As we prepare for the 2012 postseason, it's time to think back to some of the greatest World Series in baseball history.
As a New York Yankees fan, I consider the 1996 Fall Classic my favorite. The Yankees came back from a 2-0 series deficit to win four straight and beat the Atlanta Braves.
Games 1, 2, and 3
Atlanta had its way with the Yankees in taking Game 1 and Game 2 by scores of 12-1 and 4-0, respectively, at Yankee Stadium. A Braves sweep or a five-game Series win looked imminent as they went to Atlanta. The Yankees had to climb back against Tom Glavine, Denny Neagle, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux. They roared back to win Game 3 5-2, thanks in part to Bernie Williams' eighth-inning two-run shot to put the game away.
Game 4 -- Series turning point
Still down 2-1 in the series, the Yankees fell behind 6-0 in Game 4 before making a tremendous comeback. They cut it to 6-3 after six innings. Charlie Hayes led off the top of the eighth with a slow roller that hugged the third base line and stayed fair. That infield hit gave me a sense of hope for a Yankees rally. Later in the inning, a booted ground ball prevented a double play and gave the Yankees an extra out. Braves closer Mark Wohlers could throw 100 miles per hour, but on a 2-2 count to pinch hitter Jim Leyritz, Wholers threw a breaking ball that hung up in the strike zone. Leyritz slapped it over the left field fence for a game-tying three-run shot. The Yankees then scored two in the 10th to win the game and tie the Series 2-2. Momentum had switched to the Yankees with Leyritz's home run.
Games 5 -- Andy Pettitte dominates
In Game 5, Yankees rookie left-hander Andy Pettitte pitched the game of his life, 8 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in 1-0 win. Cecil Fielder drove in the game's only run with a fourth-inning double. The game ended on a terrific running catch by right fielder Paul O'Neill against the wall. If that ball had fallen, two Braves would have scored and given Atlanta a 3-2 edge in the series.
Game 6 clincher
Back in New York, the Yankees scored three runs in the bottom of the third off four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux to take a 3-0 lead. The Braves scored single runs in the fourth and ninth, but Yankees closer John Wetteland got Mark Lemke to pop out to third baseman Charlie Hayes in foul ground to end the game and give the Yankees their 23rd World Series championship.
Another World Series star
Leyritz hit a dramatic Game 4 home run. Pettitte, Fielder, and O'Neill won Game 5. Wetteland won the Series MVP by saving all four wins. However, one Yankee goes unrecognized but deserves accolades. Lefty reliever Graeme Lloyd pitched in four games, including three of the four victories, winning Game 4 and earning two holds. He pitched three innings without allowing a hit. He came in to get tough left-handed hitters such as Ryan Klesko and Fred McGriff, getting the Yankees out of tough situations. He succeeded three times -- in Games 3, 4, and 6. I still say that Lloyd should have won the Series MVP.
Why this Series stands out
The 1996 World Series stands out for me mainly because my favorite American League team had gone 15 years since its last World Series appearance in 1981, and 18 years since their last win in 1978. Add the 1995 demise that they suffered at the hands of the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS and manager Joe Torre's first World Series as either player or manager, and this one stands out even more.
Other World Series may have had as much excitement or more on the field, but the 1996 World Series is my favorite of all.
Baseball Reference, 1996 World Series, baseball-reference.com
Major League Baseball, 1996 Regular Season Standings, mlb.mlb.com.
Raymond was born in Connecticut into a family spilt between the Red Sox and Yankees. Although he grew up in Florida, Raymond became a Yankees fan. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
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