IIATMS Top Moment #7: Derek Jeter's 3000th Hit

[caption id="attachment_72976" align="alignnone" width="490"]Corutesy: Rober Deutsch USA Today Corutesy: Rober Deutsch USA Today[/caption] It's no secret that Derek Jeter had a certain flare for the dramatic during his Yankees career (it feels so weird to write about Jeter in past tense now). So why would his much hyped 3,000th hit be any different?

Jeter needed two hits going into the July 9, 2011 game against the Rays to get his 3,000th hit. Jeter was struggling throughout much of the 2011 season and was hitting under .270. It was really the first time he actually started to look like his age.

David Price was the Rays' pitcher that day and even though he's a lefty it was hard to see Jeter doing much against his 97 MPH fastball at his age. Logic would dictate that if Jeter would have success against Price it would be with his patented inside out swing with singles to right field.

After getting a single to left in the first inning to put him one away, Jeter faced Price again in the third inning and worked the count to 3-2. Surely, with his blazing fastball Price would try to throw it the 37-year old Jeter with declining bat speed. For some reason, Price went with a curve and Jeter demolished the pitch over the left field fence for a home run. This wasn't some Yankee Stadium home run to the short porch, but an absolutely zero doubt about it home run. It was only Jeter's third home run of the season.

For a non-power hitter, an amazing amount of Jeter moments have been home runs. The Jeffrey Maier home run, the leadoff home run in Game 4 of the Subway Series, this 3,000th hit and the greatest one is still yet to be revealed on this countdown are all incredible.

The crazy thing is that Jeter didn't stop after the 3,000th hit. A nice 2-for-5 day with a home run for his 3,000th hit would have been an outstanding moment on its own. However, in classic Jeter he ended up going 5-for-5 with a game winning single in the eighth inning to put the Yankees ahead 5-4. It was not good enough for Jeter to have   a dramatic 3,000th hit, he had to make sure the Yankees won the game.

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IIATMS Top Moment #8: The Jeffrey Maier Home Run

[caption id="attachment_72964" align="aligncenter" width="575"]Jeffrey Mair HR 1996 Screenshot courtesy of MLB.com[/caption] October 9, 1996.  Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.  New York Yankees versus Baltimore Orioles.  Every dynasty has to start somewhere.  The infamous play in the bottom of the 8th inning of this game may have been the moment that started the last great Yankee dynasty.

The game was a close one, with the Yankees trailing 4-3 heading into the bottom of the 8th.  They had gotten off to a quick lead with 1 run in each of the first 2 innings, but the Orioles scored runs in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th to take a 2-run lead into the final third of the game.  The Yankees chipped away with a run in the 7th and had baby-faced Rookie of the Year Derek Jeter leading off the bottom of the 8th against fireballer Armando Benitez.

Benitez, in what would become his calling card fashion, hurled a first-pitch fastball right down the middle of the plate to start the at-bat.  Jeter, in what would become his calling-card fashion, let the ball get a little deeper in the zone and drove it out the other way to deep right field.  It looked pretty good off the bat, sounded pretty good too, but right fielder Tony Tarasco slowly drifted back onto the warning track, settled under the ball a step from the right field wall, and...

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IIATMS Top Moment #10: Mo's Final Appearance

[caption id="attachment_72912" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Mo YS3 Goodbye The G.O.A.T. says his goodbyes. Courtesy of the AP[/caption] The 2013 season was a forgettable one for the Yankees and their fans.  Terrible injury luck, age-related regression across the older core, and an incredibly flawed payroll management/roster construction plan combined to keep the Yanks hovering at or just above mediocrity as they rolled out a line of replacement-level garbage to fill in for the lost regulars.

One of the biggest storylines of the 2013 season was that it would be Mariano Rivera's farewell season.  After missing most of 2012 due to a freak knee injury, Mo came back in 2013 determined to go out on his terms.  He announced those terms before the start of the season, telling Yankee fans that it would be his last and setting the stage for what everyone knew would be a very emotional and memorable farewell moment.

Before that could happen, however, the Yankees had to slog through their disappointing season, the first one in which they did not make the playoffs in almost 20 years.  Mo, in typical Mo fashion, was one of the few old veterans on the team who did not take a step back in 2013.  He pitched as well as he ever had, saving 44 games and notching a stellar 2.11 ERA at age 43.  As the team's slim postseason hopes disappeared in September, the fan focus and anticipation shifted to Mo's final few games and what kind of send-off the team had planned for him.

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IIATMS Top Moment #11: David Cone's perfect game

CONE [Editor's note: This is a personal story because I'm one of those people you always hear about that should have been at a specific game but something happened to prevent it. Also, this is a previously published story that's been reworked a bit just for this Top Moments series so grab a drink and get comfortable. -SG]

So where were you on Sunday July 18, 1999?

I was watching David Cone's perfect game with my father.

Oh, no, I wasn't in Yankee Stadium watching the drama unfold in person. I was in my den, on the couch with my left leg propped up on pillows and my left calf covered with an ice pack. My younger brother James was in Yankee Stadium, in our season ticket seats with three of his friends.

I was planning on going to the Stadium that day just like I did every Sunday that year. And that particular Sunday was going to be even more special. It was Yogi Berra Day. Yogi Berra and George Steinbrenner had finally kissed and made up so the Yankees were honoring #8 that day.

But something happened that prevented me from attending the game.

A few hours earlier, I had woken up in the middle of the night to the worst charlie horse of my life. And just to give you an idea of how bad it was: my calf muscles are pretty large. I, unfortunately, took after my father and have his legs. In fact, in high school, football players were jealous of my calves and they’d ask me what I did to get them that way. I’d usually sarcastically answer with, “Genetics.” Some people also called me Popeye because my calves were so muscular and my ankles were so thin.

Anyway, my enormous left calf muscle decided it wanted to spasm while I was asleep - I must have had my leg in an odd position - and the pain woke me up. I immediately sat up and grabbed it, fruitlessly trying to stop it but nothing could. I yelled out in agony, not caring that it was 4:30 a.m, because it felt like the muscle was shrinking to the size of a grape.

It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt up to that point.

Needless to say, I couldn’t put any pressure on my leg and could barely walk, so there was no way I’d be able to make it all the way down to the Bronx and then to my seats in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium. I also wouldn't be able to prop my leg up while at the Stadium so I told my brother to find someone to take my seat for the game.

Before the game started, Berra threw the ceremonial first pitch to his battery mate Don Larsen which was a fun reversal with the Hall of Fame catcher pitching to his teammate who just happened to pitch a perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Only no one realized just how special that ceremonial pitch was. Not yet. That would come a few hours later.

When the game began, my father was in his favorite chair by the fireplace and I was across the room, on the couch trying not to move my leg.

Amusing enough, Cone nearly lost his perfect game in the first inning but thanks to a diving play by Paul O'Neill, the fly ball to right was for the second out and didn't end up being a triple.

After an uneventful first inning, the Yankees exploded for five runs in the bottom of the second off Montreal's starter and our old friend, Javier VazquezChili Davis worked a walk, then Ricky Ledee hit a home run into the upper deck in right field. Scott Brosius was hit by a pitch and Joe Girardi hit a double that scored Brosius. Girardi tried stretching it into a triple and was thrown out. Vazquez then walked Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter followed that with a home run.

After Cone had struck out the side in the third inning, it began to rain down in the Bronx and I said to my dad, "It's probably better that I'm not there." I was thinking about how I'd have to hop up the stairs and into the tunnel to escape the rain. No thanks.

The delay only lasted 33 minutes and Cone went back out to pitch which was a little surprising only because it was so hot that day but then he hadn't really worked much in the game. It was as if he was throwing a wiffle ball to a bunch of feeble Little Leaguers. No offense to the 1999 Montreal Expos.

After the rain delay, the game went by pretty fast - that tends to happen when your starting pitcher is setting down the opposing batters in order every inning - and I remember thinking to myself, “Maybe I should have tried to make it down there.”

As per every perfect game and no-hitter there were a couple of defense gems along the way. I already mentioned the O'Neill one which gets lost when stories of Cone's perfecto are told because it happened so early in the game. The one everyone remembers and the one which turned out to be the weirdest play of the game came in the dramatic top of the ninth when Cone was just moments away from making history.

Ryan McGuire, who was pitch hitting for Shane Andrews, hit a lazy fly ball that headed toward Ricky Ledee in shallow left. Now, to this day, I don't even think Ledee knew how he caught that ball because it definitely looked like he lost it in the sun but was able to spot it at the last millisecond to make the catch. If you've been to old Yankee Stadium in the summer and sat in left field or in the left field bleachers on a sunny day, you'd remember how hard it is to see the ball in the air.

My father even said, "Whoa! I don't think even he saw that one." It was as if Ledee (and Cone) had a little help from above, if you believe in that sort of divine intervention.

When it became evident that Cone was on the verge of closing out the game, tears began to form in my eyes. And the moment Orlando Cabrera popped the ball into the air, those tears began to fall, and when it landed in Scott Brosius’ glove for the final out, I cried. As Cone fell to his knees and was mobbed by his teammates, I looked at my father who shrugged his shoulders and said, “Hey, at least you were at Dwight Gooden’s no hitter.” That didn’t cheer me up.

There were so many emotions in my head at that moment. First of all, I was happy for Cone because I always liked him and throwing a perfect game one season after David Wells threw his was really, really cool. But I was also sad because I wasn’t there to see it in person. It's one thing to watch a game on TV and wish you were there to witness it but it's another to actually have a ticket and not be able go. It is so much worse. And how many people can say that they've been to a both perfect game and a no hitter? Oh, right, my brother James. Yes, I'm still bitter about it 16 years later.

Here are some stats about Cone's perfect game:

  • It was the first regular season interleague perfect game in MLB history - The Yankees beat the Montreal Expos.
  • It was the 16th perfect game (14th in the modern era) and 247th no-hitter in the MLB.
  • It was the third perfect game and 11th no-hitter for the Yankees. And the last to date. It came only 14 months after David Wells' (May 1998)
  • The game took two hours and 16 minutes to complete.
  • The temperature at first pitch was hot: 92 degrees.
  • There were 41,930 fans in attendance.
  • Cone struck out the first batter, Wilton Guerrero, and struck out 10 total for the game.
  • He never worked a count more than 2-0.
  • Cone only needed 88 pitches to throw the perfect game and threw 68 of them for strikes.
  • According to Baseball Reference Cone's Game Score that day was 97.
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IIATMS Top Moment #12: 2009 ALDS Game 2

[caption id="attachment_72827" align="alignnone" width="594"]Courtesy: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Courtesy: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images[/caption] Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez -- two Yankees stars who don't have the best reputation among some fans at the moment -- combined to make 2009 ALDS Game 2 one of the most memorable Yankees playoff games ever, even if it was just the Division Series.

Teixeira hit a leadoff walk-off home run in the 11th inning off of Twins reliever Jose Mijares that just bounced off the left field wall and went over it. It was Teixeira's shining moment of the 2009 postseason, as he had a poor postseason after being a legitimate MVP candidate during his first season with the Yankees. The ball was scorched so hard that it left the park before you could even snap your fingers.

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The IIATMS Top 20 Countdown Recap: Moments 20-14

If you're any kind of regular reader of this site, I assume you're a Yankee fan.  If you do consider yourself a Yankee fan, there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't be reading and following our ongoing IIATMS Top 20 Moments countdown.  The era covered is the most recent one, the Jeter years of 1996-2014, so the memories are fresher for all of us than they might be for moments from further back.  That said, I've picked up on some different things that I didn't notice at the time in reading and writing these posts, because I was in my adolescent and early-to-mid teen years for most of the moments.  In that respect, the countdown has been a way for me to refresh and update my memories and that's pretty cool. Before we get back into the countdown tomorrow, I'd like to give everybody a chance to catch up on any and all of the first 7 moments that we've covered.  Here, in order, are moments 20-14:

20) Roger Clemens Throws a Bat at Mike Piazza in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series - Stacey

19) Jason Giambi's Walk-Off Grand Slam vs. the Twins (5/17/02) - EJ

18) David Justice's Go-Ahead 3-Run Home Run in Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS - Stacey

17) Raul Ibanez's Back-To-Back Home Runs in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS - Katie

16) Joe Girardi's Triple in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series - William

15) Luis Sojo's Go-Ahead Single in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series - Brad

14) Johnny Damon's Double Steal in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series - Matt I.

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IIATMS Top Moment #15: Luis Sojo's Base Hit (And The Rest of The 9th Inning In Game 5 Of The Subway Series)

[caption id="attachment_72747" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Sojo Hit Game 5 I can't believe this is the best photo that exists of that play. Couresy of The Star-Ledger[/caption] What made moment #16 so great was how it was a major contribution by an unexpected source.  Moments like that in the World Series always stand the test of time, and William did a brilliant job rehashing everything that went into making that moment happen yesterday.  The next moment on the IIATMS Top 20 countdown is built on a similar framework- World Series, huge hit, unexpected player getting the hit, Yankees win in large part thanks to said hit.  But what makes moment #15 so great, for me at least, is how it's not necessarily the one hit that stands out but the collection of little things that happened in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 2000 World Series and how they happened.

Quick resetting of the stage.  It was a 2-2 game heading to the top of the 9th.  The Mets had scored 2 unearned runs off Andy Pettitte in the bottom of the 2nd to take a slim lead through most of the first two-thirds of the game.  The Yankees got their runs on solo homers by Bernie Williams in the top of the 2nd and Derek Jeter in the 6th to tie the game up.  Pettitte had left the game by the time the 9th came around, but Mets manager Bobby Valentine had pushed all his chips in on starter Al Leiter, keeping him out on the mound with a pitch count at 141 after he put runners on base to start the inning.

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IIATMS Top Moment #18: "Get your tokens ready!"

A lot of Yankee fans are guilty of looking back at the most recent dynasty years with pinstriped glasses on which means they tend to forget the bad and only remember the good. And I'll admit, I'm guilty of this as well at times. For instance, the 2000 Yankees, the final championship group of the aforementioned dynasty, actually lost 14 out of the last 18 games of the regular season and that stupor included an ugly seven-game losing streak to end the season. To say that some weren't confident in their ability to snap out of it in time for the playoffs was an understatement. It was actually kind of scary to watch unfold in real time and during one particularly awful three game stretch - two against Tampa Bay and one against Baltimore - the Yankees lost 11-1, 11-3 and 13-2. And who started two of those games? Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.

Why do I bring this up? Because our #18 moment is very similar to the 2000 Yankees. You remember the moment itself but you don't remember what happened afterwards and just how scary it was.

Going into Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, Yankee fans were hoping that the boys in pinstripes could put Seattle away and not make them have to sit nervously through a Game 7. I know I was. And early on, it looked like a Game 7 could be well on its way to becoming reality because the Mariners jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to back-to-back doubles by Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez and were ahead 4-0 in the fourth after a two-run home run by Carlos Guillen.

All of the runs came off the Yankees' starter, Orlando Hernandez, who managed to stay in the game, thanks to his teammates picking him up in the bottom of the fourth when Jorge Posada hit a two-run double and Paul O'Neill followed with an RBI single to pull the Yankees to within a run.

After that, El Duque settled down and kept the Mariners off the board. The problem was, the Yankees weren't scoring either so going into the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees still found themselves down 4-3.

Jose Paniagua came into the game to replace reliever Brett Tomko for Seattle and Jose Vizcaino came up as a pinch hitter for Scott Brosius. Vizcaino hit the third pitch of the at bat for a single and after a Chuck Knoblauch sac bunt moved him to second, Derek Jeter hit a single, advancing Vizcaino to third.

Seattle manager Lou Piniella went to his bullpen and Arthur Rhodes came jogging out. Rhodes who sported a 1.72 ERA in 68 IP that year in the regular season would have seemed like a good choice to stop the Yankees' rally if not for his previous performance in Game Two of the series in which he gave up four hits and three runs in 1/3 inning.

David Justice stepped in and after looking at three balls and one strike from Rhodes, sat dead red and on the fifth pitch of the at bat, and launched a moon shot that hit the upper deck in right field. The fans went nuts, the DJ started playing "Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba and the Yankees seemed to be on their way to the World Series.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kasRmxemBZg

Rhodes was rattled and promptly gave up a single, a ground rule double and then had to intentionally walk Posada to load the bases. I guess the Mariners were hoping to get O'Neill to ground into a double play but that didn't happen. Instead, he hit a single to right which scored Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez to put the Yankees up 8-4.

Jose Mesa was then brought into the game and the Yankees scored another run in the form of a Vizcaino sac fly. The Yankees scored six runs and were now leading 9-4. Surely that would be enough to win the game? Yes, but not without some drama. And that's what I alluded to in the beginning of the piece. When recalling this game, everyone remembers the big Justice home run but no one seems to remember that Seattle scored three runs in the eighth inning and made it kind of sweaty for all of us.

A-Rod started things off with a home run on an 0-2 pitch from El Duque who then walked Edgar Martinez. Joe Torre went to Mariano Rivera to put a stop to things and he gave up a double to Jon Olerud which advanced Martinez to third. Then after a Raul Ibanez flyout and Carlos Guillen groundout, Rivera gave up a first-pitch, two-run double to Mark McLemore. Piniella pinch hit Jay Buhner for Dan Wilson with the thought that maybe he could do some more damage against Mo but Rivera got the better of Buhner by striking him out looking to mercifully end the inning.

Thankfully, three runs are all that the Mariners could muster, the ninth inning wasn't nearly as dramatic as the eighth and the Yankees would win the game to move onto the Subway Series matchup against the Mets.

As for the moment itself, I was watching the game on TV so I didn't hear Michael Kay's call live but even I can admit that it was pretty cool. As all of us were yelling and carrying on in our houses, in a bar, or even at the Stadium, Kay was our representative. He embodied exactly how we were feeling with his enthusiasm. We wanted that matchup against the Mets to happen and thanks to David Justice's dinger, it did.

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IIATMS Top Moment #19: Jason Giambi's Walk-Off Grand Slam

[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cQrVrAZSQaY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen] All but one of the moments that were ranked in this list fall under three categories: postseason heroics, perfect games, or historic moments in Yankee history. Jason Giambi's 14th inning home run against the Minnesota Twins in an otherwise unremarkable May game is the exception.

The Yankees had signed Jason Giambi to one of the largest average annual values in MLB history. After watching the dynasty team start to age and whither, the Giambi signing signaled the beginning of the Evil Empire phase for the New York Yankees--a big enough move to inspire Billy Beane to attempt the radical transformation of the post-Giambi A's depicted in Moneyball. Giambi replaced a beloved player with his fair share of clutch postseason moments in Tino Martinez. Going into the game, Giambi was off to a slow (for him) start, and people were starting to question if he could handle the pressure of playing in New York.

But really, we don't need all that off-field drama to make this an amazing baseball moment. The game and the home run that ended it stand on their own.

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IIATMS Top Moment #20: Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and a bat

[caption id="attachment_72487" align="aligncenter" width="666"]Courtesy of MettaChronicles.com Courtesy of MettaChronicles.com[/caption] I know it may be hard to believe but it has been nearly 15 years since Roger Clemens threw at Mike Piazza's head. The pitch, which knocked Piazza to the ground where he laid motionless for a few moments, not only gave the Mets catcher a concussion but it caused a new rivalry to be born. And that night, July 8, 2000, set the tone for our #20 Top Moment of the Derek Jeter Era.

After that incident, Roger Clemens was persona non grata in Queens. People were accusing him of being a headhunter and Mets manager Bobby Valentine said that he believed Clemens purposely threw at Piazza's head because he (Piazza) had been successful against Clemens in the past. Clemens claimed that he just wanted to pitch Piazza inside, waist-high and that the ball got away from him. The incident caused quite a stir that summer and wouldn't you know it? Three months later, the two teams from New York both made it to the World Series to face off in the first Subway Series (playoff edition) since 1956.

So not only was there the drama of it being the first Subway Series since the Yankees beat the Dodgers in seven games all those years prior - before the Mets even existed - but you now had the Clemens factor. And while the much-anticipated Clemens-Piazza rematch didn't actually happen until the second game of the series, it was nothing short of fiery when it did finally transpire.

The Yankees were up 1-0 in the series and looking to go up 2-0 at home and Clemens, who had a strong start against the Seattle Mariners in the League Championship Series, was looking for another playoff victory.

After Clemens had retired Timo Perez and Edgardo Alfonso to begin the top of the first inning, Piazza stepped up to the plate. Fox was broadcasting the game and made the moment more dramatic by replaying the clips of Clemens using Piazza’s noggin for target practice but nothing quite prepared the broadcasters, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver; the viewing audience, and the crowd at Stadium, for what happened next.

The at bat started off uneventfully. The first three pitches Clemens threw to Piazza didn't go anywhere near him - two called strikes over the plate and a ball low and away. But with the count 1-2, things became dicey.

Clemens's fourth pitch resulted in a foul ball to the first base side which bounced off the far side of the railing in front of the Yankees dugout. But, that’s not all. The bat also shattered as Piazza hit the ball - picture a helpless bat against a Mo Rivera cutter - and for some reason, Clemens picked up a large chunk of the bat which he had just jumped to avoid and fired it in the direction of Piazza who was running up the first baseline.

Piazza immediately, and understandably, went after Clemens who acted like he had no idea what was going on. The whole situation was extremely bizarre to watch unfold. Both of the benches emptied, Piazza who looked like he wanted to kill Clemens, had to be held back by a few people, while Clemens, for his part, still acted surprised that people were mad at him.

The people around baseball who had been defending Clemens after the July incident where now left to wonder if he really was trying to kill Mike Piazza. Even poor Piazza was probably wondering the same thing.

After the game, Clemens told reporters that he was fired up, filled with nervous energy and that he thought the bat was the ball so he threw it.

Okay then.

When order was finally restored to the game, Clemens calmly set Piazza down on a grounder to Jose Vizcaino on the very next pitch and the top of the inning was over.

The rest of the game, was pretty calm compared to that crazy moment when Clemens mistook a piece of wood for a baseball and nearly nailed Piazza for the second in a season. Even the Mets nearly mounting a comeback with a 5-run ninth inning against Jeff Nelson and Mariano Rivera, was pretty lackluster when matched up against the weirdness of Clemens vs. Piazza II.

The Yankees won the game 6-5 earning Clemens his second win in the playoffs that year and they went up 2-0 in the series.

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