champion New York Yankees were back and ready to cement their title as the Team of the Century. Manager Joe Torre was ready for another sweep as his Yankees won the American League Division Series over the Texas Rangers (3-0) and the Championship Series (4-1) over Boston Red Sox. The "Bronx Bombers" had scored a whopping nine hundred runs and answered their critics who felt that the record-setting '98 season had been a fluke. The Atlanta Braves had risen as a dominant force in the National League over the last decade and were returning for their ninth Series (winning titles in three different cities). Despite the heavy hitters on both lineups, many believed that this Classic would all come down to pitching, as each rotation combined for thirteen Cy Young Award winners including Roger Clemens, David Cone, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

The opener pitted New York's Orlando Hernandez against Atlanta's Greg Maddux. Both aces went head-to-head for eight innings, (with the exception of "El Duque" surrendering one run in the fourth to Chipper Jones). But the "Pinstripes" connected for four runs to beat the controversial John Rocker and closer Mike Remlinger, with a score of 4-1. The game's best closer, Mariano Rivera, entered in the last inning and continued his astounding postseason winning streak.

Game 2 didn't give the fans at Turner Field anything to cheer about either. David Cone and company clearly dominated the home team, allowing only five hits and two runs that came in the final inning. The Yankees managed fourteen hits off Kevin Millwood and Terry Mulholland (who came in the third inning) for the 7-2 victory that put them ahead two games to none.

The third outing finally appeared to tip the scales in the Braves favor as they entered the seventh inning with a 5-3 advantage. But the never-say-die Americans tied it up in the eighth inning (winning in the tenth) after four clutch homers by Chad Curtis (who had two), Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez. Now ahead by three, the "Bombers" prepared to seal their second consecutive sweep for the home crowd at Yankees Stadium who had missed the '98 finale that took place in San Diego's house. Game 4 highlighted the tradition of excellence that was part of the Yankee culture, with pinstripe legend Whitey Ford throwing out the first pitch. The "Chairman" set the tone for the contest, as Yankee pitchers would rule the day. Roger Clemens was given the start for the homers against John Smoltz and The "Rocket" responded with an eight-inning masterpiece that yielded five hits and one run. Teammate Jim Leyritz ended the affair by sending a shot into the cheap seats for a 4-1 triumph and a third title in four years.


The 1999 New York Yankees players were each paid $326,000 for this particular World Championship.

In a press conference before the game three Joe Torre said, "What helps us is that we're thinking jab, jab, jab as opposed to knockout punch." Down five-to-one they rallied on three (3) home runs including a game ending home run in extra innings.

No individual records were set or tied during the 1999 World Series, but the New York Yankees did cement their title as the "Team of the Century."

END 90's


Copyright 2006 by Michael Aubrecht
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