It was the first season that both the American League and the National League would play the entire season with three divisions. In 1994, the season ended after Aug. 12 by a strike.
The New York Yankees surprised many experts as the 1995 season was reaching the end. Mike Lupica, although not one of the Yankees favorite fans, realized that they were doing better than they were supposed.
With five games left, the Yankees were nine games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox, but they led the California Angels by one-half game for the Wild Card. Yes, it was the first time there would be a Wild Card.
Not long ago, the Red Sox had led the Yankees by 14 games. After a west trip, the Yankees regrouped and challenged for the playoffs.
Lupica wrote that other teams were not happy about playing the Yankees. Black Jack McDowell was pitching great. Paul O’Neill was having a solid season, despite not batting .359, which he hit the strike-shortened strike.
The Yankees made the playoffs. They were more than happy to finish second because all that mattered was getting to play in October. Today, in 2012, a second wild card will be present. Just make the playoffs.
But the key to the Yankees, at least according to Lupica, was Bernie Williams. Lupica admitted how great Williams had done.
It was Williams that appeared to have at least two safety as the Yankees won 13 of 16 to take over the Wild Card. Williams couldn’t explain what he was doing. He said that all he was doing was hitting the ball hard.
Manager Buck Showalter was proud of Williams. "I don't think I've ever been prouder of a player. You can't make a guy do what Bernie did.”
One simple way Williams reacted to the Cleveland Indians' Carlos Baerga said it all.
Baerga preferred to tag a runner moving from first base to second on a ground ball to him, rather than tossing to the shortstop to start a double play. The play came up with Williams on first the next time the Yankees had played the Tribe.
Williams expected the tag, which he received from Baerga. Williams knocked down him after he was tagged.
Instead of a double play, Baerga made a wild thrown attempting to get Ruben Sierra. The Yankees would wind up with Sierra on second, thanks to Williams.
No matter what it required was what Williams did. He was smart, aware and alert to what the opponent would try.
Everyone was a little surprised by the usual fire Williams produced. It was what the Yankees had been waited for a few seasons. Showalter said it best.
"There's a fire in him these days that I've never seen before and it's just been very exciting to see as a manager.”
Williams was no longer shy or quiet.
He finished the season batting .307/.392/.287 with 18 home runs. Williams was on the cusp of super stardom.
The Yankees suffered a terrible defeat in the 1995 playoffs, but the disappointment made them a greater team.
In 1996, Williams, O'Neill, Derek Jeter,and newly acquired Tino Martinez helped the Yankees started their next dynasty. Andy Pettitte, David Cone, David Wells and El Duque helped them win.
There would be world championship in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Mike Lupica knew just how great Bernie Williams was becoming.