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The Yankees thoroughly dominated the baseball world in 1998, en route to winning their 24th world championship.  After posting an American League record 114 victories over the course of the regular season, New York compiled a record of 11-2 during the postseason, thereby establishing a new major-league mark by winning a total of 125 games.  Already being referred to as one of the greatest teams in the history of the game, the Yankees refused to rest on their laurels heading into the 1999 campaign.  Seeking to virtually guarantee themselves another world championship, the Yankees completed a trade with Toronto on February 18 in which they acquired Roger Clemens from the Blue Jays for David Wells, left-handed relief specialist Graeme Lloyd, and utility infielder Homer Bush.  Although Wells had an excellent year for New York the previous season, most baseball people viewed the deal as a case of the rich getting richer, since Clemens won the A.L. Cy Young Award in both 1997 and 1998.   

With the acquisition of Clemens, the Yankees headed to Spring Training more confident than ever about their chances of returning to the World Series.  However, shortly after the players arrived in Florida, they received sobering news on two fronts that significantly tempered their enthusiasm.

Firstly, the members of the team learned that a Yankee legend had moved on.  Joe DiMaggio passed away on March 8, after losing a long battle with lung cancer.  DiMaggio, a heavy smoker for much of his adult life, was admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida on October 12 for lung cancer surgery.  He remained there for 99 days, before returning to his Florida home on January 19.  He finally succumbed to the illness almost seven weeks later, at the age of 84.

Shortly thereafter, the Yankees also discovered that they would be forced to begin the season without their beloved manager Joe Torre, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Torre ended up missing the first six weeks of the campaign, returning to New York in mid-May, after the team had posted a 21-15 record under interim manager Don Zimmer.  Buoyed by Torre’s return, the Yankees compiled a record of 77-49 the remainder of the year.  They finished the season with a record of 98-64, in first place in the A.L. East, four games ahead of the second-place Red Sox.  In the process, New York established a new home attendance record, surpassing the three-million mark for the first time in franchise history.  The team drew a total of 3,292,736 paying customers through the turnstiles over the course of the season.

Some 50,000 of those fans witnessed baseball history being made on July 18, when Yogi Berra returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time in more than 14 years.  After vowing not to come back to the Bronx as long as George Steinbrenner owned the Yankees, Berra and Steinbrenner ended their feud when the latter apologized for callously sending pitching coach Clyde King to fire Berra as the team’s manager only three weeks into the 1985 campaign.  The Yankees honored Berra’s return to Yankee Stadium with “Yogi Berra Day.”  Also in attendance was Don Larsen, who threw out the first pitch to his former catcher as a means of commemorating their collaboration on Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.  Upon completion of the pre-game festivities, Yankee pitcher David Cone incredibly threw a perfect game against the Montreal Expos – just the 16th in major league history.

Although Cone pitched well for New York over the course of the season, he didn’t come close to duplicating his extraordinary perfect-game performance the remainder of the year, finishing the campaign with a record of only 12-9.  Still, his 3.44 ERA placed him second in the league to Pedro Martinez, earning him a spot on the A.L. All-Star Team.  Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez was the team’s big winner, leading the staff with 17 victories.  Andy Pettitte won 14 games, as did Roger Clemens, who turned out to be something of a disappointment.  Clemens finished the year with a record of just 14-10 and an ERA of 4.60.  Despite dominating American League hitters in each of the three previous seasons as well, Mariano Rivera made just his second All-Star appearance.  The Yankee closer compiled an ERA of 1.83 and a league-leading 45 saves, en route to earning a third-place finish in the Cy Young voting. 

On offense, Chili Davis had a solid year at the DH spot, hitting 19 homers and driving in 78 runs.  Although Chuck Knoblauch struggled terribly in the field, developing a mental block on his throws to first base that caused him to commit a total of 26 errors, he remained a solid leadoff hitter.  The second baseman finished the year with 18 home runs, 68 runs batted in, 120 runs scored, a .292 batting average, and a .393 on-base percentage.  Tino Martinez led the team with 28 homers and finished third on the club with 105 runs batted in.  Paul O’Neill hit 19 home runs, batted .285, and placed second on the team with 110 runs batted in.  Bernie Williams earned All-Star and Gold Glove honors for the third consecutive year.  In addition to finishing the campaign with 25 home runs and a team-leading 115 RBIs, he placed among the league leaders with 116 runs scored, 202 hits, a .342 batting average, and a .435 on-base percentage, en route to earning an 11th place finish in the MVP voting.  Derek Jeter had a tremendous all-around year, establishing career highs in most offensive categories by hitting 24 home runs, driving in 102 runs, leading the league with 219 hits, and placing near the top of the league rankings with 134 runs scored, nine triples, a .349 batting average, and a .438 on-base percentage.  Jeter earned his second straight All-Star nomination and a sixth-place finish in the league MVP balloting. 

The Yankees again had little difficulty getting past Texas in the first round of the playoffs, sweeping the Rangers in three straight games.  Although Boston subsequently provided a bit more resistance in the ALCS, New York eventually prevailed in five games.  The lone moment of glory for the Red Sox occurred in Game Three, when they battered Roger Clemens en route to posting a 13-1 victory.  The Yankees, though, advanced to the World Series by winning the next two contests.    

The Fall Classic pitted New York against Atlanta for the second time in three seasons.  After mounting a four-run rally in the eighth inning of Game One to overcome a 4-1 deficit, the Yankees easily took Game Two.  New York came from behind again in the third contest, slowly chipping away at an early 5-1 Atlanta lead, before finally winning the game on a 10th inning home run by Chad Curtis.  The Yankees then took Game Four, winning in the process their 12th straight World Series game and their 25th world championship.

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
1999 ALCS, 1999 ALDS1, 1999 World Series, Andy Pettitte, Atlanta Braves, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Boston Red Sox, Chad Curtis, Chili Davis, Chuck Knoblauch, Darryl Strawberry, David Cone, David Wells, Derek Jeter, Don Larsen, George Steinbrenner, Graeme Lloyd, Homer Bush, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, Orlando Hernandez, Roger Clemens, Texas Rangers, Tino Martinez, Yogi Berra

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