|Dates:||October 27–November 4|
|MVP:||Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling (Arizona)|
|TV announcers:||Joe Buck and Tim McCarver|
|Radio announcers:||Jon Miller and Joe Morgan|
|Umpires:||Steve Rippley, Dana DeMuth, Dale Scott, Mark Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, Ed Rapuano|
|ALCS:||New York Yankees over Seattle Mariners (4–1)|
|NLCS:||Arizona Diamondbacks over Atlanta Braves (4–1)|
The New York Yankees entered the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks hopeful of becoming just the third team in major league history to win as many as four consecutive world championships (the 1936-1939 Yankees and the 1949-1953 Yankees previously accomplished the feat). After capturing their fourth straight A.L. East title by finishing the regular season with a record of 97-65, the Yankees advanced to the Fall Classic by edging out the Oakland Athletics in five games in the ALDS, before needing only five games to dispose of the Seattle Mariners in the American League Championship Series. New York’s playoff victories were particularly impressive when one considers the circumstances surrounding each series win. In their first round playoff matchup with Oakland, the Yankees became the first team to win the ALDS after losing the first two games at home. New York subsequently defeated in the ALCS a Seattle Mariners team that won an American League record 116 games during the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves representing the National League in the World Series in just the fourth year of their existence. The Diamondbacks initially entered the postseason as N.L. West champions, edging out San Francisco for the division title by finishing just two games ahead of the Giants, with a record of 92-70. Depending heavily on the right arm of Curt Schilling and the southpaw offerings of Randy Johnson, Arizona then defeated St. Louis in five games in the NLDS, before eliminating the favored Atlanta Braves in only five games in the National League Championship Series.
Although the Diamondbacks clearly lacked the rich tradition and history of their World Series opponents, they were a team to be taken seriously. Arizona finished third in the National League with 818 runs scored, placed fourth in the senior circuit with 208 home runs, a .267 team batting average, and a .341 team on-base percentage, and finished second only to Atlanta with a team ERA of 3.87. By contrast, the Yankees scored 14 fewer runs (804), hit five less home runs (203), compiled an identical .267 team batting average, and posted a lower team on-base percentage (.334), even though they employed the services of a designated hitter during the regular season. The only statistical edge New York held over Arizona on offense was in stolen bases (161 to 71).
Still, the Yankees seemed to have a deeper starting lineup than the Diamondbacks heading into the Fall Classic. New York’s batting order included veteran standout postseason performers Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada, as well as a newcomer to the playoff proceedings – Alfonso Soriano. The rookie second baseman hit 18 home runs, drove in 73 runs, and finished third in the American League with 43 stolen bases during the regular season. Although the Diamondbacks had solid hitters in Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Steve Finley, and Reggie Sanders, the only member of their batting order New York’s pitching staff truly feared was Luis Gonzalez. The slugging outfielder placed among the National League leaders with 57 home runs, 142 runs batted in, 128 runs scored, 419 total bases, a .325 batting average, a .429 on-base percentage, and a .688 slugging percentage, en route to earning a third-place finish in the league MVP voting.
New York also had a deeper pitching staff than Arizona. Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and A.L. Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens combined to win 52 games during the regular season, giving the Yankees a formidable threesome at the top of their starting rotation. New York also had the game’s best closer in Mariano Rivera, who led the American League with 50 saves. Meanwhile, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were the only two members of Arizona’s starting staff who won more than six games or compiled an ERA below 4.00. Yet, the Yankees had no one to rival Johnson and Schilling, who were the top two pitchers in all of baseball. Johnson earned N.L. Cy Young honors by finishing the campaign with a record of 21-6 and a league-leading 2.49 ERA and 372 strikeouts. Schilling finished second to his teammate in the Cy Young balloting by leading the league with a record of 22-6, six complete games, and 257 innings pitched, while also placing among the leaders with a 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts. Heading into the Fall Classic, the biggest question appeared to be whether or not the tandem of Johnson and Schilling would be enough to offset New York’s superior team balance.
The Yankees’ appearance in the World Series helped boost the morale of a city devastated just seven weeks earlier by terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center. With Major League Baseball having postponed all its games for a period of time following the attacks on September 11th, the World Series began on Saturday, October 27th – the latest start date ever for a World Series, until the 2009 Fall Classic, which began on October 28th.
Game One in Arizona turned out to be no contest. The Diamondbacks scored five times against Mike Mussina in the first three innings and then continued their assault against the Yankee bullpen, en route to posting a 9-1 victory. Craig Counsell homered off Mussina in the first inning, and Luis Gonzalez delivered a two-run blast in the third. Meanwhile, the Yankees managed only one run on three hits against Curt Schilling over the first seven innings, before the Arizona bullpen shut them out over the final two frames.
New York fared no better against Randy Johnson in Game Two, failing to score against The Big Unit, who threw a complete-game three-hitter and struck out 11. Although Matt Williams hit a three-run homer against Yankee starter Andy Pettitte in the seventh inning, the Diamondbacks gave Johnson the only run he needed in the bottom of the second when Danny Bautista delivered an RBI-double. The 4-0 victory gave Arizona a commanding 2-0 Series lead with the two teams heading to New York for the next three contests.
The Yankees hoped that a return to the beleaguered city of New York might help shift the momentum of the Fall Classic. With President George Bush on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” ringing throughout Yankee Stadium, Roger Clemens pitched a gem, allowing the Diamondbacks only three hits and striking out nine in seven innings of work. Jorge Posada gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning with a home run off Brian Anderson. Scott Brosius later broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, and, with Mariano Rivera working two perfect innings in relief, the Yankees got back into the Series with a 2-1 victory.
The Yankees appeared to be on the verge of going down three-games-to-one in the Series when the Diamondbacks scored twice in the top of the eighth inning of Game Four to take a 3-1 lead. Starting on only three days’ rest, Curt Schilling allowed New York just one run on three hits over the first seven innings. Shane Spencer’s solo home run in the bottom of the third gave the Yankees their only run of the contest. Meanwhile, Mark Grace tied the game in the fourth inning with a homer off Yankee starter Orlando Hernandez, who surrendered only one run on four hits to the Diamondbacks in his 6 1/3 innings on the mound. An Erubiel Durazo double and a fielder’s choice plated two more runs for the Diamondbacks in the eighth inning, putting them in position to take complete control of the Series. However, after striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth, 22-year-old Korean-born Byung-Hyun Kim allowed the Yankees to tie the score in the bottom of the ninth inning. Following a one-out single by Paul O’Neill, Kim struck out Bernie Williams. With the Yankees down to their last out, Tino Martinez hit a dramatic two-run home run over the right-center field wall on the first pitch he saw from Kim, tying the game at 3-3. Derek Jeter then sent the fans of New York home happy by delivering an opposite field game-winning homer off Kim in the bottom of the 10th inning that gave the Yankees a 4-3 victory and tied the Series at two games apiece.
Yankee fans found themselves similarly thrilled the very next evening, when their team mounted another miraculous comeback. After being shut out by Miguel Batista for the first eight innings, New York entered the bottom of the ninth trailing Arizona by a score of 2-0. The Diamondbacks scored the game’s only two runs in the top of the fifth on solo home runs by Steve Finley and Rod Barajas. Called upon once again by Arizona manager Bob Brenly to close out the contest, Byung-Hyun Kim surrendered a leadoff double to Jorge Posada, before retiring the next two batters. Scott Brosius then brought the Yankee Stadium crowd to its feet by delivering another ninth-inning, two-out two-run game-tying home run. The contest remained tied until the bottom of the 12th, when Alfonso Soriano knocked in Chuck Knoblauch with a hit off Albie Lopez that gave the Yankees a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 Series lead.
Having suffered two such stunning losses on consecutive evenings, the Diamondbacks could have easily packed it in, thinking that the “baseball gods” were simply against them. Instead, though, they displayed a tremendous amount of fortitude when the Series returned to Arizona for Game Six, hammering Yankee starter Andy Pettitte and reliever Jay Witasick for 15 runs over the first four innings, en route to posting a 15-2 victory. Danny Bautista led the Arizona attack with a 3-for-4, five-RBI evening. The Diamondbacks set a World Series record with 22 hits and handed the Yankees their most lopsided loss in 292 postseason games. The win evened the Series at three games apiece, setting up a highly-anticipated Game Seven matchup between Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, with the latter working on just three days’ rest for the second consecutive time.
The decisive seventh contest lived up to its advanced billing. Clemens allowed the Diamondbacks just a sixth-inning run in his 6 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, after shutting out the Yankees over the first six innings, Schilling allowed New York to tie the score with a single run in the top of the seventh. The Yankees took their first lead of the evening on a solo home run by Alfonso Soriano off Schilling in the top of the eighth inning. The Yankees carried their slim 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, pinning their hopes for a fourth consecutive world championship on the right arm of closer Mariano Rivera. However, after striking out the side the previous inning to lower his ERA in postseason play to an all-time best 0.70, Rivera faltered in the final frame. Two hits and an errant throw by Rivera enabled the Diamondbacks to tie the score at 2-2. With the bases loaded and only one man out, the Yankees pulled in their infield hoping to prevent the winning run from crossing the plate. Rivera subsequently made a good pitch to Luis Gonzalez, but the slugger had just enough strength to loft a soft single over the drawn-in infield to drive in the winning run. The 3-2 victory gave the Diamondbacks their first world championship and prevented the Yankees from winning their 27th.
Although the World Series went the full seven games, the Diamondbacks badly outplayed the Yankees over the course of the Fall Classic, outscoring them by a combined margin of 37-14. While the Diamondbacks batted .264 as a team, they held the Yankees to a .183 team batting average – the lowest in a seven-game Series. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling earned co-MVP honors, combining for a 4-0 record and a 1.40 ERA, while striking out 45 batters in 39 1/3 innings.