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Desert Classic In a scintillating World Series, marked by amazing comebacks, THE DIAMONDBACKS outdueled the Yankees to win their first championship

Nov. 12, 2001
Nov. 12, 2001

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Nov. 12, 2001

Desert Classic In a scintillating World Series, marked by amazing comebacks, THE DIAMONDBACKS outdueled the Yankees to win their first championship

In the seventh inning of the seventh game of the 97th World Series
a strange desert wind arose as gently as a whisper inside Bank
One Ballpark in Phoenix and quickly grew in strength. It swirled
in the hangarlike stadium, tossing to and fro flecks of umber
dust and dirt, napkins, plastic bags and other orphaned trash,
and fine droplets of rain that seemed too ethereal ever to reach
the ground. The World Series had become a supersized,
Southwestern-style snow globe, and it did so at the exact moment
on Sunday night when you wished that you could preserve the
essence of baseball like a souvenir on a shelf.

This is an article from the Nov. 12, 2001 issue Original Layout

The final game of the longest season in history still remained in
doubt and in the hands of two 20-game winners: Roger Clemens of
the New York Yankees, at 39 the oldest Game 7 starter ever, and
Curt Schilling of the Arizona Diamondbacks, pitching on three
days' rest and into his 304th inning of the season--the stuff of
long-gone eras. Each pitcher had allowed only one run. The
resolution of an entire season was nigh. The fixed beauty of the
snow-globe scene could not last.

When the dust cleared and the end did come, the game had passed
from Clemens and Schilling to New York's Mariano Rivera, the best
postseason reliever ever, and Arizona's Randy Johnson, yet
another 20-game winner, who was working 24 hours after he had
thrown 104 pitches. Narrowed to the last swing of the last
possible game, the season ended with a shocker: The Diamondbacks
beat Rivera.

This World Series reaffirmed the timelessness of baseball. It
wasn't only that Schilling and Johnson pitched with old-fashioned
heat and heart, logging dead ball era workloads and ERAs. The
games were also reminders that the sport thrives without a clock.
The life span of a game is measured not in seconds but in outs.
Three of the final four games ended stunningly with a swing of a
bat because the team with a ninth-inning lead could not get the
27th out. "Win or lose," Arizona first baseman Mark Grace said
nearly an hour after the Diamondbacks' 3-2 Game 7 win, "I'm proud
to have played in one of the greatest World Series in the history
of this great game. Someone has to tell me we just beat the New
York Yankees and Mariano Rivera, because I still don't believe
it."

Down 2-1 to Rivera, Arizona began its winning rally at a local
time of eerie numerical resonance, 9:11. The Diamondbacks scored
twice against the man who had a 0.69 career postseason ERA and
was the prime factor in the Yankees' 45-0 postseason record since
1996 in games they led after eight innings. The winning run
scored on a bases-loaded, 140-foot, broken-bat, chili-dipped
single by Luis Gonzalez. In its fourth season Arizona became only
the sixth team to win a winner-take-all World Series game on the
last swing, the first to knock out a defending champion that way.
A dynasty is toppled. It was as if a house had fallen on the
Wicked Witch of the East. "We saw the feet curl up and
disappear," Gonzalez said.

"We realize," said New York manager Joe Torre, referring to the
Yankees' run of four championships in five seasons, "how many
times we snatched it from people when they were close, so you
really have to take both sides."

Looming largest over the Series were righthander Schilling and
lefthander Johnson, the co-Series MVPs who joined the company of
Koufax and Drysdale, Spahn and Sain, and Mathewson and Marquard
among the best pitching tandems in baseball history. Schilling
and Johnson accounted for every Arizona win in the Series (4-0
with a combined 1.40 ERA) and got all but seven of the 54 Yankees
outs in Games 6 and 7 after three harrowing defeats in New York.

The Diamondbacks lost each of those three games by one run, twice
when they were one out from victory with a two-run lead. They
should have known they were in for a rude go of it in the Bronx
when, in the fourth inning of Game 3, a rat the size of a cat
parked himself in their dugout near the bat rack. "A rat on
steroids," Grace called it. A security guard removed the rodent
in a box. The Yankees won by a whisker, 2-1, with a run in the
sixth when Gonzalez let a two-out, softly sinking line drive by
Scott Brosius land in front of him in leftfield. Rivera saved the
win for Clemens with two innings of no-hit, four-strikeout
relief. When a reporter mentioned to Grace that at least Arizona
had made Rivera work hard--he threw 29 pitches--Grace cracked, "You
mean we struck out on five or six pitches, not three?"

The Series turned positively spooky the next night, Halloween
under a full moon. The Diamondbacks led Game 4 3-1 in the eighth
inning when manager Bob Brenly pulled Schilling, who was working
on three days' rest, after 88 pitches and asked his 22-year-old
righthanded closer, Byung-Hyun Kim, to get the last six outs.
Brenly, already concerned that Schilling had begun to leave his
splitter higher in the zone, received mixed signals from his ace
when he inquired about his energy level. After the game Schilling
told reporters, "I was pretty gassed, [but] I told him I had
another inning in me. He told me [I had had] enough."

The next day, though, Schilling went further when describing his
deteriorating condition, saying, "I was running on fumes. I did
think I had another inning, but I'm glad he had to make the
decision and I didn't. In the sixth and seventh inning on every
pitch--with the first hitter on base--I gave it everything I had."

Kim rewarded his manager's confidence by striking out the side in
the eighth. New York first baseman Tino Martinez, who had never
faced Kim or studied videotapes of him, watched that inning in a
video room off the clubhouse. "It helped a lot," Martinez said.
"I had a good idea of what he had." In the ninth, with
rightfielder Paul O'Neill (who had singled) on first and two
outs, Martinez crushed the first pitch he saw from Kim, a
fastball, for a game-tying homer. Brenly left Kim in the game for
2 2/3 innings and 62 pitches, long enough to serve up one more
homer, a game-winner in the 10th by Derek Jeter. "BK throws every
day he throws a lot of pitches every day," Brenly said later in
explaining why he left his reliever in the game that long. "It
wasn't really pushing him beyond what he can do."

One night later, in Game 5, Arizona returned as if by homing
device to the fateful coordinates of Game 4: ninth inning, two
outs, a Yankee (catcher Jorge Posada, who had doubled) on base, a
two-run lead, Kim pitching. Isn't the safest place in a storm the
scorched spot where lightning has already struck? This time
Brosius connected with an inviting slider from the Arizona
closer, meeting it so solidly he threw up his arms in triumph
before he had a chance to drop his bat.

How could this be? In 567 World Series games since 1903, only
once had a batter--Tom Tresh of the '64 Yankees--rescued his team
from two runs down in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out home
run. Now the Yankees had done it in consecutive games? It made no
sense. It was like finding out that the Hope Diamond has a twin.
"I couldn't speak," said Yankees reliever Mike Stanton, who
watched from the bullpen as Brosius's ball fell into the
leftfield seats. "I had to catch my breath. I really did."

From there it seemed it was only a matter of how the Yankees
would choose to finish off the Diamondbacks. Arsenic, hemlock or
lye this time? For variation's sake, they waited until the 12th
inning to employ a one-out, RBI single by rookie second baseman
Alfonso Soriano off righthander Albie Lopez as the finishing
piece of a 3-2 victory. "One time? Yeah. But twice? It's beyond
anything you could imagine," Arizona lefthander Brian Anderson
said.

Schilling had given a witty preamble to the Series in which he
dismissed mystique and aura, the intangibles often attributed to
the Yankees' way of winning, as "dancers in a nightclub." A New
York fan responded in Game 5 with a classic rejoinder in poster
form: MYSTIQUE & AURA. APPEARING NIGHTLY! "I'm starting to
wonder," Anderson said, when asked if he believed that there were
unseen forces behind the Yankees' success. "I've been watching
games a long time, and I've never come close to seeing anything
like that. You know they're a talented ball club that plays hard
for 27 outs, but...I don't know. All I know is, we need to get
out of this place. Fast."

Kim, after serving up the homer to Brosius, slumped into a crouch
at the foot of the mound, limp with anguish. When he straightened
up, he appeared on the verge of tears. Catcher Rod Barajas,
shortstop Tony Womack and Grace, who put an arm on Kim's
shoulder, administered a kind of emotional CPR. Brenly went out
to get his young pitcher this time. "I hope he's O.K. as far as
his future goes," third baseman Matt Williams said.

On the chartered plane back to Phoenix that morning, Kim dealt
with the twin defeats the way he does most everything else: He
slept. Last year his teammates sneaked off a bus to a ballpark
while Kim was sleeping, handing the bus driver cab money for Kim
for when he awoke alone at the bus depot.

Brenly professed to retain faith in Kim, though he wouldn't use
him again in the Series--not that he was needed in the
ridiculousness of Game 6. Arizona set a Series record with 22
hits in a 15-2 rout, with Johnson on the mound for seven innings
and 104 pitches. Brenly might have removed him after five innings
but said he wanted to keep Johnson in "until the game was well in
hand." The lead was 15-0 after four. Brenly presumably was
worried that New York would go to the shotgun and a hurry-up
offense. "We've ridden the big guys all year long," Gonzalez said
of Schilling and Johnson after Game 6. "Now we need to do it one
more time."

Schilling had been so sore the day after pitching Game 4 that he
wondered if he could go in Game 7, which would be his third start
in nine days. Each day between starts, however, he had a full
body massage from Russell Nua, a silver-haired, ponytailed
Hawaiian of Samoan heritage who has worked with Arizona's
42-year-old righthander, Mike Morgan, for 10 years. "Mo Man has
been pitching for 23 years and never ices his arm," Schilling
said. "That's good enough for me. After a couple of days with
Russell, I felt great."

Johnson, too, was fighting fatigue. He pitched throughout the
World Series with a corset around his midsection to alleviate the
pain from an aching back. "Just wear and tear from the season,"
he said.

When Johnson showed up for Game 7, Brenly asked him how he felt.
"I feel fine," Johnson said.

"Can you give me an inning tonight?" Brenly asked.

"Whatever you need," Johnson said.

They devised a plan. Johnson would get one inning late in the
game with plenty of warning. He watched the first three innings
from the dugout before repairing to the clubhouse for the same
stretching routine he uses before starts. After seven innings,
with Schilling and Clemens locked in their 1-1 duel, Johnson
reported to the bullpen. Just then Soriano golfed an 0-and-2
splitter from Schilling for a tiebreaking home run. "I thought
right away I had caused the bad luck," Johnson said later.

The bullpen phone rang. Bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock answered it
and shouted to Johnson, "Get ready. You've got O'Neill," who was
scheduled to bat four hitters later. "After one hitter [Johnson]
was good to go," Sherlock said. "I was amazed at how quickly he
warmed up."

Said Johnson, "That was all adrenaline."

Brenly replaced Schilling one out and one single later with
righthander Miguel Batista, who had pitched gallantly in Game 5
and who quickly retired Jeter on a grounder. That's when Brenly
signaled for Johnson to get the lefthanded-hitting O'Neill. "When
the bullpen door opened and the big guy walked out, the crowd
went nuts, and I got goose bumps all over," Sherlock said.

O'Neill didn't hit--Chuck Knoblauch pinch-hit for him--but Johnson
retired the righthanded hitter on a fly ball. Johnson pitched the
ninth inning too, getting three quick outs. He put himself in
line to become the first pitcher to win the final two games of
the World Series on consecutive days. Now all the Diamondbacks
had left to do was to solve the riddle of Rivera.

On the eve of the World Series, Dick Scott, an advance scout for
Arizona, had told the Diamondbacks in a team meeting that
lefthanded hitters would need to make adjustments against Rivera
and his wicked cut fastball, such as standing farther from the
plate and choking up. "He's the most predictable pitcher you'll
come across," Scott said on Sunday. "At the same time he's
probably the most unhittable."

The ninth inning began with Grace, choking up more than he
normally does, looking at ball one. The World Series would be
over in the next 13 pitches, only the outcome was not the one New
York had expected. Rivera threw one of his trademark cutters,
which Grace fought off into centerfield for a single. "If I
hadn't," he said of the fast-moving pitch, "it probably would
have hit me in the chest."

Catcher Damian Miller then put down a poor bunt that allowed
Rivera a play at second base. Rivera, however, threw wildly into
centerfield. "I didn't have a good grip," he said. "The ball took
off. I think that was the key to the game."

Rivera rebounded, though, by turning another bunt, this one by
pinch hitter Jay Bell, into an out at third base. Now the Yankees
were two outs from a fourth straight world championship. Rivera
never got another one. Shortstop Tony Womack tied the score by
lacing a double down the rightfield line. After that Rivera hit
second baseman Craig Counsell with a pitch, loading the bases for
Gonzalez.

Before the game Gonzalez had chanced upon Martinez in the
outfield while they were loosening their legs. Gonzalez and
Martinez attended high school and played baseball together in
Tampa. They hugged. "Whatever happens tonight," Gonzalez told
Martinez in the embrace, "this has been a dream come true for
both of us."

Now, as Gonzalez stepped to the plate, he imagined an ending to
the dream. He thought, 'This is the seventh game of the World
Series, and you've got the chance to be the hero.' In two earlier
Series at bats against Rivera, he'd struck out and grounded out
meekly, employing his usual wide-open stance in which his right
pinkie and ring finger rest on the knob of the bat. This time he
choked up "a good two inches," he said later. "It was the first
time I'd choked up all year. I told myself, Whatever you do, put
the ball in play somewhere."

Gonzalez fouled off one pitch. The next was a classic Rivera
cutter, boring toward Gonzalez's hands. He swung. The bat cracked
deeply just below the trademark. The ball floated toward
shortstop, spinning like a wedge shot. Torre had played his
infield in, trying to cut down the winning run. Jeter lunged in
vain as the ball floated over him. It landed only an inch or two
behind the dirt cutout of the infield. Bell came bounding home
with the winning run.

Said Rivera, "I made the pitches I wanted to make, and they hit
them. They beat me. They can say they beat me." It was the first
time in 52 postseason tries against Rivera that a team had pinned
a defeat on him. The wind had shifted. Arizona was the first team
in 12 postseason series to take out the Yankees. More than
anyone, O'Neill represented the end of the run. In his last game
before his retirement, he'd tried to stretch a double into a
triple in the first inning. His 38-year-old legs could not carry
him fast enough. He was thrown out.

After he took off his uniform for the final time and dressed in a
black shirt and gray slacks, O'Neill caught the eye of Nick
Johnson, a rookie first baseman who wasn't on the postseason
roster. O'Neill, famous for his white-hot, helmet-busting
intensity, smiled softly. The run was over. "Did you learn
anything?" he asked the rookie. "It's yours now. You've got to
keep it going."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY AL TIELEMANS COVER Unforgettable! THE DIAMONDBACKS STUN THE YANKEES IN A WORLD SERIES THAT HAD IT ALLCOLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BIEVER All choked up Gonzalez slid his hands up the bat and got enough of Rivera's cutter to drop it over Jeter's head and drive in the Series-winning run.COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Yankee dinger dandy Lightning struck on consecutive nights when Brosius rocked the luckless Kim with another game-tying blast.TWO COLOR PHOTOS: DAVID E. KLUTHOCOLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Wild pitcher The normally reliable Rivera's errant throw on Miller's bunt eluded Jeter and opened the way for Arizona's rally.COLOR PHOTO: JEFF TOPPING/REUTERS Role reversal Rivera was on the mound again for the clincher, but this time Bell, scoring the winning run, did the celebrating.COLOR PHOTO: JEFF TOPPING/REUTERS Forever linked Indomitable from season's start, warhorses Schilling (left) and Johnson maintained their mastery all the way to Game 7, then shared the Series MVP award and a victors' embrace.
"One time? YEAH. BUT TWICE? It's beyond anything that you could
imagine," said Anderson.
"I made the pitches I wanted to make and they hit them," Rivera
said. "They beat me. THEY CAN SAY THEY BEAT ME."
"CAN YOU GIVE ME AN INNING TONIGHT?" Brenly asked Johnson.
"Whatever you need," the Big Unit said.