Despite the New York Yankees making the postseason for the first time in 14 years, 1995 was a year of change for the organization. After losing to the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS, manager Buck Showalter was fired and first basemen Don Mattingly retired.
With the Yankees on the brink of World Series contention, owner George Steinbrenner hired Joe Torre and, thus, a new era began in the Bronx.
The 1996 New York Yankees were a mix of veterans and young players. Andy Pettitte led the team in wins, Mariano Rivera led the team in earned run average as a setup man, and rookie Derek Jeter took home the Rookie of the Year Award.
After winning 92 games in the regular season, the Yankees beat the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles in consecutive rounds to win the American League pennant. In their way was the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves, who were led by young power hitter Chipper Jones and the best pitching rotation in the league, made up of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine.
After getting shut down by Smoltz and Maddux in Game 1 and Game 2, respectively, the Yankees faced a 2-0 series deficit as they headed to Atlanta. David Cone pitched six strong innings and Bernie Williams hit a home run in the eighth inning to cut the series to 2-1.
Game 4 was the series changer. With the Yankees down 6-3 in the eighth inning, catcher Jim Leyritz launched a three-run home run off of reliever Mark Wohlers to tie the game. The Yankees won in 10 innings, and Leyritz's home run was the momentum swing of the World Series.
The World Series shifted back to the Bronx for Game 6 with the Yankees having a chance to win it. Catcher (and now manager of the Yankees) Joe Girardi got New York on the scoreboard with a triple in the bottom of the third inning. The Yankees scored two more runs that inning and held on to win the game 3-2 and, thus, the World Series.
After struggling so much in the 1980s and early-'90s, the Yankees kick-started their late-'90s dynasty run with that World Series win. The dynasty teams had strong pitching and were always made up of blue-collar players that made the team so likable. Like the teams of the '20s, '30s, '40s, and '50s, the Yankees of the 1990s spoiled us fans.
On the other end, fans of the Atlanta Braves have to wonder about what could have been. Although they won the World Series in 1995 and made the postseason 14 out of 15 seasons from 1991 to 2005 under manager Bobby Cox, they could be seen as underachievers as they also lost four World Series during that time.
In the end, it is not exactly easy to win it all. The late-'90s Yankees were special because they did just that four times in five years.
Michael Pellegrini grew up watching the Yankee dynasty of the late 1990s.