Words By D. Chanda
The Yanks weren’t always the Evil Empireâ€”that was post-2000. A carefully-constructed teamâ€”not store-bought talentâ€”was the reason for the four World Series titles in the late â€˜90s, with 1998 seeing the Pinstripes at their pinnacle. One hundred twenty-five wins (including the postseason) is a record, and a glowing example of why the ’98 squad is always mentioned in the same breath as the ’27 team. Another reason? The spirit of the yesteryear Yanks was the hefty, ball-battering, booze-swindling Babe while the team ten years ago had their own Ruth reborn: David “Boomer” Wells. ALCS MVP and pitcher of a perfect gameâ€¦ while hungover.
Not to be outdone in the pitching staff was the dependable David Cone and Pettite, enigmatic Irabu and the unorthodox Cuban exile El Duque. Props to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, whose absence is still felt. Closing the show was, and still is, the lights-out Mo Rivera.
Derek Jeter may have been dating half of Hollywood, but the real stars who were money at the plate were Tino Martinez (Tinoooo!) and the old, but evergreen Paul O’Neill in right field. Power wasn’t really their thingâ€”and neither the rest of the lineupâ€”but their patience at the plate powered their RBI factory. The precocious Shane Spencer was the wildcard off the bench who managed to send one to the Bleacher Creatures whenever we needed it. Two new faces that season who were especially important was World Series MVP Scotty Brosius at 3B and my favorite, Chucky Knoblauch, then a solid second basemen when he could still throw a ball 45 feet to first (as opposed to 45 miles in the wrong direction).
The Yankees steamrolled through the Texas Rangers in the first round of the playoffs (which happened basically every year) and then eliminated the Indians, the best lineup in baseball on paper, in 6. Then came the Padres in the Series, led by the towering Kevin Brown on the mound, the record-tying Trevor Hoffman in the bullpen, steroid-pumped Ken Caminiti and the hit-machine Tony Gwynn. Swept in 4 games.
I was a fortunate nine-year-old who luckily attended Game 1, back when ticket prices at the Stadium to sit 20 rows from the field were still $100 for the World Series. They won that game 9-6 but my memory of the game is a bit soured. As I walked to the stadium, my uncle reached into his jacket breast pocket to retrieve our tickets. Next, a shook ass cop has a gun pointed at my fam. That’s New York for ya. What’s also New York though is the Yankees winning and the Chairman over the loud speaker saying he’s “top of the heap.”
So too were the Bombers in ’98.