If George Steinbrenner grew impatient waiting for the New York Yankees to return to the playoffs after their World Series loss in 1981, imagine how a kid from Connecticut who grew up during the 1980s and didn't get to see his favorite team make the playoffs until 1995 must have felt.
Before the Yankees became an October fixture, they had stars but no pitching, and managers who were hired one day and fired the next. The Mets owned New York while the Yankees struggled to draw fans to the Bronx.
That all changed in 1995 when the Yankees made the playoffs for the first time since their World Series appearance in 1981. Though they would change managers after that season (Buck Showalter to Joe Torre), a dynasty was born.
With that said, here are the New York Yankees' top 10 postseason moments since 1995:
October 4, 1995 - ALDS, Game 2: Don Mattingly played his entire career in New York and didn't make the playoffs until his 14th season in pinstripes. The night before, when the Yankees opened their series with Seattle, Mattingly took the field for pregame warmups and the crowd went wild. In Game 2, Mattingly's sixth-inning home run put the Yankees ahead by one, and it nearly brought the house down. Jim Leyritz hit a two-run homer in the 15th inning to win it for New York. The Yankees took a 2-0 series lead but lost the series in five games.
1996 World Series: So many highlights to choose from. After dropping the first two games in New York, the Yankees won Game 3 but trailed 6-3 in the eighth inning of Game 4. Facing Braves closer Mark Wohlers, Jim Leyritz hit a three-run homer that tied the score. The Yankees scored twice in the 10th to win it.
One night later, Andy Pettitte pitched a gem -- 8 1/3 innings of shutout baseball -- as the Yankees won 1-0. There was Paul O'Neill's remarkable running catch in Game 5, Joe Girardi's triple in Game 6, and, of course, Charlie Hayes' catch in foul territory to end Game 6 and give the Yankees their first title since 1978.
October 17, 1998 - World Series, Game 1: There has to be one moment from the 1998 postseason included on this list because this was the best Yankees team that I've seen in my lifetime. Still, nothing comes easy in October, and though the Yankees would end up losing just two games in the postseason, things could have turned out much differently had it not been for one swing of the bat. In Game 1 of the World Series, facing a Padres team that no one believed could win, the Yankees found themselves trailing by three runs in the seventh against San Diego ace Kevin Brown. New York would end up tying the score that inning. Then, Tino Martinez hit a grand slam off Mark Langston after a controversial ball call on a 2-2 pitch, giving the Yankees a 9-5 lead. New York swept the series.
Subway Series, 2000: When the Mets were good in the '80s, the Yankees didn't make the playoffs. When the Yankees began their run in 1995, the Mets were going through some tough times. Though the Yankees were clearly the favorite, both teams put together memorable October runs in 2000, and they met for the first Subway Series in New York since 1956.
Game 1, which ended with Jose Vizcaino's two-out single in the 12th inning, took nearly five hours to play. Game 2 featured another incident between Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza. Earlier that year, Clemens drilled Piazza in the head with a fastball. In the World Series, Clemens flung a piece of Piazza's bat right back at the catcher. The Yankees won that game, lost Game 3, and then won Game 4. In the ninth inning of Game 5, Piazza stepped to the plate with one man on, two outs, and his team trailing by two runs. Facing Mariano Rivera, Piazza drilled a ball to center field (one that I initially thought was a home run) that landed in Bernie Williams' glove. The Yankees won their third consecutive title.
October 13, 2001 - ALDS, Game 3: The guy who has had the perfect career made the perfect play -- and it saved the season. After two wins in New York, the A's needed just one more to win the series. Here's what happened: Up a run in the seventh, Terrence Long hit a ball into the right field corner. Jeremy Giambi raced around third base as Shane Spencer threw the ball in. The ball went over the head of Tino Martinez, but somehow Derek Jeter was in perfect position to scoop the ball up as he ran toward the first base line. With his momentum taking him into foul territory, he backhanded the ball to Jorge Posada, who tagged Giambi to get the out. The Yankees won the game 1-0 and took the series in five games.
October 31, 2001 - World Series, Game 4: It was the feel-good story of the 2001 postseason. Though Arizona had other plans, the Yankees appeared destined to win the World Series following the September 11 attacks that shocked the city and country. Down 2-1 in the series and trailing 3-1 in the ninth inning of Game 4, Tino Martinez hit a two-run home run to tie the game. In the 10th, when the clock struck midnight and October became November, Derek Jeter hit a game-winning homer. The next night, the Yankees again trailed in the ninth, but Scott Brosius hit a game-tying homer, and Alfonso Soriano won it with a run-scoring single in the 12th. Despite heading back to Arizona with a 3-2 series lead, the Yankees lost in seven games.
October 16, 2003 - ALCS, Game 7: Aaron Boone had one big moment as a Yankee, and it came at the perfect time. In the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS, Boone pulled a Tim Wakefield pitch into the left field seats to win it for New York. The Red Sox's misery continued (at least for one more year). The Yankees went back to the World Series, where they would lose in six games to the Marlins. Before Boone's home run, the Yankees rallied against Pedro Martinez, who earlier in the series had thrown bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground during an on-the-field scuffle. Jorge Posada's two-run double in the eighth tied the score, leading to Boone's dramatics three innings later.
October 20, 2004 - ALCS, Game 7: I have to include this one because it's as surreal a moment as I've ever had as a sports fan. The Yankees led the Red Sox 3-0 in the ALCS. Boston had not won the World Series since 1918, and it could never seem to get past the Yankees. But Boston crept back into the series and eventually tied it up at three games. On this night, the Red Sox would attempt to become the first major-league team to ever bounce back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. They would do just that. I knew it was over when Johnny Damon hit a grand slam in the second inning to give Boston a 6-0 lead. The Red Sox would go on to win 10-3.
October 5, 2007 - ALDS, Game 2: I'll remember this night because for all intents and purposes it was the end of Joe Torre's run as manager of the Yankees. New York had already lost Game 1 to the Indians. Joba Chamberlain, who had burst onto the scene that year, came in to pitch the eighth inning of Game 2. Chamberlain was overcome by midges, annoying bugs that clearly rattled the Yankees' setup man. Chamberlain walked a batter and threw a couple of wild pitches that led to a run. Cleveland won it in extra innings. The midges were everywhere, but Chamberlain was front and center on the mound -- and they clearly got to him. The Yankees lost the series in four games, and Torre was gone.
November 4, 2009 - World Series, Game 6: The first championship in the new Yankee Stadium. The final game in pinstripes for Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. Andy Pettitte was the winning pitcher. Pedro Martinez took the loss. The last World Series win for George Steinbrenner. It was a memorable night in the Bronx. Matsui drove in six runs as the Yankees won their 27th title and first since 2000. Prior to that season, the Yankees spent $423.5 million to acquire CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett. In year one of those huge contracts, it was money well-spent.
Charles Costello is a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees. He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the team during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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