Can Judge hit one out of Yankee Stadium?

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That is the question. It’s never been done, either at the new Yankee Stadium or the old ballpark — The House that Ruth Built — right across the street.

Seems like a super human feat. Mission impossible. Perhaps, but after Yankees’ phenom Aaron Judge cleared the left-center field bleachers with a 495-foot home run, it seems like a legitimate question.

Judge’s latest moonshot blast certainly opened some eyes. Consider that his home run would have landed in the corridor in front the Yankees retired numbers, under the Bank of America sign, if not deflected by a fan. Now look to the left of that spot, perhaps 25-30 feet, near the flagpoles. Notice the alley. Under ideal circumstances, with the wind blowing out, who’s to say Judge couldn’t clear that back wall. Not impossible.

There have been some monster shots in the new Stadium, but none as monstrous as the one Judge hit. Alex Rodriguez hit several bombs deep into the bleachers, and Philly’s Raul Ibanez and Cleveland’s Russell Branyan hit titanic shots.

But judging by the results, Aaron Judge has the best chance to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium

Original Yankee Stadium Blasts

Nearly 16 years ago, July 22, 2001, Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams hit a ball that left the old Stadium, over the old Yankee bullpen in right field and onto the elevated tracks of the 4 line.But that was in batting practice.

I was at the ballpark with my family that day, a hot summer Sunday afternoon. We were sitting on the third base side, box seats. My son Dan, a teen-ager at the time, swears he saw the ball go out

“I saw it,” he said. “It went out in that little gap, over the wall and right onto the railroad tracks. “People noticed it, they were clapping. You didn’t believe me.”

Well, it was hard to believe.

“I didn’t see it,” Williams told the New York Post. “But I noticed that it never came back, so that should have been some indication it was out. Batting practice is a great relief and release of tension for me. I’ve had a lot of tension this year, so it’s kind of like hitting a punching bag. I always try to hit the ball hard, but that’s as hard as I’ve ever hit one. That’s a long way.”

It’s a feat that no Yankee slugger had ever accomplished before — not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Reggie Jackson.

Twice, Mantle came within several feet of hitting one out of Yankee Stadium, off Pete Ramos of the Washington Senators on Memorial Day, 1956, right, and against Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A’s on May 22, 1963. Both times the ball was still rising when it struck the façade in right field. Mantle later said the 1963 HR was the hardest ball he ever hit.

Josh Gibson and Frank Howard, among others, were reputed to have gone out of the Stadium, though neither has ever been proven.

Gibson, the great Negro League catcher, is said to have hit several moonshots in the his day, including a ball that traveled 580 feet in the 1930s.

Babe Ruth may have hit some balls out of the original Yankee Stadium before the upper deck in right field was built, but none have ever been documented. The upper deck in right was extended in 1937.

But Bernie Williams did it for real….even if it was BP. He even hit a home run in the game, a solo shot in the first inning, to help lift the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bernie finished his career with 287 home runs, 22 more in the playoffs. And one that didn’t count but went out of Yankee Stadium

Bernie goes Boom!


A-Rod is top Yankee third baseman of all time

 

Now that his Yankee career has ended (some would say mercifully), Alex Rodriguez can fill the third base slot on the all-time Yankee team.

A-Rod won two MVPs with the Yankees (2005, 2007), hit 351 of his 696 career home runs in pinstripes and had more than 1,000 RBIs. And he helped lead the Yankees to their last World Championship, in 2009, with an outstanding post-season effort when he hit .365 with 6 HRs and 18 RBIs. His 54 home runs in 2007 are the most ever for a right-handed Yankee hitter.

Of course, A-Rod’s reputation will be forever stained by his admitted steroid abuse, his playoff collapses, and his insecurity. But this isn’t the Hall of Fame, it’s the Yankee all-time team.

Third base is the only position on the team not manned by a Hall of Famer. (Yeah, Wade Boggs played for the Yankees for several years, but his greatest years were in Boston.)

After A-Rod, here are the next five greatest third basemen in Yankee history.

Graig Nettles, power hitter and Gold Glove fielder who led the AL in home runs in 1976 and was a member of the 1977 and 1978 World Series winners.

Red Rolfe, another outstanding fielder, helped the Yankees win five titles (1936-39 and 1941) and retired in 1942 to become baseball coach at Yale.

Joe Dugan, aka Jumping Joe, was the third baseman on one of the greatest teams ever, the 1927 Yankees. A .280 lifetime hitter, he played on 5 Yankee pennant winners.

Gil McDougald, played multiple infield positions on five World Champions under Casey Stengel. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1951. McDougald later coached at Fordham.

Clete Boyer, tremendous glove man, played the hot corner for five straight pennant winners (1960-64), and hit 95 homers as a Yankee.

Boggs, who hit .300 or better in four of his five Yankee years, and Scott Brosius, who won three straight World Series in his four seasons, deserve honorable mention.

All-Time Yankees

The rest of the all-time Yankee team consists of Hall of Famers….or sure-fire Hall of Famers in the case of the shortstop and relief pitcher. Here’s the list:

C – Yogi Berra

1B – Lou Gehrig

2B – Tony Lazzeri

SS – Derek Jeter

3B – A-Rod                                                       

OF – Babe Ruth

OF – Joe DiMaggio

OF – Mickey Mantle

LHP – Whitey Ford

RHP – Red Ruffing

RP – Mariano Rivera


The other side of baseball’s Mount Rushmore

When Major League Baseball announced its Franchise Four results recently, if left a ton of talent on the other side of Mount Rushmore. Although it’s difficult to argue with many of the selections, leaving Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens off the 8-man lists of the teams they played for is unfathomable.  If you want to argue steroids, then tell me how Barry Bonds made the Franchise Four for the Giants.

MLB also pulled together a Greatest Pioneer list, consisting of Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson and Cy Young. Perhaps that’s a CYA list, since these immortals weren’t voted in by fans of their respective teams. The Negro League quartet of Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck O’Neil and Satchel Paige sounds about right. Only old Satch ever made it to the majors.

There are also issues with the Greatest Living Player foursome. Henry Aaron and Willie Mays are no-brainers, and Sandy Koufax gets a pass, despite a brief but brilliant career. But choosing Johnny Bench over Yogi Berra is wrong. Berra has a higher lifetime batting average (.285 to .267), more rings (10 to 2), more RBIs and nearly as many home runs as Bench. Yogi also managed two teams, the Yankees and the Mets, to the seventh game of the World Series. Berra is an icon, Bench is merely a catcher. Since the results were announced during the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati, perhaps MLB wanted to put Bench on the list. Just sayin’.

There, now that we have that out of the way, here’s my list by position of top ballplayers on the other side of Mount Rushmore, legends who struck out on the Franchise Four’ Starters are listed first, followed by reserves ranked in order of selection

C – Yogi Berra, Yankees

Bill Dickey, Yankees

Carlton Fisk, Red Sox

Roy Campanella, Dodgers

1B – Albert Pujols, Cardinals

George Sisler, Browns

Bill Terry, Giants

Eddie Murray, Orioles

2B – Eddie Collins, A’s/White Sox

Charlie Gehringer, Tigers

Nap Lajoie, Naps (now Indians)

Tony Lazzeri, Yankees

SS – Derek Jeter, Yankees

Ozzie Smith, Cardinals

Dave Concepcion, Reds

Luis Aparicio, White Sox

3B – Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

Pie Traynor, Pirates

Eddie Matthews, Braves

Wade Boggs, Red Sox/Yankees

OF – Joe Jackson, Indians/White Sox

OF – Al Simmons, A’s

OF – Mel Ott, Giants

Harry Heilmann, Tigers

Jim Rice, Red Sox

Zack Wheat, Dodgers

Larry Doby, Indians

Chuck Klein, Phillies

Paul Waner, Pirates

Ralph Kiner, Pirates

Sam Crawford, Tigers

Goose Goslin, Senators

SP – Cy Young, Red Sox

SP – Walter Johnson, Senators 

SP – Christy Mathewson, Giants

SP – Carl Hubbell, Giants  

SP – Roger Clemens, Red Sox

Grover Alexander, Phillies/Cub/Cardinals

Juan Marichal, Giants

Whitey Ford, Yankees

Dizzy Dean, Cardinals

Ferguson Jenkins, Cubs

John Smoltz, Braves

Tommy Glavine, Braves

Ted Lyons, White Sox

Catfish Hunter, A’s/Yankees

Gaylord Perry, Giants/Indians

Red Ruffing, Red Sox/Yankees

John Clarkson, Braves (formerly Beaneaters)

Eddie Plank, A’s

Dazzy Vance, Dodgers

Addie Joss, Naps (formerly Indians)

RP – Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Goose Gossage, Yankees/White Sox

Bruce Sutter, Cardinals/Cubs

Hoyt Wilhelm, Giants/A’s


Is this the worst Yankee team in 20 years?

Losing Mariano River may turn out to be the defining moment of the Yankee season.

In 1992, the New York Yankees finished with a 76-86 record, 20 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays and tied for fourth place in the AL East. It was Buck Showalter’s first year at the helm

That year, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the 11th year in a row. Since 1992, they’ve missed the playoffs just twice.

That was 20 years ago. That was then and this is now, But a quarter of the way through the 2012 season, we may be looking at the worst Yankee team since 1992.

Here’s 10 reasons why:

1. No Mo — For 15 years, the Yankees have had the biggest security blanket in the history of baseball. Then Mariano Rivera injured his knee shagging fly balls in Kansas City. No more. No Mo.

2. RISP means RIP — Yankees routinely get into scoring position, then die at second and/or third base. Worst in the majors this month in hitting with runners in scoring position.

3. Warning track power — They’re not playing A-Rod $30 million a year to be a singles hitter. The ball doesn’t explode off his bat they way it did a few years ago. The days of 35 homers, 120 RBIs are history.

4. CC and pray — Reloaded in the off-season, the Yankee rotation was supposed to be a plus. But outside of CC Sabathia there are a lot of inconsistencies, older arms and question marks.

5. HR or bust — Only once all year have the Yankees won a game in which they didn’t hit a home run. Only twice this year have they won a game in which they scored less than five runs.  Which leads to….

6. Slow stripes — Without Brett Gardner, the Yankees are plodding along, showing their age. It’s pretty much station to station. There’s very little little ball in the Bronx.

7. Tex mess — Mark Teixeira is a wreck. He’s battling a bronchial illness, his average has gone down each year he’s been a Yankee, and he absolutely refuses to hit against a shift.

8. Home groan pitching — Been an issue for many years. Hughes, Nova, Joba, the Killer Bs…and they let the best one, Ian Kennedy, get away. The Yankees haven’t developed a Cy Young winner since Ron Guidry in 1978.

9. Joe must go — In the Steinbrenner-Martin salad days, George would have already fired and re-hired Billy. If the Yankees don’t make the playoffs with the highest payroll in baseball, Girardi will be on the hot seat in New York.

10. Injuries — Not an excuse, but the Yankees have been hit hard by injuries. Mariano, David Robertson, Michael Pinieda, Gardner, Joba, that’s a fifth of the roster right there.


Somewhere, George Steinbrenner is Fuming

Wherever he is, George Steinbrenner is mighty pissed off.

Citizens of the Yankee universe were desperately seeking some sort of George Patton-like missive from The Boss following the Bombers timid showing against the Tigers in the ALDS. You know, the front office memo that apologizes to the fans, rips the team and vows to fight to the death for a World Championship next year. We’re Yankees, we’re battered and we’re beaten, but we bleed pinstripe blue. Something like that.

There really are no excuses for the Yankees loss to the Detroit. George would agree, and he’d know where to point the finger.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3….or in this instance 4-5-6. The heart of New York’s lineup, 4-5-6 hitters Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, played like kitty cats against the Tigers and cost the Yanks the series. The numbers don’t lie:

  • A-Rod — 2-for-18 against Detroit .180 batting average in his last 14 playoff games.
  • Tex — 3-for-18 against Detroit, .170 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.
  • Swisher — 4-for-19 against Detroit, .160 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.

Wait, It Gets Worse
In the Yankees last two post-season series, losses to the Tigers and to the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS, A-Rod is 6-for-39, Teixeira 3-for-32 and Swisher 6-for-41. That’s 15-for-112, a combined .134 batting average.

Rodriguez has six years and $143M left on his contract. An albatross, he’ll be 42 when that contract runs out, and his body is already breaking down. Old-Roid played in just 99 games this season.

Take away 2009, and A-Rod has been a post-season bust. He’s struck out to end each of the Yankees last two playoff series.

Teixeira has five years and $112.5M left his contract, and is signed through 2016, when he will be 36. And Swisher, who turns 31 next month, will be back next year if the Yankees exercise their $10.25M option.

That’s a lot of time and money invested in three middle-of-the-order guys who can’t hit in the clutch.

Red Sox Favorites
After failing to sign free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, the Yankees entered the 2011 season in a strange position — underdogs. The Red Sox were the consensus pick to win the AL East.

However Boston fell apart during in an epic September swoon, and the Yankees won the division.

That’s great, but Yankee teams are judged on one criteria — championships won.

As The Boss knows, anything less is a disappointment. A very big disappointment.


My All-Star Ballot

 

Here’s my ballot for the 2011 All-Star Game. Vote for your favorites at mlb.com.

American League

1B – Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
2B – Robinson Cano, New York
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland
3B – Alex Rodriguez, New York
C – Alex Avila, Detroit
DH – David Ortiz, Boston
OF – Jose Bautista, Toronto
OF – Curtis Granderson, New York
OF – Josh Hamilton, Texas

National League

1B – Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
2B – Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
3B – Chipper Jones, Atlanta
C – Brian McCann, Atlanta
OF – Carlos Beltran, New York
OF – Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
OF – Matt Kemp, Los Angeles


10 Grand Slam Facts to Astound You

Atlanta’s Tony Cloninger is the only pitcher in baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same game.

The First Time
1.
Roger Connor of the Troy Trojans is the first major league player to hit a grand slam, keying an 8-7 win over the Worcester Ruby Legs on September 10, 1881.

23 for Gehrig
2. Lou Gehrig hit 23 career grand slams, the most in major league history. Alex Rodriguez hit his 22nd career slam April 23, 2011.

6-Packs
3.
Don Mattingly set a single season record with six grand slams in 1987 — the only slams of his 14-year career. Travis Haffner tied Mattingly’s record in 2006.

Can’t Get Any Better Than This
4.
Four players have hit grand slams in their first MLB at bat — Bill Duggleby (1898), Jeremy Hermida (2005), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006), and Daniel Nava (2010). Kouzmanoff and Nava hit their grand slams off the first pitch.

Twice in One Inning
5.
The Cardinals Fernando Tatis is the only player to hit two grand slams in one inning — both off Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park — on April 23, 1999.

A Series Slam
6.
Cleveland’s Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam in World Series history, Game Five against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1920. Smith’s slam was overshadowed later in the game by Indians second baseman, who turned the only unassisted triple play ever in the Series.

The Ultimate Walk-Off Slam
7.
Roberto Clemente is the only player in MLB history of hit a walk-off, inside-the-park ultimate grand slam, in 1956 for the Pirates. An ultimate grand slam is a walk-off slam for a one-run victory.

Some Pitchers Can Hit
8.
Tony Cloninger of the Braves is the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in a game, in 1966 against San Francisco. Yankee hurler Mel Stottlemyre is the last pitcher to hit an inside-the-park grand slam, in 1965 against the Red Sox.

An All-Star Rarity
9.
Fred Lynn is the only player ever to hit a grand slam in the All-Star game. The Angels outfielder performed the feat in the 50th anniversary game in 1983.

Three in A Game
10. Only twice have three grand slams been hit in a single game — Baltimore (2) vs. Texas (1) in 1986 and Cubs (2) vs. Houston (1) the following year.


Trey-Rod: 3 HR Games in Yankee History

Three is a magic number in baseball. Three strikes and you’re out. Three outs in an inning.  Babe Ruth wore #3.

When Alex Rodriguez, above, hit three home runs iagainst Kansas City on August 14, it marked the 30th time a Yankee player hit three homers in a single game.

Lou Gehrig achieved the feat four times, and hit four in one game, the only Yankee to perform that feat. Joe DiMaggio did it three times.

So did the Babe, although only one of his three occurred during the regular season.  Ruth hit the final three home runs of his storied career in 1935 for the Boston Braves in a game at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, and retired soon afterwards.

A-Rod joins Tony Lazzeri, and Bobby Murcer as the only other Yankees to hit three in a game two times. Rodriguez had three HRs and 10 RBIs against Bartolo Colon and the Angels in 2005.

In all 20 Yankees have accomplished the feat, including eight Hall of Famers — Ruth, Lazzeri, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Johnny Mize, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.

Ruth’s World Series Heroics
Ruth was the first Yankee to hit three in a game, against the Cardinals at old Sportsman Park in St. Louis in 1926 in the World Series, right. The Babe must have loved St. Louis, repeating the feat in 1928 to power the Yankees to a four-game sweep.

Ruth had his only regular season “hat trick” with the Yankees on May 22, 1930, in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in the first game of a doubleheader which the Yankees lost, 15-7. Gehrig repeated the feat the following day in the first game of a another doubleheader in Philadelphia, a 20-13 victory over the A’s. Oh yes, Ruth and Lazerri also homered in that game.

Reggie Jackson is the only other major leaguer ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game. In just three swings in Game Six of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers, Jax lifted the Yanks to to their first  championship. in 15 years.

Gehrig is the only Yankee to hit four home runs in a single game, on June 4, 1932, against the Athletics in Philadelphia. He was the first player in the modern era to hit four in a single game. He belted the circuit clouts in his first four at bats in a 20-13 win against the A’s. Gehrig missed a fifth home runs by inches, when his drive was caught in the furthest reaches of deep centerfield.

In that same game,  Lazzeri became the only player in major league baseball to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam.

Other Interesting Yankee Trey Factoids

On May 21 and 22, 1930, Ruth and Gehrig hit three home runs in successive games.

Mantle, Tommy Tresh and Tony Clark hit homers from both sides of the plate in their 3 HR games

Bobby Murcer hit four consecutive home runs — three in the second game — in a 1970 doubleheader against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.

Reggie Jackson, left, hit a home run in his final at bat in Game Five and three in a row during Game Six of the 1977 World Series. (My friend Matty was at the game at Yankee Stadium, and missed all three Reggie homers. But that’s a story for another blog.)

Johnny Blanchard in 1961 and Mickey Mantle in 1962 are the only other Yankees to hit four home runs in a row.

Lazzeri hit two grand slams and a third home run and drove in an American League record 11 runs in 1936 in a 25-2 rout of the Athletics at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Poosh em up Tony was also the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a single game in the regular season, in 1927.

On three separate occasions, the Yankees have lost a game in which a player hit three home runs — Ruth in 1930, Mize in 1950 and Mike Stanley in 1995.

DiMaggio’s first three home run game in 1937 resulted in an 11-inning,  8-8 tie with the St. Louis Browns in Sportsman’s Park.

Mize holds the MLB record for most times hitting three home runs in a game — six. Five came with the Cardinals and Giants in the National League. He was the first player to hit three home runs in a game twice in one season in 1938 and did it again in 1940.

Mize had his final three home run game with the Yankees in 1950, just five days after DiMaggio performed the feat for the third time.

The Yankees as a team have hit three home runs in a game twice in different seven seasons — 1927, 1930, 1932, 1950, 1977, 1995, and this year.

Earlier this year, Mark Teixeira became the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a game at Fenway Park since Gehrig in 1927.

Yankees Who Have Hit Three Home Runs in One Game

1926 — Babe Ruth (World Series)

1927 — Tony Lazzeri

1927 — Lou Gehrig

1928 — Babe Ruth (World Series)

1929 — Lou Gehrig

1030 — Babe Ruth

1930 — Lou Gehrig

1932 — Lou Gehrig (4 HRs)

1932 — Ben Chapman

1936 — Tony Lazzeri

1937 — Joe DiMaggio

1939 — Bill Dickey

1940 — Charlie Keller

1948 — Joe DiMaggio

1950 — Joe DiMaggio

1950 — Johnny Mize

1955 — Mickey Mantle

1965 — Tom Tresh

1970 — Bobby Murcer

1973 — Bobby Murcer

1977 — Cliff Johnson

1977 — Reggie Jackson (World Series)

1995 — Mike Stanley

1996 — Darryl Strawberry

1995 — Paul O’Neill

1997 — Tino Martinez

2004 — Tony Clark

2005 — Alex Rodriguez

2010 — Mark Teixeira

2010 — Alex Rodriguez


Yay-Rod Climbed to the Pinnacle in 2009

Everyone loves a parade, especially Alex Rodriguez, who came back from the depths to help lead the Yankees to a World Series win over the Phillies in 2009.

Alex Rodriguez hit rock bottom in the spring of 2009. Outed on steroid use, facing career-threatening hip surgery and considered A-Fraud by many fans, especially Yankee fans, Rodriguez had a permanent seat in the dead-end cafe.

To add insult to injury, Selena Roberts book “A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez” was just hitting the newsstands. Throughout the 246 pages of this tell-all, there are continued references to drug use by Rodriguez  that may have begun as early as high school. A-Rod is called everything from insecure to narcissistic to a phony. His failures, particularly in the post-season, are documented. His family, his divorce, his exploits — it’s was all out there for the world to see

“Alex’s peccadilloes were his own business, until he started flaunting them,” Roberts wrote in A-Rod. ” He was indiscrete  about his many visits to Vegas. bragging to teammates and friends about his wild nights with strippers. But he could afford such indiscretions. ‘You can make a lot of mistakes with $30 million a year,’ Jose Canseco says.”

Six months later, Alex Rodriguez was riding shotgun down Broadway in the Yankees victory parade.  Criticized for choking in the clutch, he was arguably the Yankees MVP  throughout their playoff run, with dramatic late-inning home runs against both the Twins and Angels and the biggest hit of the World Series, a two-out double in the ninth inning of Game Four that gave the Yankees the win and an insurmountable 3-1 lead against the Phillies.

Coming off  a year in which he wound up with 30 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing 38 games, A-Rod was warming up for the post-season, where he hit..365 with six homers and 18 RBIs, just one off the major league record.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out what happened to A-Rod. He had bottomed out.  He had nowhere to go but up. Suddenly he was playing with house money. He rolled the dice.

His press conference in Tampa to confess to his steroid abuse was awkward at best, but A-Roid got the confession of his chest.. And he handled it a lot better than most. (See Clemens, McGwire, Bonds, Palmiero etc.)

A Second Chance
Then, once Rodriguez had the hip surgery and began his rehabilitation, he realized he was going to get a second chance on the ballfield.

A-Rod this year was a changed man. A different man than the one Selena Roberts described. in her book.

“Alex needed to be needed,” is how Roberts described Rodriguez in A-Rod. “He liked to be at the heart of the public’s fascination. He urged paparazzi moments — sunbathing in Central Park, wiping his mouth with a $100 bill at an outdoor cafe….slowing down his car to let the entertainment press catch him — because he enjoyed the pop-culture fishbowl.”

Sure, Alex Rodriguez still needs to be needed. That won’t change. But in 2009, Change-Rod learned to dodge out of the spotlight. He wasn’t the only Yankee superstar. He let his exploits speak for themselves.

He became more of a Yankee teammate, a brother in arms. You could tell by his facial expressions, his body language, that he was finally able to fully enjoy the successes of  his teammates as well as his own. All the way to a World Championship.

Yep, it paid off for Pay-Rod in the end.


Yankees-Mariners: History in the Making

Ken Griffey, Jr.  slides home with the winning run as the Seattle Mariners beat the New York Yankees in the deciding Game Five of the 1995 ALDS.

The other night the MLB Network ran a replay of the fifth and deciding game of that fantastic 1995 American League divisional series between the Yankees and the Mariners. You remember, the one where the series was decided by Ken Griffey, Jr’s mad dash home on Edgar Martinez two-run double in the bottom of the 11th inning. Where the two teams combined for a record 22 home runs, 11 by each club.

Amazing how many players from that game have played a part in the destinies of the two teams in the 14 years since the Mariners won that 6-5 thriller. Consider this:

Seattle Mariners

Randy Johnson, the big left-hander, won two games in the series, including the clinching Game 5 in relief. Later Johnson won three games against the Yankees for the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, ending New York’s three-time championship run. And finally the Big Unit pitched two years for the Yankees in 2005 and 2006, winning 17 games each season but failing miserably in the playoffs both years. Yankee fans would later joked that Johnson killed the when he faced them, and he killed them again when he pitched in pinstripes.

Ken Griffey, Jr.: Had a terrific series with five homers and a .391 average, and of course he scored the series-clinching run. Griffey later went on to play for the Cincinnati  Reds, but never experienced the glory of those halcyon days in Seattle. He came back to the Mariners in 2009 to wind down his career. Despite more than 630 career home runs, Griffey has never been to a World Series.

Tino Martinez: Hit .409 against the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS, then was traded to New York in the off-season along with Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock. Tino was the first baseman on four Yankee championship teams.

Jay Buhner: Traded to the Yankees for Ken Phelps and incidentals in the middle of the 1988 season, Buhner went on to a stellar career in Seattle, He hit .458 in the 1995 ALDS.

Alex Rodriguez: As a pinch-runner in Game 5, A-Rod scored the tying run. After signing as a free agent with Texas, Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees before the 2004 season. Although he has yet to play in a World Series, Rodriguez has won three American League MVP awards, including 2005 and 2007 with the Yanks.

Lou Piniella: Manager of the Mariners in 1995, Piniella was an outfielder with the champion 1977 and 1978 Yankee teams. He later managed the Yankees, won a World Series with the Reds, and managed the M’s, Devil Rays and now the Cubs.

New York Yankees

The Core Four

Four Yankees involved in the 1995 ALDS are still with the Yankees, 14 years and four World Champions later. Andy Pettitte started and took a no-decision in the Yankees 15-inning win in Game Two, and was in the bullpen warming up in Game 5 as Jack McDowell surrendered a one-run lead in the 11th inning. Jorge Posada was a backup catcher, but did score a run against the M’s. Mariano Rivera started his spectacular run of post-season success with 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and eight strikeouts, including a pivotal stint in the eighth and ninth innings of Game 5. And although a youthful 21-year-old shortstop named Derek Jeter, right, did not  see any action against the Mariners, the familiar No. 2 was roaming the bench urging his teammates on, a captain in waiting.

Don Mattingly: Speaking of captains, Don Mattingly, in his only playoff appearance and his final season, batted .417 with a home run and six RBIs, including a go-ahead, two-run double in Game 5. In what turned out to be his final at bat, Mattingly took a called third strike against Randy Johnson in the 10th inning.

Bernie Williams: Another member of those four Yankee champions. hit two home runs and batted .429 in the series against the Mariners. It was Bernie, playing left field, who fielded Edgar Martinez’ hit in the left-field corner in Game Five but threw home too late to nab Griffey.

The catcher when Griffey slid across the plate and electrified the city of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest was star-crossed Jim Leyritz, who Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS for the Yankees with a dramatic 15th-inning home run in the rain at Yankee Stadium. Leyritz, no stranger to post-season heroics, later helped the Yankees to championships in 1996 and 1999. His dramatic three-run homer that tied the score in the eighth inning is considered the turning point in the Yankees win over the Atlanta Braves in 1996. He was later involved in a drunk driving accident in South Florida in which a woman was killed.

Randy Velarde, utility infielder who hit the go-ahead hit single in the top of the 11th inning in Game 5, signed on as a free agent with the California Angels after the 1995 season. He eventually returned to the Yankees, and helped lead them to a five-game win against Seattle in the 2001 ALCS. Ironically, Velarde recorded one of just 15 unassisted triple plays in major league history, playing second base for the Oakland A;s against the Yankees in 2000.