By Ron Griffitts
In 2001 just six weeks after the events of 9/11 the New York Yankees 96-65 managed by Joe Torre and general manager Brain Cashman faced the Arizona Diamondbacks 92-70 managed by Bob Brenley and general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. who had been formed as an expansion team before the 1998 season along with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The Yankees were led in hitting by Derek Jeter 21 HR, .319 BA, 27 SB, 110 RS, Bernie Williams 26 HR, 94 RBI, .307 BA, 102 RS, Tino Martinez 34 HR, 113 RBI, Jorge Posada 22 HR, 95 RBI, Paul O’ Neill 21 HR, 22 SB, Chuck Knoblauch 38 SB and Alfonso Soriano 43 SB.
The pitching staff was led by Mike Mussina 17-11. Roger Clemens 20-3, Andy Pettite 15-10 with Mariano Rivera 50 SV, 2.34 ERA, Ramira Mendoza 8-4 and Mike Stanton 9-4, 2.58 ERA in the bullpen.
The Diamondbacks were led on offense by Luis Gonzales 57 HR, 142 RBI, .325 BA, 128 RS, former Red Reggie Sanders 33 HR, 90 RBI, 84 RS, Tony Womack 28 SB and Mark Grace .298 BA.
Their pitching staff was led and dominated by two of baseball’s best starters in Curt Schilling 22-6, 2.98 ERA with 294 strikeouts in 256 innings and AL Cy Young Award winner for the fourth time 6’ 10” side armed throwing lefthander Randy Johnson 21-6, 2.49 ERA and who struck out 372 batters in 249 innings.
In a seven game series Arizona needed only two wins apiece from Schilling and Johnson to win the series.
They had Byung-Hyun Kim in the bullpen with 19 SV, 2.94 ERA and Miquel Batistia 11-8.
Game one was at Bank One Field as the first World Series game ever played in Phoenix, Arizona with Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina as the starters. The Diamondbacks got to Mussina early with a solo home run by Craig Counsell in the first inning and four runs in the third and fourth innings to coast to a 9-1 win.
Luis Gonzales had a home run and Schilling pitched seven innings of three hit baseball with Mike Morgan and Greg Swindell on to the pitch the last two scoreless innings and the D-backs go up 1-0 in the series.
Game two was a battle between Andy Pettite and Randy Johnson with the Big Unit getting the best of this matchup with a three hit eleven strikeout complete game performance for a 4-0 win with a three run home run by Matt Williams off of Pettite in the seventh inning making the difference and Phoenix goes up 2-0 in the series.
The teams switched to New York to the new Yankee Stadium less than thirteen miles from 9/11 Ground Zero with President George Bush throwing out the first pitch. Roger Clemens and Brian Anderson were the starters in a close game but a run scoring single by Scott Brosius in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the winning run in a 2-1 Yankee win as Clemens and Mariano Rivera with a two inning save allowed only three hits.
Jorge Posada added a home run for the Bronx Bombers.
Game four was another tight game as the Diamondbacks led 3-1 behind seven innings of one run baseball by Curt Schilling, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning with closer Byung-Hyun Kim on to pitch.
Tino Martinez homered with Paul O’Neill aboard to tie the game and Derek Jeter homered in the bottom of the tenth to win it for New York and the Yankees tie the series up at two games apiece. This was an important win because they had won a game in which Schilling had started and pitched well.
In game five the D-Backs would again take a lead into the ninth inning this time 2-0, with the help of solo home runs by Steve Finley and Rod Barajas, and again the Yankees would score as Scott Brosius belted a two run home run with Jorge Posada on base. The game went into the twelfth inning when Alfonso Soriano singled in Chuck Knoblauch for the winning run and New York takes a 3-2 lead in the series.
Game six was back in Arizona with Randy Johnson on to pitch and he turned a seven inning outing allowing only two runs as his team rallied for eight runs in the third inning for a 15-2 win to tie the series at three games each and set up the seventh game.
Danny Bautista led the D-backs with three hits and five RBI’s.
Game seven was a classic with Curt Schilling on to pitch against Roger Clemens. The game was tied 1-1 behind Schilling until Alfonso Soriano had a solo home run off of Schilling in the eighth inning to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead with Mariano Rivera on to pitch the eighth and ninth innings.
Meanwhile in the eighth inning Miquel Batista had replaced Schilling with one out and one on and got an out before out of the bullpen came Randy Johnson who had pitched the day before into the game and got the third out.
Rivera retired the D-backs in order in the bottom of the eighth and Randy Johnson did likewise to the Yankees and the D-backs came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Rivera gave up a single to Mark Grace and Damian Miller reached base on a throwing error by the usually reliable Rivera and the D-Backs had two runners on with no outs. Tony Womack doubled to drive in a run and tie the game and two batters later Luis Gonzales singled in Jay Bell for the winning run as Arizona wins the game 3-2 and the series in one of the most exciting World Series in years.
Schilling and Randy Johnson were named co-series MVPs as Joe Torre’s World Series winning streak ended at three. The Yankees were back in 2003 while the Arizona Diamondbacks have not returned to the Fall Classic.
Statistics for this article were from Baseball-reference.com. and Wikipedia.
Baseball-reference.com and baseball-almanac.com were used for the statistics for this article.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.