Thursday, October 20, 2005

October 20th, 1998

Yankees Play at Padres

Every fan of the truly obsessive variety, of which I am one, for better or worse, has a moment (and it’s always a moment, I think) when something clicks and you are simply hooked for life. In the past, I've referenced Larry Mahnken's of two Mel Hall home runs; in Fever Pitch Nick Hornby describes his with regards to the English football team Arsenal; and George Plimpton has even described the moment for poet Marianne Moore. I'm sure most of the sporting insane can pinpoint theirs. Today, we do mine.

Going into the third game of the 1998 World Series, things were looking good for the Yankees. They had a two games to none lead, after posting a seven-run inning to win Game One and torching Andy Ashby for seven runs (four earned) in two and two-thirds in Game Two. Game Three featured David Cone facing Sterling Hitchcock. Hitchcock had been the Padres' best starter in the playoffs, winning the NLCS MVP and came into the game with a 1.12 ERA and 3-0 record in sixteen postseason innings. If the Padres won Game Three, they would have Kevin Brown going in Game Four and a decent chance to even the series.

The game was relatively quiet through five. Scott Brosius--having a pretty good 4-for-9 World Series to that point--hit a long fly ball in the second that was tracked down by Steve Finley. The Padres had a couple of walks but Cone was throwing a no-hitter into the sixth. In the top of sixth, Cone lined a single, which started a Yankee rally that loaded the bases with just one out for Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez but Hitchcock persevered and the Yankees couldn't score a run. Evidently deciding to just do things himself, Hitchcock led off the sixth in the Friars' first hit, a clean single. He would come around to score on a Tony Gwynn single while a Paul O'Neill error and Ken Caminti sac fly gave the home team a three run lead.

Down three and with the momentum seemingly having shifted, the Yankee led off the seventh with Brosius. This is where my part of the story begins. Brosius had been having a good playoffs, hitting a combined .333 in the first two series and my Mother--who will doubtless be just thrilled I'm sharing this with the world--had developed something of a schoolgirl crush on him. This, combined with his performance in the playoffs (and an unexpectedly good regular season) had made him a favorite in our house. With the Yankees needing a boost, Brosius provided one, leading off the inning with a home run to deep left field. The Yankees would rally for another run off the Padres' bullpen, bringing them within a run.

The Padres went down in order in the seventh after Chris Gomez was thrown out stretching a single. Paul O'Neill led off the eighth with a walk against Randy Myers. Pads' manager Bruce Bochy went to his bullpen and brought on his closer, Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman had been brilliant in 1998, recording fifty-three saves in fifty-four chances with a 1.48 ERA (258 ERA+) and entered games to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." His first batter was Williams who lofted a fly ball that took Gwynn to the track in right field. He then walked
Martinez, bringing up Scott Brosius...and bringing me from a casual, if loyal, fan to the diehard I remain. Brosius worked the count and when Hoffman, whose change-up is his best pitch, threw Brosius a fastball, the third baseman launched it over the centerfield wall for a three-run home run. It also launched my family and me out of our seats and into each other's arms as we celebrated the success of my newfound all-time favorite player. Brosius rounded the bases with his arms in the air in triumph, showing me the magic that baseball could be. Mariano Rivera ended the game and the next day the Yankees would end the series.

My father and I would attend the Yankees' victory parade in the Canyon of Heroes in downtown New York, my first ever as school prevented my attending the 1996 parade (I skipped class for this one). That was a great time, and the clinching moment (a groundball to Brosius, appropriately enough) was great. But the moment that made me the baseball fan I am today, that led more or less to this blog, was Scott Brosius and his home run on this day. Thanks, Scott.

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