Can this year's MLB World Series live up to the incredible drama of 2001?

Alex Broun 21:32 22/10/2018
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Luis Gonzalez is congratulated by Curt Schilling and Craig Counsell after he hit an RBI single to win Game 7 of the 2001 World Series

Full disclosure: I’m an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. “A what?” I hear you ask.

The Diamondbacks or D-Backs for short are a Major League Baseball team based in (not surprisingly) Phoenix, Arizona.

They were granted entry to the MLB in just 1998 but three short years later they beat the mighty New York Yankees to win the 2001 World Series in one of the most enthralling Fall Classics of all time.

The seven-game thriller saw two extra-inning games and three late-inning comebacks and then there was Game 7, which in 2009 was chosen by Sports Illustrated as the Best Postseason Game of the Decade.

There were so many great characters, so many extraordinary moments, so much drama it was the sort of World Series which makes you fall in love with baseball.

And so I did, sitting on my couch in Sydney, Australia glued to every moment.

It was a tale of the rank underdogs, Arizona, up against the pride of New York, the most successful franchise in baseball history.

But it was so much more than that.

World Series co-MVPs Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers Randy Johnson (L) and Curt Schilling

2001 World Series co-MVPs Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers Randy Johnson (L) and Curt Schilling

The Yankees were going for their fourth straight World Series crown while the boys from Arizona just had to keep pinching themselves to believe they were even there.

The D-Backs were led by sportscaster turned coach Bon Brenly in his first season in charge while the Pinstripes had Hall of Famer Joe Torre in the dugout.

And poignantly the Yankees were playing for the heart and soul of their city, with the first game of the World Series starting barely six weeks after the September 11 attacks, much as the Astros were playing for strife-torn Houston last year after the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.

When sporting events follow such terrible tragedies the game becomes so much more than what is happening on the field.

It’s a coming together of the community, a gathering of souls, a defiant showing of the human spirit: at times like this a game of baseball can mean so much more.

The stars for Arizona were pitchers Randy Johnson, formerly of the Yankees, and Curt Schilling, while for New York they had their own legend, 39-year-old pitcher Roger Clemons, as well as sluggers Derek “Mr November” Jeter, David Justice and Tino Martnez.

In Game 1 in Phoenix the D-Backs laid down a marker with a 9-1 hammering, starting with now Milwaukee Brewer’s manager Craig Counsell one-out homer in the first.

Manager Bob Brenly of the Arizona Diamondbacks holds the trophy after Game 7

Manager Bob Brenly of the Arizona Diamondbacks holds the trophy after Game 7

Arizona made it 2-0 in Game 2 but then back in the Bronx, New York swept the D-Backs to make it 3-2 heading back to Phoenix.

Game 6 was another bloodbath for Arizona as they destroyed the Yankees 15-2, which until Boston defeated them 16-1 in Game 3 of the ALDS this year, was New York’s biggest ever post season loss.

It all came down to Game 7 with the Yankees bringing in Clemons while the D-Backs took a big risk opting for Schilling, who had already started two games in the series and pitched his 300th inning of the season on just two days’ rest.

The Yankees led 2-1 coming into the top of the ninth, and only smart thinking from Brenly to bring in the last night’s starter, Johnson off 104 pitches, kept it that way.

With just one inning remaining and perhaps feeling the burden of carrying their city on their shoulders, the famous pinstripes committed a trio of uncharacteristic errors.

Firstly, pitcher Mariano Rivera’s wild throw to second base on a bunt attempt by Damian Miller put runners on first and second.

Then the great Jeter himself got tangled in the legs of pinch-runner David Dellucci, who was sliding in an attempt to break up the double play.

During the next at bat, Rivera threw out Dellucci at third base, but third baseman Scott Brosius inexplicably held onto the baseball instead of throwing to first to complete the double play.

Tony Womack then hit a double down the right-field line to tie the game.

Tony Womack levelled it up at 2-2 in the ninth

Tony Womack levelled it up at 2-2 in the ninth

Torre then committed a major tactical error, again brought on by pressure, pulling the infield and outfield in as the potential winning run stood at third with fewer than two outs.

With bases loaded this then allowed Luis Gonzalez to loft a soft single over the drawn-in Jeter that barely reached the outfield grass, plating Jay Bell with the winning run.

New York’s bid for a fourth consecutive title was over and the Diamondbacks became the fastest expansion team to win a World Series. It also remains the only, major professional sports championship for the state of Arizona.

But this remarkable 2001 World Series is only one of a number of extraordinary Fall Classics over the last decade and a half, including two huge drought breakers: the Red Sox winning their first championship since 1918 in 2004 and the Cubs rallying from 3-1 down to win their first in 108 years two seasons back.

And of course who can forget last year’s drama when the Houston Astros won Game 7 at Dodgers Stadium to win their first ever World Series.

This seasons championship games will see two of the most famous teams in baseball – the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers – meet in a World Series for the first time in over a century, 1916, when the Dodgers were known as the Robins and based in Brooklyn.

Can this year’s Fall Classic live up to such exceptional heights as 2001? Knowing the game of baseball, I wouldn’t bet against it.

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