End of an era for the Yankees

On November 4, 2001, just two outs away from their fourth championship in a row, the New York Yankees lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh game of a hard-fought World Series. “You saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” Yankee reliever Mike Stanton lamented after the game, “and it was taken away.”

For only the third time in baseball history, the home team won every game in the 2001 series. The Diamondbacks won the first and second games; the Yanks won Games 3, 4 and 5 (the last two after hitting game-tying homers with two outs in the ninth). And Arizona trounced the Bombers 15-2 in the sixth game. In the series’ final game, no one scored at all until the sixth inning, when a Steve Finley single and an RBI double put the Diamondbacks up by one. New York tied it in the seventh and, in the eighth, Alfonso Soriano—the youngest Yankee—knocked the tie-breaking run out of the park. And in the ninth, the Yanks had Mariano Rivera, the best closer in baseball, who’d retired the side the inning before (and who, incidentally, was pitching for his 24th-straight postseason save). The Bombers gathered at the edge of the dugout, waiting to celebrate their fourth-straight championship.

But the Diamondbacks weren’t ready to give up yet. Mark Grace hit a leadoff single; then Damian Miller hit a sacrifice bunt. Rivera tried to catch Grace’s pinch runner at second, but his throw sailed wildly past the base and into center field. Then Jay Bell bunted, forcing an out at third. Tony Womack tied the game with a double to right; Craig Counsell loaded the bases; and Luis Gonzalez stepped to the plate. The infield had moved in toward home to prevent Bell from scoring, and so there was no way anyone could snag the easy bloop that Gonzalez plopped gently into left field. The Diamondbacks—a four-year-old team from a state that was younger than the Yankees—had won their first World Series. They were the youngest championship team ever.

“We went through sports’ greatest dynasty to win our first World Series,” Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling told reporters after the game. “They have represented baseball to the Nth degree, and to win it against them makes it even more special.”

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