Unlikely Postseason Yankees Heroes
Throughout their storied history, the New York Yankees have fielded some of the best teams in history featuring some of the game’s most legendary figures. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera — the list goes on and on. But to win 27 World Series Championships, other players have to contribute too. Little-known, lesser talents, afterthoughts during the regular season, have a habit of stepping up for the Bronx Bombers in big ways during the postseason. Maybe it’s because winning is contagious, or maybe it’s just the Yankee mystique rubbing off on them at the right. Either way, these players achieved their moment of glory in unexpected — and well-timed — ways.
• Bucky Dent: Or as any Red Sox fan would say, “Buck F—ing Dent.” The light-hitting shortstop was known for his glove and not his power, with only 40 home runs hit during a 12 year career. But in 1978, during a one-game AL East playoff against the BoSox to decide the division title, Dent came up big. Down 2-0 in the seventh, Dent nudged a ball over the Green Monster at Fenway Park for a three-run homer and a one-run lead the Yankees would not relinquish. Dent was on fire throughout the rest of the postseason, hitting an astronomical .417 against the Dodgers in the World Series and earning the distinction of World Series MVP.
• Don Larsen: The journeyman pitcher earned a career won-loss record of a subpar 81-91 and pitched for seven different teams. Known for a lack of control and a wild streak outside the ballpark, Larsen miraculously pitched a perfect game in game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. After the game, renowned sportswriter Dick Young declared in a headline, “The imperfect man pitched the perfect game.”
• Jim Leyritz: Another imperfect man who would face serious legal troubles after his career, Jim Leyritz was a career back-up catcher who bounced from team to team who had a penchant for coming up big during the playoffs. In the 1996 World Series, he came up bigger than ever with a three-run homer off Atlanta Braves closer Mark Wohlers to tie the game in the 8th inning. The homerun marked a remarkable comeback from being down 6-0 and the Yanks went on to win in extra innings. The Braves never recovered, and the Yankees took another World Series title.
• Aaron Boone: Third baseman Aaron Boone was traded to the Yankees midway through the 2003 season and never lived up to expectations. Much maligned for poor fielding and big strikeouts, Boone was unceremoniously cut from the team during the offseason after tearing a ligament in his knee during a pick-up basketball game. His one shining moment came in the 2003 ALCS against, who else the Red Sox. He jacked a homerun in the 11th inning off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 to give the Yanks a series win against their bitter archrival.
Edward Stern is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on distance learning for the Guide to Online Schools.