Mystique and Aura

Curt Schilling always liked to talk.

Prior to the start of the 2001 World Series between his Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees, he was asked by a reporter what he thought about the mystique and aura of the Yankees.

To which he replied: "Those are dancers in a nightclub. Those are not things we concern ourselves with on the ball field."

Of course, this wasn’t just any Fall Classic. The events of September 11 halted all major professional sports in September — and to me at least — sports and entertainment as a whole didn’t officially resume in New York until David Letterman came back and delivered this monologue.

Baseball would return, but with a somber tone to the proceedings. The tragedy stayed close to the sport, especially with the Yankees finding themselves in the World Series.

History will show that the Diamondbacks won the pennant in seven dramatic games, capped off by Luis Gonzalez’s single off Mariano Rivera in the closer. But it was Game 4 and 5 at Yankees Stadium that I still remember the most.

The Yankees had lost the first two games in the desert and were trailing 2-1 in the series, needing to win Game 4 to even the series. They trailed by two runs in the ninth inning when Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim came on for the save. The game, and series looked to be over but down to their last out, Tino Martinez tied the game with a two-run homer and sent the game into extra innings where the Yankees would eventually win.

To this day, that moment when the ball left Martinez’s bat and left the park is still at the top of my list of sports events I wish I attended.

Incredibly, the same scenario faced the Yankees the night after. Down two runs and to their last out, Scott Brosius hit a game tying home run. Again.

Yankees Stadium lost its mind.

Aura. Mystique.

They decided to show up for two nights in New York.

That was the thing about this Yankees team. There was nothing forceful about connecting their resilience and resolve with what had just happened to their city. We remember Jim Leyritz’s series and even franchise shifting home run against Atlanta,  we admired players like Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams.

Resilience. Resolve.

Those words represented these Yankees.

Most important of all, sports felt different in the months after September 11th. I’m not sure if it took on a different importance — especially in New York — or simply served as a worthwhile distraction to what was going on.

But the 2001 World Series is one of my favorite sports memories, and one that I will hold onto with mixed feelings.

Memories like this makes me proud to be a sports fan.

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    This was the only year I cheered for the Yankees.
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