New York Yankees Starting Lineup: 1998 World Series Game 4

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees took the field for Game 4 of the 1998 World Series for what was to be the final game, as they completed a sweep of the San Diego Padres, putting a exclamation point on a season that gives pause to those who rank the greatest teams ever assembled. As they do that, in all likelihood they would center on the Yankees lineup that took the field at Qualcomm Stadium on October 21, 1998.

The New York Yankees won 125 games in 1998, more victories than any Major League Baseball franchise ever managed in a season. The team finished with a .714 winning percentage, the best in more than 70 years and fourth best in history. They broke a 44-year-old league record by winning 114 regular season games and then went 11-2 during the postseason, including a sweep of the San Diego Padres in the World Series.

To put the accomplishments of this team into some kind of perspective, though, consider this: the Yankees finished first in the American League in runs scored (965), base on balls (653), on-base percentage (.364) and OPS (.825). Their team batting average of .288 ranked them second in the league.

The pitching staff, while not sensational, still led the American League with a team ERA of 3.82 with the backbone of Mariano Rivera and his 36 saves just emerging in a career that would lead him to a possible unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

They were also in their third season under the guidance of Joe Torre, who led them to a long-awaited World Series title in 1996 during his first year at the helm. But they were bounced from the postseason the following year as a Wild Card team, meaning they would need to wait until 1998 to once again fulfill owner George Steinbrenner’s perpetual mandate of championship-or-bust.

With the exception of two team members who went astray of the law (more on that later), it was a team of men with strong determination and character. The Yankees responded in spades to the challenge from “The Boss” and they would go on to establish a run that remains unchallenged by any team since.

So let’s get started by taking a look at the lead off hitter in the Yankees lineup that day…

1. Chuck Knoblauch, 2B

Chuck Knoblauch would come to the Yankees in a trade with the Minnesota Twins that involved the Yankees sending four players to the Twins, none of whom would spend significant time in the majors.

He played in 150 games for the Yankees and had a little more than 600 at bats. He would hit for an average of only .265, but would add 76 walks that pushed his on base percentage up to .361, which was all the Yankees needed from him. Because following him in the lineup was enough to drive him home 117 times.

Knoblauch would play three more years with the Yankees and have his best season with them in 1999, but it was clear that he had left his best baseball with the Twins. With the rest of the lineup going full bore, he was hardly noticed.

His career would spiral backwards and eventually force him out of baseball when he developed a case of “the yips”. This was a condition where he would field a ball cleanly but then double or triple pump the throw, eventually throwing embarrassingly wild for an error. On one occasion, he removed himself from a game after three errors in succession.

Following his separation from baseball, things really spun out of control for Knoblauch and those around him. In 2014, he was arrested for the second time on charges of domestic abuse against his wife, this time for hurling a humidifier at her. This caused the Twins to cancel his induction into their Hall of Fame.

Still not done with his erratic behavior, Knoblauch took it upon himself to guarantee that he would never be seen in a Yankees uniform again when he criticized the Yankees for retiring the number 46 worn by his former teammate Andy Pettitte when he sent out this tweet:

Chuck Knoblauch‏ @chuckknoblauch
Congrats to 46. Yankees retiring his number. Hopefully they don’t retire it like his HGH testimony.

For the record, though, in Game 4 Knoblauch went 1-for-5 and did not score or drive in any of the Yankees’ three runs.

William Perlman/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com via USA TODAY Sports

2. Derek Jeter, SS

Derek Jeter would have a one of his typical New York Yankees games in Game 4 in which he was in the middle of everything. His line for the day reads 2-for-4 plus a base on balls and two of the Yankees’ three runs scored.

Perhaps the above photo of Jeter captures his essence best – as a winner! And you might recall this moment as the result of his last career at bat when he hit a flare over the second baseman’s head for hit number 3,465 that drove in the winning run. And even more telling is the expression on his face. Because winning never got old for Derek Jeter.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan as the son of racially split parents, he was taken by the Yankees as their first round pick in 1992. He would eventually be crowned by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as captain of the team and the nickname “The Captain” would stick throughout his career.

He would manage to avoid even the scent of controversy or scandal while basking in the limelight of New York City and enjoying his status as the city’s most eligible bachelor. It became a running joke among the media that Jeter was the best non-interview in town. He earned this title because of his ability to give bland answers to questions that somehow sounded like he was really answering a question from the bottom of his heart.

Jeter developed the respect of everyone who came into contact with him. But he also returned that respect. To this day, for instance, he still refers to his manager Joe Torre as “Mr. Torre” and it’s not phony when you hear him say it.

The accolades will continue to come for Derek Jeter because he’s earned them. The Yankees will retire his Number 2 and construct a monument for him to join the select few in Monument Park. And there’s a spot already reserved for him in Cooperstown.

By all accounts, Jeter has turned his attention now to being married and raising a family. Prior to his retirement, he had always talked about owning a team and that could happen whenever he pushes the start button. But for now, he simply looks to regain a “normal” life away from all things baseball.

3. Paul O’Neill, RF

Oh, how New York Yankees fans loved Paul O’Neill. He was labeled “The Warrior” by George Steinbrenner, a man who did not make a habit of complimenting his employees. And following his final game as a Yankee, he was serenaded as he jogged in from his familiar spot in right field with never ending chants of “Paulie, Paulie.”

Paul O’Neill came to the Yankees in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds for Roberto Kelly, who at the time was a promising young outfielder. Which is funny because just this morning I was listening to Jim Duquette, who was the Reds’ general manager at the time, on MLB radio and he was talking about the trade referring to it as “the worst deal I ever made.” And that’s probably due to Kelly fizzling with the Reds while O’Neill blossomed into a star with the Yankees .

O’Neill had one of his best years with the Yankees in 1998, batting .317 with 24 home runs and 112 knocked in. He also scored 95 runs, which gives you an idea of the depth this lineup had.

He was on four championship teams, including three in a row with the Yankees beginning with the one in 1998. And O’Neill also won a batting title in 1994, his first year with the team.

So those are some of the numbers he put up. But while Jeter burned red hot inside, O’Neill was fiery on the outside. Whether it was a water cooler, his helmet, or sometimes even his glove, he was combustible and passionate .

And for that alone, he endeared himself to Yankees fans and teammates. Every at bat was a war between himself and anyone who stood in his way. But mostly, as a overachiever in many respects, the battle was mainly within himself.

These days, you can listen and watch him as a commentator for the Yankees’ YES Network.

4. Bernie Williams, CF

I can recall watching the pregame warmup at the old Yankee Stadium one year and my eyes were drawn to a player with these long legs just loping across the outfield like a gazelle. It was number 51, Bernie Williams.

Bernie Williams did everything gracefully. Whether it was tracking down a ball headed toward Monument Park or teaching himself to become an accomplished jazz guitarist, you never knew he was in the room. Quiet, but always quick with a smile, he was the heart and soul of his team.

Game 4 was a typical Bernie Williams game. He did nothing and the box score shows him as 0-for-4. Except when you look a little closer, you see that one of his outs was a productive one and drove in one of the three Yankees runs that day.

Bernie Williams had a knack for looking good even when he was not. And it seemed like whenever the team needed a clutch hit or to move a runner along, he was in the box and he would deliver.

A career .297 hitter, he would win the American League batting title in 1998 with a .339 average and finished second in on-base percentage at .422. He also appeared in five consecutive All-Star games Much like Jeter and O’Neill, though, it was his strength of character that he is remembered for.

Typically, he played his last game in 2006, but he did not officially retire until a Saturday morning in August of 2015. Later that afternoon, the Yankees and returning teammates honored him by retiring Number 51. Fittingly, too, Williams played our National Anthem on his guitar following the ceremony.

5. Tino Martinez, 1B

Tino Martinez came to the Yankees in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. He was Seattle’s number-one draft pick in 1988, finished the legendary ’95 season with a .293 batting average behind 31 home runs and 111 RBI. With one year left on his contract, the brass in the Mariners front office feared it would cost too much to hold on to the All-Star… so he was dealt to New York (along with relievers Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir) for third baseman Russ Davis and starting pitcher Sterling Hitchcock. Nelson would prove to be a invaluable piece of the pitching staff in a setup role for Mariano Rivera.

But the moment that sealed Tino Martinez in Yankees history occurred not in Game 4 (he went 1-for-2 with two walks), but in the first game of the World Series when he… well, you’ll see. And pay attention to that pitch that took the count to full. Was that close or what? Here’s the video:

Martinez would be present for each of the Yankees’ four championships during their run. But then the Yankees decided to sign Jason Giambi to a seven-year deal, leaving no room for Martinez. He found himself a temporary home in St. Louis by signing as a free agent. His time with the Cardinals was not happy, though, as he battled a decline in production. Rumors also were circulating that he and manager Tony La Russa had their differences and that didn’t help matters.

Eventually, he even returned “home” to Tampa Bay for one year in 2004 and followed that up with a surprising, but certainly not remarkable return to the Yankees for one year before hanging his uniform up for good.

The magic may have been gone, but Yankees fans don’t forget. And every year when the Yankees celebrate their Old Timer’s Day, the cheers get loud when Tino Martinez is introduced.

6. Scott Brosius, 3B

Scott Brosius was the Yankees’ maestro at third base for only four seasons. But he made all of them count as his team won three World Series, including the one in which he was voted Most Valuable Player in 1998.

His heroics reached a high in Game 3 of the ’98 series when… well, you’ll see here…

The career of Scott Brosius spanned 11 otherwise unremarkable years. But he made up for that career .257 batting average with his consistency and reliability at third base and his character off the field.

He was the 510th player selected by the Oakland A’s in the 20th round of the 1987 draft. The A’s traded him to the Yankees for pitcher Kenny Rogers. With the Yankees, he could be hidden in the lineup where no one could see him coming.

He’d hit .300 for the Yankees in the 1998 regular season and he could always be counted on for home run numbers in the high teens. But usually, whatever he contributed on this high-powered team went unnoticed except by his teammates on the field.

Today, he remains connected to baseball as the assistant hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners. Prior to that, he was the hitting coach for Seattle’s Triple-A team in Tacoma after serving as head coach of Linfield College’s baseball team in Oregon for seven years.

Yankees fans will most likely remember Scott Brosius this way. In 58 career postseason games with the Yankees, Brosius hit eight home runs with 30 RBI, playing a key role on the three consecutive title teams from 1998 to 2000.

7. Ricky Ledee, LF

Although Ricky Ledee started Game 4 of the 1998 World Series for the Yankees, he was not the regular left fielder. That privilege belonged to Chad Curtis who played in 100 games during the season to Ledee’s 49.

But let’s consider that a good thing because I’d rather not be writing about Curtis here since he was convicted of sexual misconduct and sentenced to prison in 2013, making him the second player in this piece (see Knoblauch) to go astray following their playing days.

Let’s move on, then. Ledee had a great day for the Yankees in Game 4 going 2-for-3 and driving home one of the Yankees’ three runs.

He was selected by the Yankees in the 16th round of the 1990 draft as the 421st pick overall. For a time, received a good deal of attention and big things were expected from him.

But those dreams quickly faded and Ledee’s time with the team would end in 2000. He would then go on pretty much as a journeyman and play with six other teams compiling a career batting average of .243.

Today, it would appear that he’s somewhat occupied by Twitter, but no longer involved with baseball.

joe girardi

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

8. Joe Girardi, C

Are you surprised? Time flies, doesn’t it? Yes, Joe Girardi was the catcher for the Yankees in that fourth and final game of the 1998 World Series. He would go 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

But the Yankees didn’t have him in their starting lineup that day for his hitting ability, although his lifetime batting average of .267 actually wasn’t that bad. Instead, they had him in there for his defense and his handling of that day’s starting pitcher, who we’ll get to in just a second.

Because even back then, Joe Girardi knew it was his job to manage the game. To be the field general and to be the “thinking man’s” ball player.

And, of course, we know the rest of the story.

When asked though to sum up his views on managing, here’s what he had to say to NJ.com:

“I think numbers are important because I think they always tell a story. But the numbers don’t always tell about a person here,” said Girardi, pointing at his heart. “About how they’re feeling about themselves at the time, and the numbers don’t always necessarily tell how difficult it is to do certain things in the game. And I try to draw on my past experiences, things that I’ve heard players talk about. I never want to forget how difficult the game is.”

And maybe there’s something there for all of us: “I never want to forget how difficult the game is.”

9. Andy Pettitte, SP

Andy Pettitte would get the honor of starting Game 4 with the opportunity to put an exclamation point on the season by finishing a sweep of the World Series.

He would come through and pitch a game that would become his signature, especially in the postseason. His line for the day shows 7.1 innings, five spaced-out hits, three uncharacteristic walks, four strikeouts, and no runs allowed.

Pitching to soft contact, Pettitte seldom topped 91 on the gun To make up for that, he developed a nasty cutter and slider, changing the eye level of hitters at will. The photo I selected for this slide shows him in the pose most remember him by. Cap down, glove raised to his nose, and those eyes peering at the batter with a look that could only suggest, “Here it comes, hit it if you can, but I don’t think you will.”

Andrew Eugene Pettitte won 103 more games than he lost in his big league career. He was a relatively high draft pick by the Yankees in 1990. But he would develop himself into a member of the vaunted “Core Four”, joining teammates Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and later Jorge Posada as homegrown Yankees seeking to destroy the myth that the Yankees buy everything.

Typical of the games he pitched during the run, he would be relieved in Game 4 by Jeff Nelson, who became the game’s set up man before darkness fell on the opposition when the bullpen doors opened and Rivera came strolling through with “Enter Sandman” and its pounding beat escorting him in.

For Pettitte, a deeply religious and family man, he would escape for a brief time to Houston to be closer to his home, only to return again to the Yankees to capture his fifth world championship in 2009.

A Texas boy at heart, he’s seldom seen in New York these days. But anytime there’s an event planned where his former teammates are gathered, he’s always there, all 6’5” of him still looking like he could go another seven innings.

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