Ten Greatest Yankees Games Ever-A Very Subjective List-Part Two 1976 through Today
The remaining five games in my highly subjective list of the ten greatest games ever all occurred in my lifetime. Unfortunately, I was not at able to attend any of these games in person.
6. October 14, 1976-The 1976 was the first postseason I watched closely. As an eight year old Yankees fan who had never seen the Yankees in the playoffs or World Series before, this great ALCS between the Yankees and the Royals made tremendous impact on me. Those Royals teams were very good, led by George Brett, Hal McRae, Amos Otis and several other excellent players of the era. In 1976 the two evenly matched teams were tied at six in after eight innings of the decisive fifth game of that ALCS. The Yankees had appeared to have the game wrapped up earlier as they led 6-3 after seven innings, but then George Brett, of course, hit a three run home run in the eighth to tie the score. The Royals did not score in the top of the ninth. The Yankees cleanup hitter, Chris Chambliss was due up first in the bottom of the ninth. Chambliss smacked the first pitch from Royals reliever Mark LIttell over the wall in right. The Yankees had their first pennant since 1964. That home run, more than anything else the Yankees ever did, made me a fan for life.
7. October 18, 1977-Any final game of a World Series that the Yankees win is wonderful, but this one was special. With the Yankees leading the series three games to two over the Dodgers, Reggie Jackson had one of the best days of any hitter in World Series history, belting three home runs to help the Yankees to a 8-4 win and the championship. Reggie Jackson was one of the most polarizing players in baseball in the 1970s, and by 1977 the Yankees were by far the most contentious team around. Those three home runs probably made him even more polarizing, but for a young Yankees fan growing up across the bay from where Reggie had won his first three World Series championships, this was a very special moment that made me an even bigger fan of Reggie and the Yankees.
8. October 2, 1978-The one game playoff between the Yankees in the Red Sox in 1978 is one of the most famous games in baseball history. Today it is remembered best because of the dramatic home run that Bucky Dent hit to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning. However, there was so much more than that to the game. Ron Guidry who was wrapping up what still stands as perhaps the greatest Yankees season for a starting pitcher started for the Yankees. Guidry had already pitched 267.1 innings that season. He was not at his best, but held a Red Sox lineup whose 3-5 hitters, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk were all future Hall of Famers, to two runs in six innings. Reggie Jackson, the biggest star in the Yankees lineup, hit a home run in the eight to give the Yankees a 5-2 lead, but the Red Sox came back with two in the bottom half of the inning to make it a one run ballgame. The game came down to Yankees fireman Goose Gossage needing to get Rice and Yastrzemski, the former was the best hitter in baseball in 1978, the latter still one the best and most beloved player in Red Sox history, out with the tying and winning runs on base. Rice flew out to right and then with the season on the line, Gossage got Yaz to pop up to Graig Nettles for the final out.
9. October 23, 1996-The Yankees, as most fans know, won four World Series between 1996-2000. Picking one game from this period was surprisingly easy. Game four of the 1996 World Series was the moment when a fun postseason run by a not yet great team became the beginning of a modern baseball dynasty. Through five innings, the Yankees trailed 6-0 and seemed on the verge of falling behind the Atlanta Braves three games to one in the World Series. Then, in the top of the sixth, three Yankees singles a walk and an error by Jermaine Dye led to three Yankees runs and the game began to feel a bit more competitive, but the Braves still seemed likely to hold on and win the game. The score stayed 6-3way until the top of the eighth when Charlie Hayes, playing third base that day because 38 year old Wade Boggs had been showing his age and had not been hitting throughout the post season, singled. Daryl Strawberry followed with a single. One out later, Jim Leyritz hit a huge three run home run to left and the score was tied. The game remained tied through nine so went into extra innings. In the top of the tenth after two quick outs Tim Raines drew a walk, Derek Jeter singled and Bernie Williams was intentionally walked. This brought up the light hitting Andy Fox who had entered the game as a pinch runner for Cecil Fielder in the previous inning. Joe Torre then sent up Wade Boggs to hit for Fox. Boggs, who seemed to be on his last legs, was not the ideal pinch hitter against Braves lefty Steve Avery, but Torre went with him anyway. Boggs worked the count full and then looked at the next pitch for ball four and the Yankees were ahead 7-6. They ended up winning by a score of 8-6 and went on to win the World Series in six games.
10. October 16, 2003-Most Yankees fans remember this game because of Aaron Boone’s walk off home run in the 11th inning that put the Yankees in the World Series, but this was a great game in so many other ways as well. This was game seven of an ALCS between the Yankees and the Red Sox at a time when the rivalry was intense, and for many players and fans, personal as well. Jason Giambi hit two solo home runs to keep the game close. Jorge Posada hit a two run double in the eight after Red Sox manager Grady Little left Pedro Martinez in just a little too long. The Yankees pitching was spectacular as well. Roger Clemens was the exception and only recorded nine outs, leaving the game with the Yankees trailing 4-0 in the top of the fourth. Mike Mussina then bailed Clemens out, allowing only two baserunners over the next three innings. Felix Heredia, Jeff Nelson and David Wells then held the Sox to only one run over the next two innings. After Posada’s double tied up the score, Torre then brought in Mariano Rivera. Rivera then turned in what was probably his greatest postseason performance, pitching the final three innings while striking out three and allowing only two baserunners. That pitching made Boone’s great moment possible. This game featured a walk off home run in game seven of the ALCS against the Red Sox, five almost perfect innings of relief by two future Hall of Famers and the Yankees fighting back from a 5-0 deficit. We won’t talk about the World Series that followed or the ALCS next year.