What made moment #16 so great was how it was a major contribution by an unexpected source. Moments like that in the World Series always stand the test of time, and William did a brilliant job rehashing everything that went into making that moment happen yesterday. The next moment on the IIATMS Top 20 countdown is built on a similar framework- World Series, huge hit, unexpected player getting the hit, Yankees win in large part thanks to said hit. But what makes moment #15 so great, for me at least, is how it's not necessarily the one hit that stands out but the collection of little things that happened in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 2000 World Series and how they happened.
Quick resetting of the stage. It was a 2-2 game heading to the top of the 9th. The Mets had scored 2 unearned runs off Andy Pettitte in the bottom of the 2nd to take a slim lead through most of the first two-thirds of the game. The Yankees got their runs on solo homers by Bernie Williams in the top of the 2nd and Derek Jeter in the 6th to tie the game up. Pettitte had left the game by the time the 9th came around, but Mets manager Bobby Valentine had pushed all his chips in on starter Al Leiter, keeping him out on the mound with a pitch count at 141 after he put runners on base to start the inning.
So 2 on, 2 out, tie game, tiring Leiter, and in steps Luis Sojo. Like Joe Girardi in '96, he was a player known more for his defense than his bat. He had been a part of the '98 and '99 championship teams, and had been brought back midway through the 2000 season after starting the year in Pittsburgh, but I don't think that move was made with his offensive prowess in mind. If there was a player in the Yankee lineup against whom you'd take your chances with a dead tired starter and World Series elimination on the line, it was Sojo.
Leiter grooved a first-pitch fastball down the middle of the plate and Sojo, ever the heady and smart ball player, was up there hacking against the tired starter and looking to get something to hit. Here's how that played out:
Here's why this is such a great moment. It's not even that Sojo came up with a 2-out base hit that scored 2 runs and basically won the game. It's how it was such a nondescript base hit, a solid but not entirely well hit groundball that was placed perfectly between the Met middle infielders and hit just hard enough to squeeze through them into the outfield. It's how the throw coming from center field to cut down Jorge at the plate, which actually wasn't all that bad a throw considering the situation, was just far enough up the line to hit Jorge and skip off into the dugout. It's how that allowed a second run (Scott Brosius) to score, turning a manageable 1-run bottom 9th deficit into a near impossible 2-run deficit.
All of those things could have happened on other plays earlier in the game and maybe not added up to determine the final outcome, but they didn't. They could have happened at different times in any of the previous 4 games and led to different outcomes, but they didn't. They all happened on that same play. And they happened within seconds of each other, and the cumulative effect of those happenings effectively killed the Mets' chances in Game 5 and secured the World Series title for the Yanks again. Incredible.
Even the bottom of the 9th had its own notable moment, with Mike Piazza putting a scare into the hearts of Yankee fans everywhere on the final play of the game. Players and coaches were mixed in their thoughts after the game, some saying they thought the ball was gone and some saying they knew it wasn't. I'll let everybody here decide for themselves:
That sure looks like it's gone off the bat, but even over the crowd noise you can hear that he didn't get all of it. It didn't help that he hit it into the deepest part of Shea Stadium, and as Bernie settled underneath it the 3-peat celebration began. I don't remember what my reaction was at the time, but I do remember watching that series intently and I do remember celebrating when Bernie squeezed the glove on Piazza's flyout.
So while little Luis Sojo and his perfectly-placed base hit was the spark that ignited the 9th inning fireworks, it's really the sum of all those 9th inning parts that makes the base hit such a memorable moment. In a way, that inning and Game 5 as a whole was a perfect microcosm for that entire Yankee dynasty. Reliable, solid starting pitching, a deep bullpen to back it up, timely hitting from up and down the lineup, a little good luck, and Mo to lock it all down in the 9th. Not a bad formula. Sojo was a small part of that formula, but he'll always be remembered in New York for this hit.