- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Whenever baseball seems ready to implode upon itself, something seems to happen on the field to keep it from total self-destruction.
When baseball was at its lowest point after the 1994 postseason was canceled because of the baseball strike, it was Cal Ripken's quest to break Lou Gehrig's consecutive-game record in 1995 that got fans' attention away from the ills of the game and back onto the field.
When the mercenary personality that had overtaken the game resulted in the detestable 1997 World Series champion Florida Marlins a wild-card team patched together with Wayne Huizenga's trash money and then dismantled just as quickly Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's race after Roger Maris' single season home run record in 1998 again brought us the special moments that create such passion for baseball.
And now, on the eve of baseball owners committing a folly so ludicrous it wasn't even believable until a week ago doing away with baseball franchises the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks gave all of us one of those World Series that leave us nearly breathless as we watch, and gave us something to talk about besides our own fears.
Too bad they couldn't play 14 games instead of seven, because the series ended a couple days too early. Today, baseball owners are expected to at least consider, if not approve, the folding of the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins.
While baseball had this great stage this dramatic seven-game World Series commissioner Bud Selig was diverting attention away from it with his willingness to embrace the concept of contraction.
How can baseball be so good as it was between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New Yankees, but be so bad that the game has to consider taking such drastic steps as shutting down two of its franchises?
After a World Series like this one to advertise the game, you would think they would be adding teams, not subtracting them.
But we're talking about the gang that couldn't shoot straight, a group of allegedly intelligent giants in their fields who actually believed six years ago that fans would show up at the ballparks to watch bad minor leaguers pose as major league baseball players. Remember replacement players? That was the owners' strategy last time around in labor battle with the players union. This time it's contraction, and it will likely blow up in their faces the same way.
Still, with all the bitterness that seems to lay ahead starting today, when the owners meet in Chicago, it will take awhile for the good buzz from what the Yankees and Diamondbacks created to fade. At times, it didn't seem real, as if there was so much drama that it had to be a movie.
"It seemed pretty surreal to me, watching all this develop," said Curt Schilling, one of the series' co-MVPs, talking about sitting on the bench and watching the Diamondbacks' ninth-inning comeback win unfold.
How surrealistic was it? Tim McCarver might have willed it into existence. As Luis Gonzalez came up to the plate with the bases loaded and the score tied at 2-2, McCarver commented about how the Yankees infield was playing in, and how sometimes, against a hard right-hander like Mariano Rivera, a left-handed hitter like Gonzalez can wind up with a bloop hit off the fists.
Sure enough, Gonzalez lifted a bloop hit just beyond the infield that Derek Jeter might have gotten to, if he was playing back as he normally would have been.
Whoa. The 2001 World Series, as presented by Rod Serling.
We all owe so much to the Yankees for making it such an unforgettable series. Their remarkable comeback wins in games four and five, on the unforgettable game-winning home run by Jeter in game four, the dramatic home run by Scott Brosius to tie in game five, then followed by Alfonso Soriano's game-winning single to win it. And it appeared Soriano had done it again in game seven with a solo home run to give New York a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth. With Rivera coming in the game, it appeared to be a Yankees lock. He had converted 23 straight postseason saves since Sandy Alomar homered off him in game four of the 1997 division series. There is little argument that Mariano Rivera is money in the bank.
He wasn't money in Bank One Ballpark, though. Mark Grace led off with a single in the bottom of the ninth. Mark Grace, who had been 2-for-15 coming into this series, wasn't even expected to play Sunday night. Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said he just had a feeling that a veteran gamer like Grace, who had waited so long for this moment, would step up. A feeling. That's what it came down to in the final inning of the final game of this 2001 World Series feelings, hunches, emotions and luck.
It's nearly always gone the Yankees' way in the recent past, winning three straight World Series, and four our of five before losing this one. Because of that, few expected the Diamondbacks to come back to win in the ninth inning. Without the greatness of the Yankees, this World Series is not so great.
Whether it was great enough to cover over the sores of the game that are about to rise to the surface again is another story.
I wish they were still playing today.


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