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Birthday Baseball (An Occasional Series): Game 20 – July 12, 1997

By now our readers know the story… I am looking back to see how the Yankees performed on my birthday each year since I’ve been born and then telling the story of what took place on that summer day.

As always, whenever I do research like this, my first two stops are always Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference.

Let’s head back to 1997…

***

On Saturday, July 12, 1997, the Yankees were at home hosting the Detroit Tigers. This was a mid-afternoon game, one that began at 4:05 p.m.

The Tigers entered the contest with a 41-46 record.

The Yankees were 50-37.

This match-up for pit Felipe Lira (5-5) for the Tigers against the Yankees’ David Cone (8-4).

***

The Tigers sent the following line-up to face the Yankees:

Brian Hunter – cf

Bobby Higginson – lf

Travis Fryman – 3b

Tony Clark – 1b

Bob Hamelin – dh

Melvin Nieves – rf

Raul Casanova – c

Damion Easley – 2b

Deivi Cruz – ss

The Yankees countered with the following

Derek Jeter – ss

Luis Sojo – 2b

Bernie Williams – cf

Tino Martinez – 1b

Paul O’Neill – rf

Charlie Hayes – 3b

Wade Boggs – dh

Mark Whiten – lf

Joe Girardi – c

***

David Cone made easy work of the Tigers in the top of the first inning, retiring them in order and recording one strikeout (Brian Hunter).

In their half of the first, Bernie Williams had a two-out single, but the Yankees also failed to score.

David Cone then retired the Tigers in order again in the second inning. In that frame he struck out Bob Hamelin and Melvin Nieves.

The Yankees responded by also going down in order.

For the third, David Cone faced but three batters: a Raul Casanova ground out, a Damion Easley single (he was then caught stealing), and a Deivi Cruz strikeout.

In their half of the third, the Yankees did all sorts of things except score. Mark Whiten walked. He was thrown out trying to steal. Joe Girardi then singled. Derek Jeter flew out. Luis Sojo singled. A wild pitch put runners on second and third…but Bernie Williams bounced out to the pitcher ending the frame.

David Cone gave up a lead-off single to Brian Hunter to start the fourth, but a double play and a fly out kept the number of batters faced, again to only three. Cone was making easy work of the guys from Detroit.

The Yankees finally got things going in the bottom of the fourth. Paul O’Neill singled and then was successful in his attempt to steal second base. Charlie Hayes then singled him in putting the Yankees up 1-0. Then, they decided to waste another chance. Charlie Hayes was thrown out stealing. Wade Boggs then singled. Mark Whiten doubled. Joe Girardi then struck out. One run on four hits, just left the feeling that the Yankees were doing all in their power to not win this game.

David Cone struck out the side in the top of the fifth, but in between all those swings and misses, Bob Hamelin hit a home run to tie the game at 1-1. (Was this a strange game…or what?)

In the Yankees half of the fifth, Luis Sojo singled, Tino Martinez doubled, Paul O’Neill was intentionally walked… and the Yankees still didn’t score.

David Cone then struck out Damion Easley to begin the sixth. After a Deivi Cruz ground out, Brian Hunter singled. Hunter then stole second. (It seemed that every guy who reached first decided to try to steal second.) After a Bobby Higginson walk, Travis Fryman struck out.

The Yankees went down in order. If they weren’t going to score, the better method would be doing it in this manner rather than getting everyone’s hopes up and not scoring anyway.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Tigers again did not score. David Cone did walk a batter (Bob Hamelin) and he recorded another strike out (Melvin Nieves).

The Yankees went back to their old tricks in the bottom of the seventh. Derek Jeter led off with a single. Luis Sojo sacrificed him to second. Bernie Williams was then intentionally walked before Mike Myers, a lefty, was brought out of the pen to face Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill. It didn’t go as planned…

Martinez walked.

O’Neill hit a sacrifice fly putting the Yankees up 2-1.

Then Charlie Hayes (now facing Dan Miceli) doubled, to plate another run, but Tino Martinez was out trying to score adding to the sense that the Yankees were just playing sloppy baseball on the bases. Still, it was now 3-1 Yankees.

In the 8th, Damion Easley walked to lead-off ending David Cone’s appearance. Mike Stanton came out of the pen. Orlano Miller came up (pinch hitting for Curtis Pride who was pinch hitting for Deivi Cruz). A passed ball then allowed Easley to second before Miller became the first out on a strikeout. A Brian Hunter ground out then moved Easley to third. Bobby Higginson then walked and… attempted to steal second base. On that attempt, Damion Easley scored, even though Higginson was out. The Yankees lead though was now 3-2 and it seemed like the Tigers were just as eager as the Yankees to lose this game on the base paths.

The Yankees knew they needed some insurance runs.

Wade Boggs singled. Pat Kelly pinch ran and… stole second and went to third on a throwing error. A man on third with no outs! Mark Whiten bounced to the pitcher who threw out Pat Kelly at home. Another bad job on the bases for the Yankees. Joe Girardi then grounded out, but Whiten advanced to second. Finally, someone stepped up big. That someone was Derek Jeter who doubled home Whiten. Luis Sojo tripled home Jeter. Sojo then scored on a wild pitch that just made this whole game that much more wild. Bernie Williams then singled, but Tino Martinez grounded out.

After eight innings, the Yankees led 6-2.

A four run lead in the ninth. It should have been easy. Travis Fryman walked. He moved to second on a ground out. Future Yankees coach, Phil Nevin, then pinch hit for Bob Hamelin and walked.

This convinced the Yankees to bring in Mariano Rivera.

The great closer made easy work of it all. He struck out Melvin Nieves and Raul Casanova to end the game and earn the save.

The Yankees won again!

***

In the next installment, we’ll head to Tampa Bay for the 1998 Yankees to face the Devil Rays and some late game explosions…

***

Yankees Record on July 12 (in this series – since 1968): 17-3.

(There were no games played on July 12 in 1971, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, and 1996.)

Derek Jeter on July 12 (to date): 2 for 5 (.400), 2 runs, 1 RBI, 1 SO

Mariano Rivera on July 12 (to date): .2 innings, no runs, no hits, no walks, 2 strikeouts, 1 save (0.00)

Don Mattingly on July 12 (in his career on July 12): 12 for 31 (.387), 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, SO

Graig Nettles (as a Yankee on July 12): 33 AB, 7 hits (.212), 1 run, 5 strikeouts, 4 walks. 1 RBI (I had hoped that my favorite player would have done better on my birthday.)

#BirthdayBaseball

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