- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

When that historic bottom of the ninth inning began Sunday night at Phoenix's Bank One Ballpark, no sane Arizona Diamondbacks fan could have felt anything but disheartened. The New York Yankees, holding what appeared to be an insurmountable one-run lead, were poised to capture their fifth World Series championship in six seasons. They had the unhittable star reliever Mariano Rivera, who had saved 23 straight post-season games, on the mound against a so-so Diamondback offense. Behind Rivera on defense were longtime stars like Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill (playing in what is likely to be the final game of his career.) Only three more outs separated these Yankees from another championship. Who could possibly doubt that that was in the cards?

After all, the Diamondbacks had already blown a 2-0 lead in the series, losing three consecutive one-run games at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, two runs behind and down to their last out, tied up Game 4 and Game 5 with dramatic two-run, bottom of the ninth inning home runs Wednesday's from Tino Martinez and Thursday's from Scott Brosius before winning in extra innings. By the time the bottom of the ninth inning rolled around Sunday night, Saturday's 15-2 Diamondbacks' mauling of the Yankees seemed an aberration a distant dream.

So, it was tough to get really excited when Mark Grace led off with a single. But then, Rivera picked up a bunt and misfired to second base. Pinch-hitter Jay Bell (who hit just .143 for the series) bunted into a force, much-maligned Tony Womack doubled in the tying run and Rivera plunked Craig Counsell (who hit just .083 for the series) with a pitch, loading the bases with one out. Then, D-Backs slugger Luis Gonzalez blooped a 1-0 pitch into right over shortstop to win the game. The unforgettable scene, with Bell racing toward home plate with the series' winning run, will be etched in baseball fans' memories for many years to come. Both the Diamondbacks and the Yankees conducted themselves with dignity and class (the Yankees especially so in defeat). And games 4, 5 and 7 will doubtless be remembered as some of the greatest series games ever played.


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