Picture it, The Bronx, October 2002. The Yankees had just been to 5 of the previous 6 World Series, winning 4 of them and losing the one the year before only due to an improbable 9th inning rally by the Diamondbacks. They were upgraded at firstbase with a shiny new, recently purchased mercenary in Jason Giambi who sold out the team of which he was the heart and soul with the “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” attitude of a “true winner.” He glowed on and on about the Yankees pinstripes and how magical things happen in Yankee Stadium so he was happy this time to be on the Yankees’ side during the Yankees dominant, resilient slugfest win over the Angels in a back and forth game for the ages.
The Yankees, whose previous two postseason homegames were a historic back to back nearly identical comebacks in the 2001 World Series looked poised for more episodes of Yankee October Steamroll. The Diamondbacks’ comeback was to be just a lucky bump on the road—a few broken bat singles off of Rivera that wouldn’t mean much in the greater scheme of things.
When the Angels took game 2, there was little panic. When the Yankees took a huge lead early in game 3, the Yankees were obviously on their way to taking control of the series. Then the Angels’ relentless hitters wore out the Yankees’ pitchers and their superb bullpen shut down the Yankees’ bats and the Angels took a shocking, authoritative 2-1 lead through a blistering attack of underestimated hitters and sterling no name relievers including a then unknown rookie with barely any major league experience who was only on the team thanks to a technicality.
The loss was huge. And then after that night’s loss, the next day the Yankees were in do or die mode and early in the game the Angels struck and the Yankees bled amazingly fast. Wells couldn’t stop his own hemorraging of runs and Torre was way too slow with offering a tourniquet and the game, the series, and the Yankees’ season were all done long before any one expected….
These two homeruns for three runs by the Tigers before the third inning, coupled with the Yankees going down 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 on a mere 23 pitches in their first three at bats…. here in the daylight…. in a city of fans long suffering and long excluded from the playoffs… I’m having some deja vu as we speak….