I cannot tell you the last time I watched so much as an inning of a baseball game, regular season, play-offs or World Series. I can tell you that the last time it really mattered to me was in the fall of 2001, after the towers fell as I watched the Yankee dynasty do the same less than two months later in game seven against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
My first professional sporting event (not including motorcycle races) was a Yankee game at the Stadium. Grandpa Robinson took me. The grass was the greenest I had ever seen. We sat in nosebleed seats in the upper deck on the third base side. The Yankees won 8-3 and Lou Pinella had a big day. I have never forgotten the scenes and senses of that day. The walk to the legendary park. The smell of the concession stand. The green grass. The cheer of the crowd. The Yankee players.
In the fall of 1992, I was in Tallahassee when I was rousted out of a half sleep in my apartment by thunderous cheer. The kind reserved in that place and during that time for Seminole football. Franky Cabrera had just sent a hobbling Sid Bream home to send the Braves to the World Series. A psuedo-dynasty was born. The Braves behind the masterful moundwork of Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux were baseball’s glamour team.
In 1996, the Braves took a 2-0 World Series lead to Atlanta. Over the next four games, the Yankee dynasty was born. Long at bats, clutch hitting, selfless professionalism, Mariano Rivera pitching the 8th and John Wetteland pitching the 9th was the formula. The Braves and John Wetteland went quietly into the night.
The rest of the formula remained until game 7 against the Diamondbacks five years later. During that run, the Yankees had something no one else did….Mariano Rivera.
Rivera was the Yankee Closer. Every meaningful game during that five year span, had the same unassailable premise. Be even or up with six or fewer outs to play, watch the outfield fence open as the long, lean and deceptive powerful legs would jog to the mound carrying the stoic face covered by the low slung hat and the magical right arm. It was palpable in both dug-outs, the entire stadium and anywhere the game was broadcast….game over.