Yankees fans and all fans of baseball know it well. The home run. That unmistakable sound when the ball meets the sweet part of the bat as the hitter uncoils and the ball soars high and far in a majestic arc that draws everyone in the stands to their feet.
That almighty power to turn games around with one swing of the bat is a universal reason why we are fans of baseball and the Bronx Bombers.
The Yankees, over the course of their storied history, have hit many home runs. And while some wind up as merely another entry in a box score, others have an inescapable lure, and they become ingrained in our memory. This piece is about those home runs, the ones that have earned a special place in Yankees history.
Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal (George Will)
Did you know, for instance, that the Yankees were the first team in major league baseball to reach 10,000 home runs? Probably not, I didn’t either.
And you probably don’t know who hit that ten-thousandth home run. But, you’ll find out soon.
And as you watch some of the videos, you’ll be taken back to a time when TV screens were not HD, and the Yankees announcers had southern drawls. In a few cases, you’ll even see fans and photographers standing on the playing field.
All of the videos are available on YouTube and can also be found elsewhere on the internet. I’ve made every effort to give credit to the provider of each video. The order of slides has no particular meaning, and there is no attempt to wind up to a big finish at number 25. Each home run stands on its own.
For each slide, I’m providing only the date when the home run was hit as sort of a fun game. See if you can guess which home run it is before clicking on the next slide.
So, let’s get started with the first of 25 Memorable Yankees Home Runs.
Writing for The Society For American Baseball Research (SABR), Stew Thornley recalled the magical at-bat by Scott Brosius in this way:
“The Yankee Stadium crowd was subdued as it appeared their team would have to go back to Arizona and win a pair of games against Johnson and Schilling.
” I just remember running around the bases and thinking to myself: ‘No way did that happen twice.’
A few moments later, the crowd let out another roar, this in response to the appearance of Byung-Hyun Kim, being called on by Brenly for the second straight night to try to close out the Yankees.
Jorge Posada greeted Kim with the same enthusiasm as the fans, driving a double to left field. However, Kim retired Shane Spencer and Chuck Knoblauch, leaving himself only an out away from a save. Brosius looked at the first pitch for a ball, then turned on the next one and drilled it to left. There was no doubt in Brosius’s mind about the final destination of the ball. He began leaping in jubilation as he started down the line, watching the ball finally settle into the left-field seats.”
“Everyone always asks me about that moment,” Brosius said of that Game 5 home run, which followed the late game heroics of Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter in Game 4, “and I just remember running around the bases and thinking to myself: ‘No way did that happen twice.’ It was a great moment, but this bat from the ’98 Series is actually a sweeter memory for me, because we won the Series.”
By the time 1967 rolled around, Mickey Mantle was a mere shell of himself, having survived his previous 16 years with the Yankees playing on broken knees, stemming from an injury in a World Series game in which his cleats caught in a drainage ditch at the old Yankee Stadium.
Yankees fans lament as to what Mantle’s numbers might have been if not for this injury that came on a ball that many still believe Joe DiMaggio should have caught.
Including this home run, The Commerce Comet would hit a total of 22 in 1967 and follow that up with 18 more the next season, ending with a career total of 536 home runs before retiring following the 1968 season.
His 500th home run came off Baltimore Orioles pitcher, Stu Miller, a noted junkball wizard.
Notice in the footage what appears not to be the expected majestic swing of a superstar. Instead, it’s more of a lunge at the ball. Ironically, this was Mantle’s natural swing from the left side of the plate. His power, though, as you’ll also note, is generated by his massive upper body strength.
The call on the play comes from former Yankees second baseman, Jerry Coleman, and is from the era when New York’s local station, WPIX-11 aired nearly all of the Yankees televised games.
#3 The Yankees Become The 1st Team To Reach 10,000 HR’s
Claudell Washington, a journeyman outfielder who played with seven different major league teams, was the player who delivered a 9th inning blast to give the Yankees a 6-5 lead at the time, making the Yankees the first team to reach 10,000 home runs as a franchise.
The call on this one is made by Yankees fan favorite, Bobby Murcer, who listeners will recall had that lazy drawl which sucked you in as he recounted story after story about his days with the Yankees. He died in 2008 after a battle with cancer at the age of 62.
Claudell Washington would extend his career for another two years and make his way back to the Yankees again in 1990 before he retired.
I did my very best to research how many home runs the Yankees have hit as a team following the 2016 season and where they stand relative to other teams now. I could not uncover anything, so if you have a clue, please send along a comment.
When Alex Rodriguez stepped up to the plate on June 19, 2015, it followed a period in which he was embroiled in a direct conflict with the Yankees front office. Barbs were being exchanged daily between the two entities, and the back pages of New York newspapers relished the fodder it created.
Tensions were subsiding now and Yankees fans, as you’ll note rose to greet A-Rod in what was to become one of those moments where you just shake your head in awe and say to yourself, “how fitting was that?”
I’ve always said I’m a teacher at heart (Alex Rodriguez)
And when the Yankees announced that they would hold a ceremony before the game on Sunday, Sept. 13, against the Toronto Blue Jays, A-Rod was legitimately subdued in telling the New York Times:
“I never thought a year ago that I’d be getting any ceremony, that’s for sure,” Rodriguez said before Friday’s game against the Blue Jays. “There was a thought that maybe I wasn’t going to play baseball ever again, so to be celebrated at home, I’m honored.”
Currently, Rodriguez is scheduled to be an instructor and mentor at the Yankees Spring Training camp in Tampa.
When Roger Maris stepped to the plate to face Tracy Stallard, if he had taken his helmet off, bald spots would have shown from the stress he incurred during his journey to unseat the venerable Babe Ruth as the all-time holder of the single-season home run mark.
He hit 39 home runs in his first season with the Yankees, but no one could have expected what occurred during the 1961 season when the “race was on” to catch Ruth. To add to his misery, Mickey Mantle, the iconic Yankees fan favorite, stayed in step with Maris until the final days of the season when Mantle was forced to sit out due to injury.
Maybe I’m not a great man but I damn well want to break the record (Roger Maris)
Nevertheless, Maris rose to the occasion, creating a stir throughout baseball that ultimately resulted in an asterisk being added to record-shattering 61st home run (it was later removed).
The call in the above video is given by Red Barber, a Hall Of Fame broadcaster in his right. But I don’t think it does the moment justice. So, I include a second version of the home run with the call by Phil Rizzuto who, with his “He did it, He did It, Holy Cow….”, represents the proper (my opinion) accent on the moment.
Was it a home run or wasn’t it? It’s a question that will live in infamy in Yankees lore. Did a 12-year old kid lean over and snare the ball hit by Derek Jeter from the outstretched glove of Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco?
You don’t just accidentally show up in the World Series (Derek Jeter)
And if he did, and Jeter was credited with a double, what would have happened next?
We only know what we see in the video, and clearly, it’s a judgment call and one that was made swiftly in the Yankees favor by the right field umpire, Rich Garcia.
Hush, be quiet. I think we got away with one there.
But then again, this was a Yankees team that was embarking on an unprecedented run that would carry them into the next century with a series of World Championships that would captivate not only Yankees fans, but the bulk of baseball itself.
Nevertheless, we are grateful for no replay in those days. All hail, Rich Garcia.
At the beginning of the 1976 season, Yankee manager Billy Martin named Thurman captain of the team, making him the first Yankee to receive that honor since Lou Gehrig. The Society For American Baseball Research writes that Munson was initially hesitant about accepting the role but eventually agreed. Regarding his new captain, Martin spoke to the New York media saying, “He has just the right cockiness, he’s a born leader.”
A definitive account of this Game 3 ALCS home run by Thurman Munson is found in Pinstripe Alley and is quoted freely here:
“Back in 1978, it was a tremendous drive simply to get over the left-center field fence 430 feet away at the old Yankee Stadium, but Munson surpassed even that. The two-run clout came to rest in Monument Park, the first of only a couple in the 33-year history of the remodeled Yankee Stadium to go so far.
Thurman was indispensable and irreplaceable (George Steinbrenner)
In Marty Appel’s epic classic of Yankees history, Pinstripe Empire, he noted that the drive landed (appropriately) by the Babe Ruth monument approximately 475 feet away. More importantly, the two-run homer gave the Yankees a 6-5 advantage.
Given a second chance, Gossage did not let the lead slip away, even retiring the scalding-hot Brett on a fly ball before ending it. The tables had been turned on the Royals, and facing elimination themselves the next day, they lost. The Yankees were AL champions, and they won a six-game Fall Classic against the Dodgers to win their second straight title. It was the last October of Munson’s life.”
Like no other player in the history of major league baseball, Babe Ruth passes what I call my “Black Test,” which is a test I use to gauge a player’s value when he is being considered for the Hall Of Fame.
It’s a simple test, and you can try it yourself here. The link will take you to Ruth’s page in Baseball Reference. Notice all the bold black indicating instances in which he led the American League in those categories. Trust me; no other player has more.
Every strike brings me closer to the next home run (Babe Ruth)
And what this tells us is that Babe Ruth dominated baseball during the era in which he played. In fact, he did more than that, because he not only dominated baseball, he transformed it as well by bringing the sport out of what was known as the Dead Ball Era, and into what is now the power game.
Ruth was an iconic and larger than life personality. And nothing personifies that more than this instance in which he called a home run during a World Series game in 1932, five years after he hit his magical 60.
Regrettably, we only have this grainy footage to witness the even ourselves. Did he point, or didn’t he? The argument will go on in baseball forever.
One thing is a non-argument. Babe Ruth is the greatest Yankees player ever to wear the Pinstripes.
“In the second inning of a game between the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds on June 6, 1939, Jo-Jo Moore homered then in the Third inning Mel Ott homered. In the fourth second baseman Burgess Whitehead homered followed by the pitcher Manny Salvo then Jo-Jo Moore added his second of the game. Billy Jurges didn’t hit a bomb, but Harry Danning followed him with a homer. Ott and Zeke Bonura didn’t homer by Frank Demaree followed them with a homer. The Giants scored eight runs that inning.”
The Yankees couldn’t have picked a better time to do it when, on September 30, 1997, in the sixth inning ofGame One of the American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians, Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill hit back-to-back-to-back home runs for the Yankees.
The Yankees would go on to lose that series to the Indians but come back the following year to storm through the World Series in what would be the start of “The Run” under the tutelage of manager Joe Torre.
In 2011, Derek Jeter was not having a good time playing baseball. His batting average had slipped to .257 and, remarkably, the .313 lifetime hitter was getting some bad press for the first time in his career.
And even more remarkable was the fact that Jeter was feeling the pressure himself, telling the New York Times:
“It’s kind of hard to enjoy it when there’s a lot of negativity that’s out there,” Jeter said. “Hopefully, I might be able to enjoy it the next few days.”
Jeter would have the last word, though, on this Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, not only notching hit #3,000 but hitting a home run in the same at-bat. Electrifying the crowd, Jeter, true to form, sprinted around the bases as if it was just another day at the ballpark.
I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong (Derek Jeter)
Before hitting the 3,000 mark, Jeter had already passed another iconic Yankee, Lou Gehrig, for the franchise record in hits, with 2,722.
To cap his career, Jeter is a sure-fire inductee to the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 2020.
A totally befuddled Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, trying to find something that would dull the pain behind his eyes, would later tell ESPN, “It’s always somebody you don’t expect … you never know where it’s going to come from.”
Chad Curtis, another unexpected World Series hero. Just like that. And it’s not like the Yankees had never been bitten by players like Curtis before because the name Bill Mazeroski still means something in Yankees history.
Curtis hit a Mike Remlinger pitch and watched as left fielder Gerald Williams turned around after about two steps, and gave up chasing the ball as Curtis circled the bases securing a Yankees walk-off victory.
Later, Curtis would tell the New York Times,
“I’ve never hit one in the regular season,” he said. “I’ve never hit a walk-off home run. And I’ve heard about people talk about tingling. I’ve never felt that before. But I think somewhere between second and third I felt like there was electricity running through my legs. You’re rounding third base and coming home, and you see all your teammates there waiting for you in a World Series game. It was a big thrill.”
The home run by Curtis came as the lead-off batter in the bottom of the tenth inning.
Everything was going along just fine for the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series. Coming back on short rest, Curt Schilling had given them seven superb innings, and all they needed was for their closer, Byung-Hyun Kim, to shut the Yankees down for good.
No one could imagine, though, that not once, but twice magic would strike on this Halloween night to drive the D’Backs back to reality.
Once you’re in, you’re in. There are only four teams who make it. Let’s go. (Tino Martinez)
And when Tino Martinez stepped in to face Kim, he was in the midst of a 0-9 World Series and not swinging the bat well.
Down by two, Martinez drove the first pitch he saw from Kim into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium, and suddenly, the game was tied. The ballpark erupted as Martinez circled the bases as D’Backs manager, Bob Brenly, looked on.
This World Series has been particularly significant because it came on the heels of the World Trade Center attack. Emotions ran high, to begin with as Jorge Posada recalled for NJ.com:
“I remember Joe Torre and what he told us,” said Posada. “That we weren’t only playing for New York. We were playing for everyone in the country.” Playing, not so much to win another World Series, but to allow Americans a few hours to escape.
Derek Jeter added, “The games at Yankee Stadium were amazing,” Jeter said. “Probably the loudest I ever heard a crowd.”
As you know, the Series did not end with a glorious triumph as the D’Backs took home the Championship on a bloop hit off Mariano Rivera.
This one can only be described as a bomb. It was a majestic high arcing blast that seemed to disappear into the afternoon sun at Yankee Stadium just inside the left field fair pole. And there was no question that Alex Rodriguez knew he had it, his 500th home run as a major league player.
Rodriguez didn’t waste any time, accomplishing the feat in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals and pitcher, Kyle Davies on the first pitch he saw from the right-hander.
With that home run, Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player ever to reach the 500 home run plateau.
According to ESPN.com’s account of the game, Rodriguez ” threw his hands in the air after the ball landed in the seats and began trotting around the bases with a wide grin on his face as the Yankee Stadium crowd cheered wildly.”
It was also a good day for the fan who caught the home run. According to an executive at Sotheby’s Collectibles, ” In 2010, Alex Rodriguez’s 500th career home run ball sold at auction for $103,579.20,”
On the day of #500, Rodriguez was leading the American League in home runs, causing manager Joe Torre to gush, telling CBS News:
“Fifty home runs doesn’t seem to be an issue,” Torre said recently. “Fifty home runs. That’s incredible. You’re talking about his age, you’re talking about him hitting in the 50s — in a couple of years he’ll be going for No. 600.”
It would take A-Rod a bit longer to get within reach of that next plateau, and ultimately the one beyond that too (700).
Another unlikely hero. Aaron Boone, or as he became known in Boston, Aaron “Bleeping” Boone, took the stage following three innings of dominant relief pitching by Mariano Rivera and deposited a shot into the left field seats that took the breath away from Red Sox Nation.
Because up to that point, the Sox had control of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS with their ace on the mound and were marching towards their first World Series since 1918 with a three-run lead in the eighth inning.
It was the same way for both sides (Aaron Boone)
With five outs before defeat, the Yankees scored three times that inning off an exhausted Pedro Martinez to tie the game at eight apiece. Boston manager, Grady Little, would suffer the consequences of his decision to leave Martinez in the game for years to come, but the damage came swiftly and decisively.
And so it was that Aaron Boone stepped into the box as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 11th inning and another moment in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was born.
The New York Daily News reported Boone’s reaction:
Boone said he “felt like he was floating” when he hit the ball. “I knew right away I had hit it real good,” Boone added.
And then he eerily added:
“Derek (Jeter) told me sometimes the ghosts show up here. When I joined the Yankees, this is the kind of thing I thought I could be a part of. This is the perfect story ending for everyone – extra innings in Game 7 after a comeback. It’s the perfect ending.”
Indeed, the ghosts did show up on that night, ending what many claims to be the most exciting and dramatic playoff game ever played.
On this Saturday afternoon in August, Yankee Stadium, as well as the entire city of New York was abuzz with talk about the influx of young talent that had been brought in by the mastery of General Manager Brian Cashman at the July Trade Deadline.
‘It is widely assumed, if not widely accepted, that hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult things you’re going to do in any sport. At that size, there are more challenges than if you are a foot shorter.’ (Tony Clark On Aaron Judge)
A new era was descending on the Yankees, and two of these Baby Bombers were set to play in their first major league game.
Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge made Yankees history on this day by slugging back to back in their first at-bat in the major leagues. Later, the New York Times got this reaction from both players:
Before Austin’s first at-bat, Judge found him on deck and offered encouragement. “Do your thing, T,” he said.
“I don’t think I could have asked for anything better,” Austin said of his homer, which went 331 feet.
After Austin hit his homer, Judge had some extra motivation.
What a day, indeed. With hopefully more of those days to come as both Judge and Austin are expected to be in the Yankees Opening Day lineup in 2017.
Bucky Dent, or as he is more affectionately known in Boston as, Bucky “F——N” Dent, conquered the Green Monster as no Yankees player had ever done before, with one swing of the bat on a chilly October night in 1978.
Dent, who had four homers all season entering this classic playoff shootout to determine the AL East champion, crushed a Mike Torrez pitch over the Green Monster in the top of the seventh inning to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead for the Yankees.
The Red Sox went home humiliated knowing that they spend the winter wondering how it was that they had blown a 14 game lead in the standings to the Yankees, who would go on to win their consecutive World Series title, beating the Dodgers.
Ironically, the light hitting Dent would also capture the World Series Most Valuable Player award in the same Fall Classic.
As for Dent, it was his moment to shine under the lights. He explains:
“Oh, I love it,” he told the Broward Palm Beach New Times in 2011. “The Red Sox people, they joke around to me, and Yankees fans, they say, ‘I was here,’ ‘I was there,’ because they remember right where they were when it happened.”
Make no mistake about it. Chris Chambliss remembers every at-bat and every pitch of a game that will always be remembered as one of the most dramatic in the Yankees storied history. The image of Chambliss battling his way around the bases as fans splurged onto the field, with his surrounded teammates waiting at home plate and a trip to the World Series.
“That was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been in. George Brett tied it with a three-run homer and that’s what tied the game and got us to the ninth inning.
I was the first hitter in the bottom of the ninth. I had learned to that point that thinking home run was not too good because I didn’t have good swings when I tried to hit a home run, so I just tried to put a good swing on the ball and it happened to be in the right place.
Mark Littell threw a high fastball and I took a good hard swing at it. It was up a little bit, and I was able to hit it high in the air to right field,and it went over the fence.”
ESPN also offers little tidbit. Chambliss’s walk-off home run was the second series-ending home run in postseason history. There have been six since, the next being JoeCarter World Series-ending walk-off home run for the 1993 Blue Jays.
The Yankees dominated the MVP voting in 1976. Catcher Thurman Munson won it, outfielder Mickey Riversfinished third, and Chambliss placed fifth, tied with Twins infielder Rod Carew.
#18 An Iconic Yankees Slugger Breaks His Own Record
Babe Ruth was playing in the next to last game of the 1927 season when he connected off Tom Zachary, breaking his home run record with his 60th of the year.
It was, of course, a record that would stand the test of time and countless sluggers who made futile attempts to break it. That is before a young man from the Midwest came along in 1961, and hit a 2-0 fastball into the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
Reading isn’t good for a ballplayer. Not good for his eyes. If my eyes went bad even a little bit I couldn’t hit home runs. So I gave up reading. (Babe Ruth)
By 1927, Ruth had cemented his place in Yankees history, as well as all of baseball. His effervescent personality, especially when he around kids, warmed the hearts of baseball fans across the nation.
Fabled and larger than life, stories about his exploits abound. But few care about whether or not he would down six hot dogs and two bottles of pop between innings. Instead, fans gravitated to the power that he introduced to the game of baseball that brought an end to the Dead Ball Era.
Trotting around the bases as we watch with awe this grainy footage, how is it possible that those two spindling ankles supported his upper bulk?
Later, other iconic Yankees would follow in Ruth’s path. Number 7, Mickey Mantle, and Number 5, Joe DiMaggio would each take their turn as immortals in the Yankees record books. But no one comes close to touching Ruth.
To set the stage for the heroics of Raul Ibanez, a good deal of controversy surrounded the Yankees as they took the field to play the Baltimore Orioles. And most of it centered on Alex Rodriguez who was in the midst of a battle with just about everyone, including the Yankees organization, over his alleged use of steroids and other legal matters.
To make it worse, A-Rod was struggling at the plate hitting (at the time) .111 with only one extra-base hit. The calls to drop Rodriguez in the lineup, or just drop him altogether, were coming in loud and clear in the office of manager Joe Girardi.
Rodriguez said all the right things, but apparently, he wanted to and expected to play.Even Donald Trump weighed in on the matter:
#20 Home Run Spurs The Yankees To Their First Title Since 1978
Facing the Hall Of Fame duo, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddox, the Yankees knew their task would not be an easy one. And sure enough, the team took a jolt losing the first two games of the World Series to the Braves at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees scraped together a victory behind David Cone and needed another win to even the series. In an unusual move (for him), Joe Torre found a newspaper clipping and posted it in the clubhouse.
“He pulled out this article,” Leyritz remembered. “The Braves were saying they didn’t want to go back. They hated the fans; they couldn’t stand it. They were just so happy to be out of there and were going to win this thing at home and not have to go back to New York.”
The message to the Yankees was simple, Leyritz said.
“We don’t have to win both. We get back to New York we can win this thing.”
Preparing to face closer Mark Wohlers, Leyritz also remembers:
“I said to (bench coach Don Zimmer), ‘Hey Zim, what’s this guy got?’ And he said, ‘Jimmy, this guy throws 100 miles an hour. Just get ready,’” Leyritz remembered.
Leyritz turned the tide of the series with his shot as the Yankees carried the momentum gained that night to earn their first World Series title in almost two decades.
It was a close call on a 2-2 pitch by the umpire, Rich Garcia that forced Mark Langston to throw one more fateful pitch to Tino Martinez with the bases full of Yankees in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series.
It was a fastball on the outside part of the plate that Martinez saw all the way from Langston’s hand. And despite having a miserable postseason up to this point, Martinez launched a rocket into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium, causing the crowd to erupt in a frenzy that few can recall being louder.
Later, Martinez would tell the New York Times:
”I haven’t done much,” Martinez said. ”We’ve been winning. We got to the World Series. I knew eventually I’d come up in a big situation and get a big hit to help the team win.
”It’s definitely a big relief to get a hit in a situation like today.”
Manager Joe Torre added, ”It’s a great deal of relief,” Manager Joe Torre said. ”I think it relieved everyone’s pressure in the dugout.”
Indeed, the pressure was on the Yankees in that World Series, as they had demolished the American League during the regular season winning well more than 100 games. Only the San Diego Padres stood in their way.
But after the shot by Martinez, you could see the wind taken from the Padres, and the Yankees soared to sweep the Series on the back of one of the “loudest” home runs ever hit at Yankee Stadium.
Reggie Jackson was born to play baseball in New York City, and George Steinbrenner knew it. Growing ever more irritated by a building drought in World Series titles, Steinbrenner took it upon himself to sign Jackson as a free agent.
He may or may not have known what he was getting, but Reggie quickly took center stage on the team, at one point proclaiming himself to be, “The straw that stirs the drink.”
I represent both the underdog and the overdog in our society. (Reggie Jackson)
Much like Broadway Joe Namath before him, though, Jackson delivered. And never so much as on the night of October 18, 1977, when he blasted (and I mean blasted) three home runs on three successive pitches from a stunned Dodger’s staff.
Yankees manager, Billy Martin, who himself had just been welcomed back to the fold for another season in 1978 by Steinbrenner, reacted by telling the New York Daily News
This victory, said Billy Martin, “made everything worthwhile,” all the problems, all the turmoil, all the doubts about his future.
“The players,” Martin said, “deserve all the credit.” And Reggie?
“I’m really happy for him,” Martin said. “He was sensational.”
No doubt, Reggie put the mustard on the hot dogs. And his infamous standoff in the dugout with Martin is the stuff made of legend. But at the same time, he was the best $3 million George Steinbrenner ever spent.
And for one night, he stirred the drink that spilled right over into the laps of the Dodgers.
It would be difficult to imagine a Yankees players who was more controversial in his time than Alex Rodriguez. Overshadowing everyone on the Yankees teams he played on; he still maintained the respect of his colleagues in the dugout and clubhouse.
This, despite his penchant for garnering the back page of the local papers as well as Page Six in newspapers across America. Embroiled in an ongoing steroid investigation, Rodriguez managed to concentrate on the game he professed to love.
Fresh from his achievement as the youngest player to ever reach the plateau of 500 home runs in 2007, he plowed forward in pursuit of another milestone, a 600th home run.
Ironically, at 35 years, eight days, Rodriguez became the youngest player in history to join the 600 Club, and the seventh player in baseball history to reach the milestone.
Following his eclipse of 600, a subdued Rodriguez told ESPN:
“[I’m] definitely glad it’s over and I definitely enjoyed that moment and enjoyed the win,” he said after the game, a 5-1 Yankees victory that prevented a Toronto three-game series sweep. “We needed a win today … we needed to stop the bleeding a little bit. That’s a very good team over there.”
Fittingly, Rodriguez’s 17th homer of the season sailed over the center-field wall and landed in Monument Park. A monumental blast to be sure.
“I’ve been through it so many times. I was picturing it in the on-deck circle, taking it all in, thinking it would be nice for me to end it,”
Manager Joe Torre added, “This time of year seems to bring out the best in him,” and Derek Jeter summed up his feelings too telling the press, “It was fitting. Bernie’s been here the longest,” Jeter said in the champagne-filled Yankees clubhouse. “He’s been through a lot this year.”
It was fitting. But not all ended well for the Yankees that season as the Boston Red Sox would wage a comeback from a 3-1 disadvantage to capture the AL East Pennant and go on to win their first World Championship since 1918.
But for that one moment, it was number 51 who sent the Yankees and their fans into the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
And it was an oddity of fate that brought the Yankees Captain that brought Derek Jeter to the plate just as the clock chimed signaling that Halloween was now officially over and we now in November.
Jeter’s home run would follow a game-tying blast off the bat of Tino Martinez and provide the Yankees with the hope that somehow they could overcome the likes of Arizona starters Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.
Jeter describes his thought in a post-game interview cited by the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR):
“When I first hit it, I had no idea whether it was going to go out, but once it goes out, it’s a pretty special feeling. I’ve never hit a walk-off home run before, so it was a special experience,” said Jeter, who added, “The first time I faced him [Kim] I bunted the first pitch, so I didn’t get an opportunity to see him. Any time you have someone throwing side-arm or under-arm, it is going to take a few pitches to pick up his release point. I think the second time I was able to see a lot of pitches, so I think that helped.”
Want your voice heard? Join the Yanks Go Yard team!
Jeter would go on to set a record for the most hits ever recorded by a Yankee (3,425), but the Yankees would ultimately fall to the D’Backs in this World Series on a bloop bleeding heart single off Mariano Rivera.