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3 minute read
Steve Wulf

Whether you were a braves fan or a yankees fan or just a plain fan, the 1996 World Series left you breathless. And if you were an older fan, you were so reminded of the passion play between the Milwaukee Braves and New York Yankees in the 1957 and 1958 World Series that you half expected the Yankees’ Bullet Bob Turley to come in from the bullpen to face Frank Torre, who was then the Braves’ first baseman and not just Yankee manager Joe Torre’s older brother.

As in ’58, the Yankees came back from a presumably insurmountable deficit, winning all three games in Atlanta, then beating the defending world champions 3-2 in Yankee Stadium Saturday night. This Series had all the elements of a true Fall Classic. There was the unlikely hero off the bench: Yankee pinch hitter Jim Leyritz clubbing a three-run homer off Mark Wohlers to tie the score in the eighth inning of Game 4. There was the unlikely goat: sure-handed Atlanta center fielder Marquis Grissom dropping a fly ball to set up the only run of Game 5. There were the nightly chess matches in Atlanta between Torre and Braves skipper Bobby Cox, each ending in mate for Torre. There was drama on the field–the pitcher’s duel between probable Cy Young Award winners Andy Pettitte and John Smoltz–and off the field–Frank Torre getting a new heart on the off day before Game 6. There was the quiet goodbye to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, a ballpark distinguished not by architecture but by its history of great post-season games. The Series also put the World in World Series, presenting Atlanta’s 19-year-old outfielder, Andruw Jones, from Curacao and New York’s reliever, Graeme Lloyd, from Australia. “I hesitate to say it because the word is so often overused,” said Lloyd, “but this Series has been amazing. Quite amazing.”

Pick a moment, any moment, to remember: Jones’ second home run in Game 1, Torre’s heart-to-heart talk with David Cone in Game 3, Steve Avery’s 3-2 pitch to Wade Boggs with the bases loaded in the 10th inning of Game 4, the rope by Luis Polonia that froze an entire nation with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 5–and the wall-banging celebration of Paul O’Neill after he caught the ball at the last instant. Best of all, there was the just reward for Torre after 37 years in baseball. In order to win his first World Series, the 56-year-old native New Yorker did something truly extraordinary–he gave the Yankees back their identity. They are no longer George Steinbrenner’s team, though he still owns them. They now belong to Pettitte and Joe Girardi and Bernie Williams, the way the Yankees once belonged to Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. Actually, Steinbrenner no longer has to move Yankee Stadium. Torre and his team have already done it.

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