First, two Yankee legends are celebrating their birthdays today…
Whitey Ford is 85 today. Ford was a great pitcher of the “Golden Era”; teammates with other legends like Berra, Mantle, DiMaggio, Rizzuto, Howard, Larsen, and Maris; part of the legendary 1961 team; 10-time All-Star, 6-time World Series champion, Cy Young Award winner (1961), World Series MVP (1961), and inducted into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame; served in Korea at the beginning of his career, taking 2 full years off from baseball to serve his country, and returned better than ever; and has #16 retired in his honor in Monument Park.
And John Flaherty turns 46 today. Flaherty is probably most known to Yankee fans today as one of the regular sports broadcasters and a frequent analyst on many of the regular programming on the Yankees’ YES Network channel. But Flaherty also played for the Yankees at the tail end of his career through the contentious year against his former team, the Red Sox (2003-2005), serving as the back-up catcher for Posada.
A happy birthday to both Yankees!
Now, this day in Yankee history, being so late in the year means we have a special “World Series Edition” for today’s history lesson.
In the postseason, they swept the Rangers in the ALDS, took the ALCS from the Indians (4-2), and then swept the Padres on this day 15 years ago. It was their 24th World Series title, their second in three years, and their first of three consecutive titles. It was a sign that this dynasty wasn’t a fluke. Torre’s team was here to stay, and they weren’t opposed to making a huge splash. Including the postseason, the ’98 team won 125 games (just 50 losses), setting an MLB record, passing the previous record of 118 set by the 1906 Cubs or 116 set by the 1986 Mets (depending on your sources).
I think it’s only fitting that Game 4 of the 1998 Series (today’s memory) found recently retired Pettitte and Rivera on the mound in a shut-out game of the Padres. (Pettitte threw 7.1 innings, Nelson threw to 1 batter in the 8th to split up the outs, and Rivera got a 4-out save.)
I was having probably a little too much fun researching, reviewing, reading, and remembering the 1998 team. They were virtually unstoppable. That team is often compared to the 1927 team, which I understand based on knowing all sorts of basic information like the greatest sports teams ever in all of history. But seeing as I wasn’t alive to watch the 1927 team personally (or the 1961 team, which is of course another highly regarded team in Yankee history), for me, it was the 1998 team. Everything just lined up for them, and it was an honor to watch this team in action. And then, of course, repeat similar seasons over the next two years.
1998 doesn’t seem like that long ago, but 15 years certainly does. Maybe all of us alive (and conscious of Yankee greatness) in 1998 are still looking to somehow magically create that same team once again. But maybe the team that will be the next “great team” were just children then or even (in worse case scenario) just children now, but they are out there. The same club that created Murders’ Row in the 20’s, the M&M boys in the 60’s, and the Core Four in the 90’s is going to churn out the next great generation of baseball players at some point. We are just anxiously awaiting that honor of watching them succeed at the highest level once again. History always repeats itself, and it will again. It’s never an “if” with the Yankees, but always a “when”.