Friday, November 6, 2009

Your official New York Yankees parade recap

The last Yankee ticker-tape parade I went to was in 1996. I was 16 years old and cannot recall a single thing about that day. Not a moment.

Instead of braving the elements for an event I'd ultimately forget about, I opted to watch this year's parade telecast on NY1.

I only chose NY1's coverage because my Time Warner cable box annoyingly resets to this NYC-centric station each time I turn on the TV. Had I thought it out, I would've watched the proceedings on YES. I'm on a big Kim Jones kick right now, which I think has a lot to do with seeing her get doused with champagne on a regular basis for a month.

Creepy but honest. That's my motto in life.

ANYWAY, River & Sunset is here to answer all of your parade-related questions. In fact, I've pulled several of those queries out of my imaginary inbox. If you have any other questions, feel free to post them in the comment section.

By the way, the Yankees won the World Series. How sweet is that?

Okay, onto the questions...

Which float was the best?

I'd probably have to give it to the Derk Jeter/Jorge Posada rig. Jeter was looking cool as always, rocking his trademark fade haircut from 1996. His sunglasses seemed to be an artifact of the Clinton Administration as well. He may have been listening to The Presidents Of The United States of America on his Discman.

It's possible.

Meanwhile, Charles Jeter, giving Billy Dee Williams a run for his money for the title of America's most debonair black man, was on the float with his better half, Dorothy. Girlfriend Minka Kelly was also on board, unknowingly risking her life with all those crazy-in-love Staten Island and Bronx chicks staring her down the whole time. All I could think was JFK in Dallas.

Which float had the highest net worth?

Had to be the CC Sabathia/Mark Teixeira float. $341 million buys a lot of toilet paper. And judging by Tex's wife, a Maryland dime piece.

Where was the best place to watch the parade?

On my couch in Brooklyn.

What is ticker-tape?

So easy. It's, like, tape...that's...tickered. You didn't know that?

Who was the biggest dork?

Alex Rodriguez, obviously.

A-Rod, fresh off his Biggest Dork Award from Wednesday's World Series trophy presentation ("Now we're gonna party!!!!"), again came strong with the dork vibe on Friday.

Traveling down the Canyon of Heroes with Jay-Z (nobody has a better life than Jay-Z), A-Rod repeatedly flashed the rapper's signature diamond hand sign. At one point, Jay-Z looked over at A-Rod gesturing to the crowd and chuckled.

I knew exactly what he was thinking.

Which float was most in need of Visine and Doritos?

The ride transporting Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher, of course. I could have sworn I saw Matthew McConaghey at one point. Jerry Hairston, Jr. was there, too, presumably to serve as the designated driver.

Which float was the weakest?

Hmmmmm...well World Series MVP Hideki Matsui got the Montreal Screw Job, partnered up with pinstripe legends Eric Hinske and Ramiro Pena. Hey organizers, was Lee Gutterman not available?

That said, the Yankees grounds crew also got their own float, which just pisses me off. Although it would be a fun drinking game to keep a camera on the crew to see how many times they tried and failed to get a 'YMCA' chant going. Hacks.

Did Michael Kay really get his own Cadillac to ride down the Canyon of Heroes?

Yes! And he got a key to the city during the City Hall proceedings, too!

Michael Kay has a Hank Steinbrenner sex tape, I'm convinced of it.

I didn't see Don Mattingly's float. Where was he?

I wish upon you swine flu crossed with SARS crossed with full-blown AIDS.

Which Yankees broadcaster most resembled a dominatrix?

I know, you're probably guessing John Sterling. But it was actually his radio partner, Suzyn Waldman.

Black, leather and hugging tight in all the wrong places. Let's just move on.

Who looked the most depressed on a float?

That would be Chien-Ming Wang, who tore every tendon in his body while waving to the crowd.

Who looked the most uncomfortable during Jay-Z's performance of 'Empire State of Mind' at City Hall?

That would be Hal Steinbrenner, whose perfectly-coiffed head appeared to be filled with racist thoughts.

Who was the best dressed?

That would be the Cisco Kid, Francisco Cervelli. A suave cream-colored suit straight out of Scarface. Melky Cabrera was rocking a pretty cool fedora, but it just made him look like a teddy bear wearing a funny hat.

Who had the most clearly made-up nicknames for Mariano Rivera?

That would be NY1's sports anchor Tom McDonald, who called Rivera both the "Ice Man" and "King of Close". This is why you're on NY1, Tom.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yankees regain their championship mojo

So many times this decade, the Yankees seemed to have a championship screenplay written only to go off-script at the exact wrong time.

There was Rivera's stunning failure in '01. Josh Beckett's coming out party in '03. The Series That Shall Not Be Named in '04. The fishy resurgence of Kenny Rogers in '06. Joba & The Midges in '07.

In each of those years, the promise of a 27th championship ultimately rang hollow. It was enough to take the wind out the sails of even the most boastful fan.

The Yankees still maintained a winning culture throughout the decade–winning more regular-season games than any team in baseball–but it was no longer a championship culture.

"Any season that doesn't end with a championship is a failure" was the Steinbrenner Doctrine during the dynasty years of '96-'01. It was a statement of intent that was as concise as it was impossible to live up to. It created a mind-set that stuck around these parts for a long time, far longer than it ever should have.

Bernie, Cone, Tino, and O'Neill were all history, but the expectations they helped create remained. It made the failures that followed all the more intense.

And then this team came along.

It began in the offseason, when Brian Cashman brought CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira on board, two players that came with a character that matched their immense skill level.

They were already established All-Stars and, yes, extremely costly, but they were also the type of players that did more than compile stats. They made their team better.

In Sabathia, the Yankees now had what they had so sorely been lacking all decade, a true ace. In Teixeira, New York now had a first baseman who could change games both with his bat and his glove.

While the Yankees performed a face-lift on their roster, Alex Rodriguez was undergoing a transformation of his own. The third baseman had hit rock bottom in spring training, buried by the tag-team of his PED admission and a tricky hip surgery.

But for the first time in his career, A-Rod showed something that he always seemed to lack previously. Guts. He homered in his first at-bat back in the lineup, didn't say anything stupid in the press, did his best to stay out of the tabloids, and then turned a solid regular season into a breakout postseason that included 18 RBI in 15 games.

The arrival of Sabathia and Teixiera, and the re-shaping of A-Rod were all key factors to the championship run. But none of it would have been possible had it not been for the continued excellence of the Old Guard. Never was that more apparent than in the clinching Game Six last night.

In the game that decided the World Series, Derek Jeter had three hits, Andy Pettitte was the winning pitcher, Mariano Rivera got the save, and Jorge Posada was the catcher for both of those pitchers.

The Core Four–as they came to be known–made the most of their opportunity to perform together at a high level this late in their careers. It speaks to the type of players they are. Four potential Hall of Famers spending almost their entire careers together.

But, just as it was during the dynasty years, it's the players who fly under the radar that tend to make the biggest impact in the games that count. Enter Hideki Matsui, a Yankee who lived through all those years of disappointment since joining the team in 2003.

Playing in what may very well be his final game in pinstripes, Matsui drove in six runs in Game Six, winning the World Series MVP award despite starting just three games in the series. Sometimes less is more.

Personally, this was my favorite Yankee team ever to follow. They were talented and likable, hard-working but also goofballs. They liked whipped cream pies, and WWE championship belts, and 300, and Creed. It was fun staying up every night to watch them, and there's certainly going to be a void in my life starting tonight.

I'm actually going to miss them.

And that's what makes baseball the greatest sport to follow. When you watch your team every day for seven months, they start to become like old friends. As dependable as the dog that lays at the foot of your TV.

Last night's celebration was the culmination of that relationship between the team and its fans. So to all those Yankees that said thank you to the fans after the game, I say this:

You're welcome. Now let's do it again next year.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Andy We Trust

The great thing about the postseason, and the World Series in particular, is that redemption is always just around the corner.

Alex Rodriguez knows all about that. He entered last month as a playoff pariah—his October failures as big a part of his identity as his three MVP awards.

It took just 14 games (and 18 RBI) to change all that.

Playoff baseball is convenient like that: It's a one-stop shop for re-shaping your legacy.

Andy Pettitte doesn't have nearly the same amount of October baggage as Rodriguez. On the surface, they would appear to be polar opposites. The left-hander will make his 40th career playoff start tonight, the most ever. He is baseball's all-time winningest postseason pitcher.

But that doesn't mean he's not after his own redemption.

Pettitte has been in this same exact position before. It was eight years ago yesterday that the then 29-year-old left-hander took the mound in a Game Six of the World Series.

The opponent that year was the Arizona Diamondbacks, and just as they are now, the Yankees led that series three-games-to-two. One victory from the title.

It was a game that would go down as among the worst of Pettitte's career.

Amid speculation that he was unknowingly tipping his pitches to Arizona hitters, Pettitte surrendered six runs on seven hits in just two innings of work. With Randy Johnson on the mound for the D-backs, Pettitte never game his team a chance.

The Yankees lost, 15-2, and went on to lose the next night as well. In the time since, it has remained the closest the Yankees have come to a championship—until now.

Being the intense competitor that Pettitte is, you know that game still sticks with him. It is the one blemish on an otherwise sterling playoff resumé.

Joe Girardi knows how badly Pettitte wants to wash the taste of that loss out of his mouth. The Yankees manager was Pettitte's teammate when the left-hander rose to prominence with the team in 1996. He knows that one less day of rest isn't going to sidetrack Pettitte's singular focus to bring home the Yankees' 27th championship.

He trusts Pettitte in a way that he will never trust A.J. Burnett. He may trust Pettitte as much as the 39-year-old reliever he hopes will follow Pettitte to close out the series tonight in the Bronx.

If you follow a player long enough, you learn what it is that makes them tick. What drives them to succeed. What causes them to fail. You can read their body language as they warm up in the bullpen, pick up a look in their eye as they stalk to the plate for a key at-bat.

As crazy as it sounds, you begin to know how they'll perform before they do.

If you've followed Andy Pettitte long enough, you like his chances of finding redemption tonight.

And that will call for a parade.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus .

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can't blame Girardi for Yanks' starter dilemma

The pitchforks and burning torches are out for Joe Girardi today, this in the wake of A.J. Burnett's epic failure in Philadelphia.

They're saying that Girardi's decision to use Burnett on short rest has set in motion a chain of events that will now bury the Yankees.

This is all about as predictable as the failure of a Michael Strahan buddy sitcom.

In a perfect world, Chien-Ming Wang was on the mound in Game Five, coming off another 19-win season and primed for postseason vindication.

Or maybe it should've been a special night for Joba Chamberlain, the prized thoroughbred grossly coddled for two years essentially for this moment.

But this isn't a perfect world.

The Yankees do not have a fourth starter. That's the truth. Injury and ineffectiveness by the above two pitchers created that predicament. And so it was that Girardi needed to find a pitcher to face Cliff Lee for Game Five, a pitcher who at would at least give his team a fighting chance against the Phillies' locked-in ace.

Popular opinion stated that the Yankees should ensure their three starters remain on normal rest, regardless of consequence in Game Five. Keeping Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and CC Sabathia in their comfort zone was essentially worth throwing in the towel on Monday against Lee.

Again, this was popular opinion. Obviously, this was same popular opinion that once made Fred Durst a millionaire.

The consensus was that Girardi should start Chad Gaudin, he of the 4.50 lifetime ERA. Chad Gaudin, who has been on six teams in seven big league seasons. Chad Gaudin, who hasn't started a game since Sept. 28.

We're talking about Chad Gaudin here. Chad Gaudin .

Here's my philosophy on World Series games, a philosophy that I figured everyone pretty much agreed with and therefore didn't need to be expressed in this forum. Not until now, anyway.

My philosophy on World Series games is as follows: I don't give them away. I never give World Series games away. Ever.

And if my team is facing the opposition's best pitcher, I need to do better than Chad Gaudin. I don't mean to be hard on Gaudin. He could be a great American. And, who knows, maybe he could've figured out a way to survive six innings against a desperate Phillies lineup.

But probably not. That's why Girardi had to turn to Burnett, coming off the biggest and most impressive start of his career. Burnett didn't get rocked last night because he was missing that extra day off. He got rocked because he's an inconsistent pitcher who is prone to gawd-awful starts. Sadly, this was basically par for the course for him.

Again, that's not Girardi's fault either. He didn't pay Burnett $82.5 million to be the Yanks' secondary ace. He can only put him out there and hope he can perform in commensurate with his paycheck.

Obviously, Burnett came up woefully short in that regard. Don't blame Girardi for that. He's just playing the hand he was dealt.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus .

Monday, November 2, 2009

Live blogging Game 5 of the World Series

The Yankees are just one win from their first World Series title since 2000. This calls for a live blog, no?

7:37 p.m. -- Coming to you live from the Brooklyn headquarters of River & Sunset, we begin our blog just in time for a Derek Jeter fluff piece on FOX. No word if Tim McCarver tried to destroy the master tapes prior to the telecast.

7:40 p.m. -- The FOX pregame team of Mark Grace (known idiot), Eric Karros (freakish forehead), Ozzie Guillen (completely unintelligible) and the Best Damn Sports Show Guy (hopelessly insecure) all pick against the Yankees tonight. Hmmm....

7:45 p.m. -- Anybody else notice how quickly DirectTV replaced the Chris Farley/David Spade spot with the Kim Basinger/Dana Carvey one? I guess having 408 stories in the press painting the company as disrespectful and Spade as a scumbag sellout will do that.

7:48 p.m. -- Was unaware Alanis Morissette was a Phillies fan. Scarlett Johansson must be a Yankees backer. (That was a People magazine-like inside joke. I apologize.)

7:53 p.m. -- Great stat graphic by FOX there showing how the Yankees have reached the doorstep of the title with essentially four pitchers. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett (7-1, 2.80 ERA, 76 K, 27 BB, 13 starts) and Mariano Rivera (5/5 saves, 1 ER over 11 games).

7:58 p.m. -- Just cut to a shot of an extremely loose Yankees dugout, which included an exuberant, as in wildly jumping up-and-down, Melky Cabrera. Should be noted that Melky tore a hamstring yesterday and has been taken off the roster. Weird.

8:03 p.m. -- Johnny Damon flares a single to center off Cliff Lee for the first Yankees hit. Doesn't it seem like the Yanks have had a lot of those this series?

8:09 p.m. -- A-Rod's making his hits count in this World Series, huh? His double in the right-field corner scores Damon all the way from first and the Yankees draw first blood. I have a good feeling about tonight.

8:10 p.m. -- Perhaps it's just jitters, but perhaps not. Cliff Lee doesn't look anything like the same guy from Game One.

8:11 p.m. -- Robbie Cano does what Robbie Cano does, which is fly out with runners in scoring position. Ugh. All in all a great first half inning. Lee had to work (20 pitches) and the Yanks are on the board.

8:14 p.m. -- Mike Francesa was unlistenable today with all his pontifications about why Burnett shouldn't be starting tonight, essentially stating that this was a give-away game for the Yankees. He is wrong, and Girardi is right. Whatever Burnett (or Pettitte, for that matter) are missing in rest is made up for in adrenaline. These boys are pumped up.

8:16 p.m. -- Shane Victorino squares to bunt with Rollins on first and gets drilled on the right hand. I'm sure A-Rod feels terrible.

8:19 p.m. -- Uh oh. We may have gotten Evil A.J. tonight. Chase Utley unloads on a first-pitch fastball and suddenly it's 3-1. It didn't take long for me to remember how much I dislike Burnett.

8:25 p.m. -- For the record, Utley now has four homers and seven RBI in the World Series. That's Ruthian.

8:26 p.m. -- Man, Mark Teixeira is an amazing defensive player. He bails out Burnett by robbing Raul Ibanez with a beautiful backhanded dive. Still one out to go in the first.

8:35 p.m. -- The bottom of the Yankees lineup is positively Nats-esque tonight. Going to be a lot of outs among the Gardner/Molina/Burnett troika.

8:36 p.m. -- I'd be surprised if Victorino remains in this game. How could he not have broken a finger there? He looked extremely uncomfortable in the outfield before the inning started. Meanwhile, Burnett is blown away by Lee and we're off to the bottom of the second.

8:46 p.m. -- Good bounce back inning by Burnett, working around a two-out walk to Rollins. Victorino was in serious pain after making contact on his inning-ending pop-up.

8:50 p.m. -- The top of the lineup has a huge task ahead of them tonight. There won't be any help coming from the bottom of the order, at least until Jorge Posada enters the game. The big boys need to step up. Tex, I'm looking at you.

8:56 p.m. -- Teixeira down to .063 in the World Series. This is a problem. Meanwhile, A-Rod skies out to center and Lee appears to be settling in.

8:58 p.m. -- I will not be seeing to the John Cusack end-of-the-world film. I will not watch any episodes of Bones. Or House. I will not be taking part in The Simpsons scavenger hunt.

9:04 p.m. -- A good throw there and Utley is out by a foot at second. Mr. Molina, you're not in the game for your offense, you know.

9:06 p.m. -- I'm going to go on the record and say I have a bad feeling about this inning.

9:12 p.m. -- Back-to-back RBI singles by Jayson Werth and Ibanez and Burnett is history. All it took was three days to be reminded what a bust Burnett has been in New York. He's either great or awful and there's no in between. That's not the trait of a top tier pitcher, which Burnett is paid to be. Anyway, Phillies busting it open at 5-1 and Joe Buck just wet himself with glee.

9:22 p.m. -- Good job by David Robertson minimizing the damage, but it's a 6-1 game with the best pitcher of the postseason on the mound for a Phillies. The odds, as they say, are not with your New York Yankees right now.

9:25 p.m. -- Back to Burnett for a second. Everyone–including the aforementioned Mike Francesa–is going to pile on Girardi for starting Burnett on short rest tonight, but they'll be wrong to. Burnett didn't get rocked because he was missing that extra day off, he got rocked because he's an inconsistent pitcher who is prone to gawd-awful starts. Sadly, this was basically par for the course for him.

9:27 p.m. -- Again, Joe Buck is positively ecstatic with how things are going tonight. Must. Fight. Urge. To. Murder.

9:28 p.m. -- Robbie Cano now 2-for-17 this World Series. He had 204 hits in the regular season. Don't worry: he'll resume hitting in April once the pressure is off.

9:30 p.m. -- I'm not going to buy cars being hawked by Howie Long.

9:37 p.m. -- Burnett said his Game Two start "was the most fun time he's had on a baseball field." Using that logic, we now got to see him have the least fun right? At least we get some history!

9:41 p.m. -- The redheaded guy with the beard from the Fios cable spot is in, like, 300 commercials right now.

9:43 p.m. -- Good news for people who like watching Major Leaguers that can actually hit. You have seen the last of Jose Molina this season. Posada pinch-hits, taking over the No. 8 spot in the lineup.

9:48 p.m. -- Good baserunning by Eric Hinske, who scores from third on Damon's roller to first. Ryan Howard looked genuinely confused there.

9:50 p.m. -- Teixeira continues gagging his way through the World Series, and the Yanks settle for one run. It's 6-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Tex now batting .059 against the Phils. Awesome.

9:55 p.m. -- Gritty, gutty Brett Gardner makes a beautiful running catch on a Werth drive and then nearly obliterates his soul against the left-center-field wall. Joe Buck, meanwhile, is annoying amused by Werth jogging around the bases after the putout. Joe Buck must be destroyed.

10:00 p.m. -- Cliff Lee is 41-0 when given a five-run lead, the numbers guys at FOX note. This seems like a good, meaningful stat until you realize that every pitcher has an incredible record when staked to a five-run lead.

10:06 p.m. -- Tough spot for Gardner here, asked to be productive after sitting on the bench for a month. But the guy is consistently overmatched by good pitching. The Yanks only have nine outs left.

10:12 p.m. -- Oh, Charlie Manuel, you don't know what Cole Hamels meant when he said he just wanted the season to be over? I'll tell you what it means: He's a bitch.

10:17 p.m. -- I'll tell you what: I made it through the first 23 seasons of American Idol without watching, I think I'm going to keep my iron man streak going strong in '10.

10:22 p.m. -- Zero hits from the bottom third of the Yankees lineup tonight. Expected, but still depressing.

10:24 p.m. -- Meanwhile, apparently unaware of the perilous situation their team remains in, Phillies fans chant "Yankees Suck". Really though?

10:30 p.m. -- FOX showing highlights of the 1950 World Series. Imagine a time when there was no center-field camera for pitch-by-pitch coverage? And what was with all those random crowd cutaways of men and women in formal wear rising to their feet to cheer? Always found that odd.

10:34 p.m. -- Utley just tied Reggie Jackson for most homers in a World Series, icing the game with a solo shot off Phil Coke. 7-2. He now has five through five games. Somebody needs to back that dude off the freaking plate.

10:35 p.m. -- Ryan Howard makes some history of his own, tying a World Series record with his 12th strikeout. Willie Wilson fanned a dozen times in the 1980 Fall Classic.

10:41 p.m. -- Ibanez tees off on Coke and it's 8-2. I'm not certain Coke has a place on this team next year. Just not a very high talent level there. Anyway, he's done throwing BP and Girardi brings on former stud Phil Hughes. This has been an ugly night for the Yankees.

10:43 p.m. -- In the Silver Lining Dept., perhaps Hughes can still be salvaged for Game Six (or Seven) if he can use this outing to build some confidence.

10:50 p.m. -- We have a Mark Teixeira sighting. Tex doubles to left and the Yankees are on the verge of knocking Lee out of the game. A-Rod can at least make this interesting.

10:53 p.m. -- A-Rod ropes a two-run double off Ibanez's glove and it's 8-4. And now we send a special FU to Phil Coke for his hatchet-job last inning. Lee is done and the Yankees have a sliver of life. Remember, the Phillies have no discernible closer. I don't count the corpse of Brad Lidge.

10:57 p.m. -- Joe Buck sounds nervous.

10:59 p.m. -- Free ice cream sandwich to everyone reading if Cano gets a hit here.

11:01 p.m. -- It's so clear to me that Cano never wants any part of the moment, but I'll take the weak sacrifice fly. Smart baserunning by A-Rod, terrible throw by the defensive replacement Francisco in center. 8-5.

11:10 p.m. -- Good work by Hughes there, holding the Phillies scoreless and at least giving the Yankees a chance in the ninth. Like I said earlier, Hughes had a chance to get his 2009 season off the respirator tonight and he did it. It remains to be seen if Girardi has the gonads to bring him in a big spot in the Bronx, though.

11:13 p.m. -- Manuel turns to Ryan Madson (and not Lidge) in the ninth. Can't say I blame him.

11:15 p.m. -- Posada rips a double off the top of the wall in right-center and the Yankees have a great start to the ninth. Now Matsui off the bench.

11:17 p.m. -- Matsui sharply singles to left and Derek Jeter comes to the plate with no outs representing the tying run. I'll say it again: the Yankees are going to miss Matsui. Godzilla has ice water in his veins.

11:21 p.m. -- Devastating 6-4-3 DP there by Jeter. Posada scores to make it 8-6, but now the bases are empty with two outs. That one hurts. It's up to Damon.

11:27 p.m. -- Damon keeps it alive with a single, but Teixeira strikes out to end it. Too many Ks for Tex this postseason. The Phillies live to fight another day, while Girardi gets to hear for two straight days what a fool he is. Great.

11:29 p.m. -- Very odd to see A-Rod stranded at the on-deck circle there. As the old saying goes, it always comes down to A-Rod, and you got the feeling he was going to get his shot there.

Oh well. Andy will take care of business on Wednesday. Andy will take care of business on Wednesday. Andy will take care of business on Wednesday. Andy will take care of business on Wednesday ...

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Damon enters other side of Yankees folklore

Every Yankees championship season in recent memory has had a signature moment that defined that particular postseason run.

Let's take a look back, shall we?

1996: The One With Jim Leyritz (World Series, Game Four)

The Yanks were down two-games-to-one against the defending world champion Braves and trailing by three runs in the eighth when Leyritz stepped into the box with two on against closer Mark Wohlers.

That's when Wohlers made the Wohlers-like error of going away from his dominating fastball, and Leyritz made him pay by hammering a hanging slider over the left-field wall to tie the game. The Yankees went on to win in 10 innings.

The Leyritz blast became known as the turning point of the series.

1998: The One With Tino Martinez (World Series, Game One)

The Yankees were an unstoppable juggernaut in '98, having won 114 games during the regular season. Nobody told the Padres that, however, who went into the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium with a three-run lead.

Chuck Knoblauch tied the game with a three-run homer, however, and Martinez would eventually come up with the bases loaded and two outs against veteran Mark Langston. After home-plate umpire Rich Garcia appeared to miss an apparent called strike three (see, the umps always sucked!), Tino launched a full-count fastball into the upper deck for a grand slam.

The homer restored order for the Yanks, who went on to sweep the series and enter the pantheon of all-time great teams.

1999: The One With Chad Curtis (World Series, Game Three)

In the business-like '99 season, the Yankees cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs and were up two-games-to-none on the Braves.

Curtis' walk-off solo shot off off Mike Remlinger in the 10th buried Atlanta's hopes of getting back into the series and secured the Yankees' designation as Team Of The Decade...whatever that means.

The homer also confirmed that Jesus did indeed love Chad Curtis.

2000: The One With Paul O'Neill (World Series, Game One)

The 2000 team was running on fumes as it reached the postseason, and so was O'Neill, his body betraying him near the end of a great career.

The Yankees trailed the Mets by a run entering the ninth inning when O'Neill led off against closer Armando Benetiz. O'Neill fell behind in the count, but battled back before working a walk in a 10-pitch at-bat.

This sparked a Yankees rally and O'Neill went on to score the tying run. The Yanks won the game in 12 innings. Mets fans cried. It was a good day.

And now we have The One With Johnny Damon. Sure, there were other heroes in the ninth inning that shouldn't be forgotten. Alex Rodriguez deserves much praise for the the clutch two-out double that drove Damon in, and Jorge Posada's two-run single effectively ended the game.

But if the Yanks do indeed close out the Phillies, it will be Damon's at-bat and ensuing trip around the basepaths that will be remembered as the signature moment of this World Series. It was a brilliant display of pure baseball, the nine-pitch at-bat, the sharp opposite-field single, the stolen base, and then a second steal on the same play.

I mean, have you ever seen that? And Damon pulled it off in a World Series game? It was astonishing.

This all was too much for poor, embattled Brad Lidge to take. Afraid to allow the tying run to score on a wild pitch, the basketcase closer abandoned the slider (his signature out-pitch), hitting Mark Teixeira in the shoulder with a fastball and then pumping two more in to A-Rod, the second of which was laced against the wall in left.

Prior to last night, Damon's most prominent place in Yankee folklore was not what he did for the team but what he did against it, hitting the grand slam that sealed New York's fate in the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox. He's come full-circle now, earning "True Yankee" status, to steal a line from The Boss.

The Yankees have consistently shown throughout this special year that they rise to the occassion when challenged. The big hits, the great pitching, each of those walk-offs. It's all been indicitive of something bigger.

Damon led the charge this time, providing the latest example that this team looks every bit a champion.

Dan Hanzus can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.