Countdown to Spring Training: 24

In honor of the number 24, I reposting something I wrote on October 31, 2011.

It was written to mark the tenth anniversary of Game Four of the 2001 World Series and I named it "October 31, 2001: The Bamtino and Mr. November."

That game, still, to this day, is one of the best games I've ever attended.


So, where were you on October 31, 2001? I was lucky enough to be in Section 16 of the Upper Deck at the old Stadium. As a part of my ticket package at the old place, I had four tickets to one game of each round of the playoffs – I miss that package so much.

I was with my best friend, my brother and my father who were also with me during the previous round – we went to Game Four of the ALCS against the Seattle Mariners. That game featured the first playoff walkoff home run I had ever experienced in person thanks to Alfonso Soriano.

Little did I know when I walked into the Stadium Halloween night 2001, that Soriano’s home run would trumped by two improbable blasts.

My 2001 postseason started off on a sour note with a loss to Oakland in Game 2 of the ALDS. I am a very superstitious Yankee fan. My friends usually tease me for it. But I had worn all Yankee gear at Game 2 so when my dad called me at work the day of Game 5 of the Division Series I was glad I would be going straight from work. No Yankee stuff. Maybe that would help them win.

Well, they did win. They clinched the series and I was convinced that my long grey sweater coat was the good luck charm. When Soriano won Game Four of the ALCS I knew that I’d have to wear the coat to Game Four of the World Series.

So I did. I also made sure that all four of us were in the same positions we were in for the ALCS. I was closest to home plate, my best friend was to my left followed by my bother and my father. (I told you I was superstitious. Okay, and crazy.)

Now we all know how the game ended but I wanted to write about what it was like being there. Especially during the eighth, ninth and tenth innings.

When Arizona went ahead in the eighth, I felt a sense of dread. This game was big. If they were to win, they’d go up three games to one. Plus, aside from Shane Spencer’s home run off Curt Schilling in the third, the Yankees weren’t doing much of anything – which was a theme of that World Series. Schilling and Randy Johnson were a two headed monster intent on destroying Yankee hitters.

I felt a little relief when I saw that Schilling was coming out of the game and that Bob Brenly – the Diamondbacks manager at the time – was going to the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth. That relief turned to horror when Byung-Hyun Kim struck out the side with ease.

I remember the bottom of the ninth like it was yesterday, my heart was beating out of my chest, I was afraid to look at the game. My brother was calling me a wimp and I was telling him to shut up. Good times.

When Derek Jeter made the first out of the inning I shook my head and I said, “They have to win this game. They HAVE TO!” to no one in particular or maybe I was talking to God.

Paul O’Neill followed with a squibber to left. Is that the term? Look, it was barely a hit. Kind of a bloop and kind of an oops! Anyway, having him on first made things a little better, until Bernie Williams struck out on a ball down around his damn feet. Kim had a funky delivery and the Yankee hitters were not getting good wood on the ball or in Williams’s case, any wood on the ball.

Next up, Tino Martinez who up to that point had an 0fer in the World Series and who was only 7-47 for the whole postseason. I remember actually saying, “Do something damn it!!” Then I got nervous and was afraid to look again so I put my sweater coat collar up to my eyes. My brother said, “Don’t be a wuss! The game isn’t over.” And as soon as he finished saying it Kim threw the pitch.

As the ball traveled toward the right field bleachers it was like slow motion. It took until Martinez got to second base for me to comprehend what I had seen. Tino Martinez just tied the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. I started screaming and jumping up and down like a maniac. I joined in with the other nearly 56,0000 people. My best friend was especially excited because Tino Martinez was her favorite player. And my brother in the midst of the chaos yelled, “I told you it wasn’t over!!!”

The Yankees had new life.

And it almost seemed like they could actually win it in the bottom of the ninth when Jorge Posada walked and David Justice singled but Shane Spencer struck out to end the inning.

Mariano Rivera came in to pitch the top of the tenth and induced three ground outs. (Sigh. Sorry I’m thinking about what transpired a few days later…)

When the Yankees came up in the bottom of the tenth, Kim got Scott Brosius and Alfonso Soriano to fly out. As Derek Jeter stepped up to the plate I also yelled at him to do something. He hadn’t been the same since he dove into the stands during Game 5 of the Division Series and whatever he did to himself seemed to adversely affect his hitting.

I remember my brother pointing at the clock and we all remarked on how it was after midnight, that there was a full moon and that it was offcially November. Baseball in November? Full moon? Yeah, holy cow. That’s a recipe for something, dare I say, magical?

Jeter worked the count full and then the improbable happened. He hit a fly ball toward right field and it carried and carried until it left the park. Mr. November was born.

“Whoomp, There It Is!” started blaring on the loud speakers and the whole Stadium went nuts.

And just like that the Yankees went from being on the brink of a 3-1 deficit to a 2-2 series tie.

My favorite things about that night:

  • The feeling of the Upper Deck bouncing up and down when Tino hit his home run. (I was so happy that I didn’t care that the force of our excitement was causing tons of steel and concrete to go up and down like a mini trampoline.)
  • Hugging and high fiving total strangers after Jeter’s walk off. I love that about baseball.
  • Chanting “Let’s Go Yankees” for about 45 minutes straight as we were leaving the Stadium – hmmm maybe that combined with all of my screaming during the game is why I lost my voice for four days and why it’s permanently damaged now.
  • Last, but certainly not least, that I was able to share that experience with my dad, brother and best friend.

Looking back ten years later, I can honestly say that Game Four of the 2001 World Series is still one of the best games I’ve ever attended. I also love that I can say I was there. I wear it almost like a badge of honor because when I tell people they usually say how lucky I am to have been there.

And they’re right, I am very lucky.