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This was the most frightening Yankees moment I can remember… (Mike Whiteman)

This was the most frightening Yankees moment I can remember…

by Mike Whiteman

October 31, 2021

***

The most frightening Yankees moment I can remember happened twenty-five years ago.

The 1996 season was one of great redemption for the Yankees. The team had in recent years experienced the postseason drought of 1982-1993, the heartbreak of 1994, and the (very brief) return to the playoffs in 1995.

Older fans remember the Yankees’ 1996 season brought numerous encouraging plotlines in addition to the American League East title. They assumed the resilient personality of their new manager Joe Torre and proceeded to win their first AL pennant since 1981. Waiting for them in the World Series was the defending champion Atlanta Braves, who were participating in their fourth Series in five years. Anticipation and excitement were at a fever pitch.

The Yankees proceeded to fall on their face. Bigly. At Yankee Stadium.

Game One was a brutal, a 12-1 drubbing. Remember two home runs by nineteen-year-old Andruw Jones? Game Two looked better on paper, but the 4-0 loss didn’t feel nearly that close as they were utterly dominated by Greg Maddux.

The Yankees have a sense of history like no other organization. Fans and pundits love comparing the great teams in franchise history. The debacle had folks talking about 1976, the year the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds absolutely rolled them over, sweeping a Yankee team returning from another long postseason absence. Heading to Atlanta for the next three games, there was a cloud of anxiety hanging over the team. There was already speculation about how George Steinbrenner would react to being swept, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. I remember myself thinking “just win a game, don’t be swept”.

As we now know, there’s a happy ending to this story. The team staged an epic comeback, and the legends of Torre, Jeter and Rivera was born. Turns out, this was the dawn of a historic period of Yankee baseball.

On October 21, 1996, down two games to none, it sure didn’t feel that way at all.

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