Yankees History: Six Great Moments From 1990 To The Present

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Yankees Stadium: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Every Yankees fan has moments from the team’s storied history etched in their mind and memory. They become so engrained, they could have occurred yesterday. See if these match any of yours.

Pick a Yankees , almost any decade, and great moments can be found.  I chose to center only on the span from 1990 to the present. But as you’ll see, even with that, you may find yourself shaking your head asking yourself, “How could he forget that one?”. The truth is I probably did remember; I just couldn’t include them all. And besides, these are not the “Greatest” moments. Just simply great moments.

The Yankees will play 162 games in 2017, just as they do every season. Their season will span six months of the calendar, encompassing the entire summer, while including three of America’s most celebrated and patriotic holidays. In good years, the Yankees will still be playing when kids are dressing up in their costumes on Halloween and leaves will be disappearing from trees in the Northeast.

From 1990 through 2016, the Yankees played 4,300 regular season games. By no stretch of the imagination, it is safe to say that between you and me that we remember – what would you say? Ten, fifteen, maybe twenty of those games? Probably, not even that many. Because the baseball season churns along at a rapid speed with one game following the previous one, leaving little time to digest what has occurred the day before.

And often, video highlights from the last night’s game have disappeared because an afternoon game is underway the following day. And that’s another way most of us have changed over the years. We don’t watch Yankees telecasts. Oh, we might catch three or four innings here and there. But most of the time we are part of what I call the Highlight Crew. We want the headlines (only).

Remember too, that these Great Yankees Moments are not listed in any particular order. That’s not the purpose. The purpose is to bring them to you once again, taking you back into another time, and perhaps even another place

Show me that video of the 450 ft home run that Aaron Judge crushed, and I’ll be happy, even if the Yankees lost by a score of 6-4.

But almost immediately following that tour of the highlights, it’s on to other things. Nothing sticks. Nothing moves from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. And why should it? It’s just another game.

But occasionally, something special happens. Something significant, wherein you wake up the next morning and do your usual highlight check. And then you see a little headline. David Wells has thrown a perfect game in a drunken stupor (he says), and we tuned the game out in the fourth inning because he looked like he was about to fall off the mound, went to bed, readying ourselves for the next workday.

And that might be a little game we can play amongst ourselves as we move along now to those Great Moments, asking ourselves how many of these did we see “live” versus how many we saw “on tape” (later).

Remember too, that these Great Yankees Moments are not listed in any particular order. That’s not the purpose. The purpose is to bring them to you once again, taking you back into another time, and perhaps even another place when the Yankees did something special to make our lives just a little bit better. We’ll start off with this one from 2015.

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John Munson-Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

If you tell me that when Dwight Gooden took the mound on May 14, 1996, there were ten people in the announced crowd of 20,786 fans assembled at Yankee Stadium who believed they were about to witness a no-hitter, I’d say that you were reaching for straws. Or just plain unaware of who Gooden was a full twelve years after his spectacular rookie season with the New York Mets.

And I’d say that it was even more unlikely that he could toss a complete game at this stage in his career, let alone quiet the bats of the powerful Seattle Mariners, not allowing them a base hit while striking out only five batters.

And yet, Dwight Gooden somehow rose to the occasion, pitching what might be described as the game of his life, surrendering six bases on balls, but no hits and no runs, with a fastball and curve that hardly mirrored the ones he was blowing hitters away with a mere decade before.

Gooden himself would wander into the drug of the eighties and be swept away, as would Strawberry.

The rise and fall of Dwight Gooden are well documented. Together with teammate Darryl Strawberry, Gooden took New York City, as well as baseball, by storm. Every night he pitched became an event that no one could miss, whether in attendance at the old Shea Stadium or watching and listening to Ralph Kiner describe the action; you had to “be there.”

But despite their success in capturing a World Championship in 1986, the character of the team was flawed. In later years, two members of the team would face serious criminal charges resulting in a jail sentence for one (Lenny Dykstra) and a permanent scarlet letter etched in the other (Wally Backman).

Gooden himself would wander into the drug of the eighties and be swept away, as would Strawberry.  First baseman Keith Hernandez would later go on record admitting that he did “massive amounts” of cocaine during his time with the Mets.

Predictably, Gooden’s career ground to a slow death and final halt. On October 24, 1994, Gooden was granted free agency by the Mets, only to find that there no takers. With most teams presuming that he’s a washed up drug addict, so why bother.

There was one man, however, who decided that he wanted to be “bothered.” George Steinbrenner, the larger than life owner of the Yankees at the time, stepped in “recommending” that his team sign Gooden to a contract. On February 20, 1996, his underlings complied, and suddenly, Doc Gooden was a New York Yankee.

Steinbrenner, in fact, did this not once but twice, resigning Gooden again in 2000 when it appeared that his personal life was falling apart, yet again.

The no-hitter tossed by Gooden had a significant effect on his Yankees teammates as reported by the New York Daily News:

“This is my best moment in baseball,” said battery mate Joe Girardi, who hugged Gooden as the pitcher stood with his arms above his head while Paul Sorrento’s popup landed in shortstop Derek Jeter’s glove. “I’ve been to the playoffs, but this is better.”

“I can’t feel much better than I do right now, said Mel Stottlemyre, who supported Gooden through his early-season struggles. “This makes it all worthwhile.”

And for Gooden himself, he could hardly fight back the tears, telling the Daily News:

“This is the greatest feeling of my life,” said a misty-eyed Gooden, who will head to Florida this morning. “To be through what I’ve been through and now this, I can’t describe it. In my wildest dreams I could never imagine this.

“I was thinking about where I was a year-and-a-half ago at this time. It was a situation where I didn’t know if I’d ever be in this position again.”

For one shining night, baseball transcended life and all of the problems that usually come with doing the things that we do. Enjoy the video that follows which captured those magical moments in the Bronx.

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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, a team makes a move via a trade or free agent signing, and it just feels right” as the perfect fit for the team that is assembled. This appeared to be the case when the Yankees traded starting pitcher Starling Hitchcock and reliever Russ Davis to the Seattle Mariners in return for Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir, and a sleeper in the deal, Jeff Nelson, who would become the setup man for Mariano Rivera, on December 7, 1995.

His 1998 numbers followed in the same vein (28 HR, 123 RBI), but it was in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series that Tino Martinez etched his name forever into Yankees history.

Before the trade, Tino Martinez had spent five rather pedestrian years with the Mariners, reaching new heights only in 1995 when he put together a season that caught the attention of the Yankees, with 31 home runs and 111 RBI.

Two years later, perhaps feeling more comfortable in his new surrounding in the Bronx, Martinez put together a monster year for the Yankees slugging 44 home runs, while driving in 141 runs, and finishing 2nd in the MVP voting that season.

His 1998 numbers followed in the same vein (28 HR, 123 RBI), but it was in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series that Tino Martinez etched his name forever into Yankees history.  Bringing the team back from a deficit to a sudden lead with an epic grand slam home run (Video Below), Martinez created the force that propelled the Yankees to the eventual sweep of the Padres.

That moment is still etched in the mind of Tino Martinez as he later told the New York Daily News:

“It’s something you dream of as a kid,” Martinez said. “To hit the grand slam and put us ahead, it was huge. I can still hear the fan reaction and smell the beer flying all over the Stadium.”

His manager and teammates acknowledged the significance of that one swing of a bat, coming on a full-count pitch from Mark Langston, telling the New York Times

It’s a great deal of relief,” Manager Joe Torre said. ”I think it relieved everyone’s pressure in the dugout.”

Even Chuck Knoblauch, who on a night filled with redemption slugged a three-run homer in that same seventh inning, said, ”I was probably more excited when he hit his home run than when I hit mine.”

Before the game, Paul O’Neill had said: ”I would guess that Tino would have a great series. Baseball has a way of evening things out. You have a bad series, you come back and have a great series.”

From the beginning, Tino Martinez just seemed destined for this moment in a Yankees uniform.

Martinez has remained close to the Yankees since his retirement, but a niche is yet to be found that satisfies both sides. He served at the Team USA hitting instructor in the 2016 World Baseball Classic Tournament, and also as the hitting coach of the Florida Marlins in 2013, but he resigned from that post in July of the same year.

The stage could not have been better set on that October night at Yankee Stadium for a moment of drama. What could be better than the Yankees hooking up with their arch-rival Boston Red Sox, who at the time had not made a world series appearance since 1918,  for the final game of the ALCS.

Baseball Almanac attests to the unbelievable see-saw battle that stretched to the 11th inning publishing the Baseball Almanac of the game with this tag:

The box score below is an accurate record of events for the baseball contest played on October 16, 2003 at Yankee Stadium. The New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox and the box score is “ready to surrender its truth to the knowing eye.”

The game began innocently enough with an epic battle looming between Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. Clemens lasted only three innings surrendering four runs on six hits, exiting to a chorus of cheers (he did not look up to acknowledge the fans) from the crowd of 56,279. Martinez excelled, going seven strong innings and surrendering only two runs.

Red Sox Manager, Grady Little, then made a decision that would haunt him forever, deciding to send and obviously tiring Martinez out to start the eighth. And before anyone knew it, the Yankees put three runs on the board to tie the game Later; Little would plead his case to the New York Daily News, saying:

Little argued that “Pedro wanted to stay in there. He wanted to get the job done just as he has many times for us all season long and he’s the man we all wanted on the mound.”

But the damage was done, Roger Clemens was saved from ending his career as a loser in a Yankees uniform, and “The Sandman” was waiting in the bullpen to face the Red Sox as the game moved on to extra innings.

Mariano Rivera, the eventual winning pitcher, threw three scoreless innings in the ninth, 10th and 11th. Rivera retired nine of the 11 hitters he faced. He struck out Doug Mirabelli for the final out of the 11th on a 96-mph fastball. After the game, he was named the MVP of the series.

But, it would be the little known, but soon to become well known Aaron “Bleepin” Boone, who came to bat in the bottom of the eleventh inning to work his magic. Entering the game as a pinch-runner in the eighth, he had experienced a bad series until his epic moment. He didn’t wait long either, crushing Red Sox Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield‘s first pitch in the 11th deep into the left-field stands. (See Video Below)

Later, he told the New York Daily News:

“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.”

Boone said he “felt like he was floating” when he hit the ball. “I knew right away I had hit it real good,”

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John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

With grit and determination packed solidly into his 6’1″ 180 lb frame, David Cone was born to have his shining career moment as a New York Yankee. Ever the intimidator, Cone often changed his delivery in the middle of a windup, sending a sweeping curve at the body of a right-handed hitter, and leaving him frozen in the box as the ball broke over the plate – strike three.

The Yankees signed David Cone as a hired gun in December 1995. However, in May 1996, Cone received news that he had a life-threatening aneurism in his armpit that required immediate surgery.

He followed that up by leading the American League in wins with 20 as a Yankee in 1998, losing only seven times.

Against the best judgment of doctors, the Yankees, and family, Cone was determined to come back sooner as opposed to later. The Yankees knew better and nursed him back throughout the remainder of 1996. The following year, Cone came back healthy and vigorous going 12-6 with a 2.82 ERA over 195 innings.

He followed that up by leading the American League in wins with 20 as a Yankee in 1998, losing only seven times. That same year, he started and won a World Series game, contributing six strong innings as the Yankees went on to sweep the San Diego Padres.

So by 1999, Cone was firmly implanted in a Yankees uniform, ready to claim another World Series title. At the age of 36 though, things were beginning to slow down noticeably, and he struggled through the year posting a pedestrian 12-9 record with a rise in his ERA to 3.41.

But as things turned out, there was still some magic left in his right arm. Fittingly, Cone chose the day that the Yankees honored Don Larsen and Yogi Berra, battery mates in Larsen’s 1956 Immortal World Series perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, to play out his bit of history.

The box score provided by Baseball Almanac shows that David Cone achieved perfection before a crowd 49,130 fans. It took him only 2 hours and sixteen minutes to set down the Montreal Expos, whose lineup that day included Vladimir Guerrero, striking out ten along the way. The only close call came when Paul O’Neill was forced to make a diving catch of a Wilton Guerrero fly to right.

Fifteen years later, Cone would recall his feelings that day telling the New York Post:

“Once you get through five clean innings, the thoughts start to creep in,” Cone said. “After the sixth inning, it was like, ‘Oh, boy.’ ”

There were conflicting voices singing inside Cone’s head.

“It was a sports psychiatrist’s kind of a Class 101 — it was negative thoughts and positive thoughts going both ways,” Cone said. “It was, ‘You can do this,’ and the other part was, ‘Don’t blow it.’ So it was a constant battle of, ‘Don’t get too far ahead of yourself — you still have to win the game, you still have a few more innings to go,’ but with each out and each inning, that anxiety kinda grew.”

He threw only 88 pitches that day, never reaching a ball three count on any batter. Can you be more perfect than that? Here’s the video of all 27 outs and the celebration that followed courtesy of MLB:

Today, David Cone remains visible in the Yankees organization as an analyst on the Yankees YES network. Often teamed with Paul O’Neill (but not often enough), they offer pitcher versus batter analysis that is unparalleled in the broadcasting industry.

In virtually every World Series, there always seems to be a player who rises to the moment, carrying his team to victory. Typically, he is not the player who is paid $25 million to win a batting title or hit clutch home runs and drive in a hundred or more runs.

He is, for instance, Pablo Sandoval, who took home the MVP trophy following the San Francisco Giants‘ sweep of Detroit, hitting .500 with three home runs, a double and four RBIs in 16 Series at-bats in 2012.

Scott Brosius came to the plate 17 times in the 1998 Series. He collected eight hits, two of them home runs, driving in six runs, and batting .471 in just four games. For that, he was unanimously named the Most Valuable Player.

Or. as we witnessed in the 2016 World Series, it was Ben Zobrist who, on a two-strike count,  hit a double inside third base that scored pinch runner Albert Almora Jr. with the decisive run in an 8-7 victory that gave the Cubs their first World Series championship since 1908.

In 1998, the Yankees had Scott Brosius batting sixth in a lineup in which you can almost see the opposing dugout breathing a sigh of relief as he came to the plate because they knew that if they could get past him, chances were good no further damage would be done by the bottom of the order.

Scott Brosius came to the plate 17 times in the 1998 Series. He collected eight hits, two of them home runs, driving in six runs, and batting .471 in just four games. For that, he was unanimously named the Most Valuable Player.

Brosius came to the Yankees as a free agent signing the winter before the 1998 season following six years with the Oakland Athletics. He was signed on November 23rd for a salary of $2,650,000.

Steady and reliable, he manned third base for the Yankees playing in 152 games. Offensively, he contributed 19 home runs,  98 RBI, a .300 BA, and a .371 on-base percentage during the regular season.

Not surprisingly, Scott Brosius has fond memories of that year, and especially, of course, of the World Series in 1998, saying during a visit to the Baseball Of Fame:

“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.”

Brosius added two more World Series rings to his trophy case in 1999 and 2000 in the first ever Subway Series against the New York Mets.

When asked by the Hall Of Fame to donate two of the bats he used in the ’98 World Series, Brosius didn’t hesitate to say:

“I know some guys are a little hesitant to give away their stuff,” Brosius said, “but when you guys came and asked me for these bats, I just said, ‘Are you kidding me? Yes!’ Anything I can do to get in this place, I will.”

Today, Scott Brosius can be found leading a quiet life in Oregon with his family. He was a coach for a while following retirement, completing his final season of coaching baseball at Linfield College in McMinville, Ore., in 2015,  where he led his alma mater to three straight appearances in the Division III NCAA Tournament and its first national championship in 2013.

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

On the day following Derek Jeter’s heroics, the New York Times opened its story aptly, in this way:

“He almost started crying as he drove himself to Yankee Stadium in the afternoon. He had to turn away from his teammates before the game when they presented him with gifts, so overcome was he by the emotion. In the first inning, he said, he barely knew what was happening, and later, in the top of the ninth, his eyes welled with tears to the point that he worried that he might break down in front of the crowd of 48,613.

But when the time came for Derek Jeter to get a game-winning hit, to add another signature moment to a long list of achievements over his 20-year career, he knew exactly what to do, and seemingly no one doubted that he would.”

Yes, everyone knew he would do it. With that inside out swing, perfected over twenty years in a Yankees uniform, it wasn’t much to look at. A lazy blooper just over the right side of the infield, but just enough to do what Derek Jeter had been doing in every one of those prior years, as the heart of the team and driving in a winning run, just as he had so many times before.

And in the days just before this one, Jeter had taken a stroll down River Avenue just outside the Stadium, greeting surprised fans and enjoying the sounds of the overhead el train as it screeched to a halt at one of the most famous addresses in all of baseball. Along the way, he made a stop at Stan’s Sports Bar just across the street from Yankee Stadium.

A surprised bartender greeted him with, “Well, how come it took you so long?” Typically, Jeter deadpanned: “You never invited me.”

And that’s the way it always was with Derek Jeter. A cut above, separated from the rest, and yet always knowing the right thing to say, the right way to act, the right way to be a New York Yankee.

And it wasn’t by chance that he would develop a relationship with his manager, Joe Torre, that led him to always refer to the man as “Mr. Torre”.

And it was no accident that every time Jeter emerged from the clubhouse to take the field; he would always reach up to touch the plaque that reads, “I just want to thank the good Lord for making me a New York Yankee,” words uttered by Joe DiMaggio.

Twenty years, before ending it all with the most hits ever by a Yankee, and five World Championships to his credit, Jeter walked away from the game, having played all of his games at one position and one team. And how many times did we find ourselves saying, “You can’t make this stuff up, he’s done it again.”

And even when the heroics weren’t supposed to happen, they did. As when a twelve-year-old in the right field stands reached down and grabbed a sure out from the outstretched glove of Tony Tarasco in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, the year the Yankees would go on to win their first World Championship since 1978.

Yankees fans will flock to Cooperstown, New York in 2020 to witness Jeter’s induction to the Baseball Hall Of Fame. He should be a unanimous selection, but these days, you never know with some of these sportswriters. He will join Mariano Rivera, who will have been inducted the previous year on a stage in front of as many as 100,000 fans who will be there to say a simple, “Thank you.”

And he will give a speech containing words that reveal nothing. He will say all the right things and will be his usual humble self. Except for the one thing, he can’t hide, and that’s the expression on his face when it hits him that this moment in time has come. With the quiet yet confident expression of a winner. Not quite like the photo, I chose that appears above, but darn close to it.

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That clip, a look back at that moment that closed the career of Mr. Jeter, the consummate New York Yankee. It’s also one that’s been viewed more than a million and a half times, and we know why.

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