Last night at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, the 2001 World Series came to a fitting close: a seventh-game, bottom-of-the-ninth, come-from-behind victory by the Arizona Diamondbacks over the mighty New York Yankees, who were seeking their fourth consecutive championship and their fifth in six years. So ended one of the most memorable seasons in many years, with a Series that is certain to rank among the best ever.
Given the twists and turns that had led up to this finale, it was only to be expected that the Diamondbacks' victory had an extra measure of improbability. They were facing Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' Mr. Automatic, who has been the most dominating closer in postseason history. Rivera is a slender man, and where he gets the power to throw as fast and hard as he does is a mystery. But what has made him invincible is not simply raw speed—though that's no small matter. His pitches swoop and dart viciously as they enter the strike zone. And as if that weren't enough, he throws what hitters call a "heavy" ball, the kind that breaks bats and results in pitifully weak squibs.
In the eighth inning last night, Rivera was unhittable, and so when the D-Backs went into the ninth trailing 2-1—how they got to that point, after a duel for the ages between Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, is a story in itself—their prospects weren't cheery. But then longtime Cubs' first baseman Mark Grace led off with a hit, and before you knew it the game was tied 2-2 with one out and the bags loaded with D-Backs. Yankee manager Joe Torre elected to play the infield in, hoping to cut off a ground ball that could allow the runner to score from third.
Torre's choice was by the book, but TV analyst Tim McCarver noted the special ...1
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