The Day I Knew The '96 Yankees Were Special
Nothing bothers me more then watching the highlights of Edgar Martinez hitting the game winning double to drive in Ken Griffey Jr. to win the American League Division Series in 1995.
Thirteen Years ago today, May 14th, 1996, I saw a performance against the evil team from the Northwest that was a symbol of hope.
A symbol that in today's world is the perfect example of what it means to exercise demons and would start a run towards a World Championship that nobody in New York would forget.
Today was the day that Dwight "Doc" Gooden would throw a No-Hitter against the Seattle Mariners.
Gooden, a former NL Cy Young Award Winner with the cross town Mets in the 80's and early 90's, had succumb to Cocaine and Alcohol. His life was a mess and it seemed like his career was over.
Then, the second chance that Gooden was looking for would finally come. In October of 1995 after the Mariners eliminated the Yankees, Owner George Steinbrenner would sign Doc Gooden giving him a second chance to pitch in the big leagues.
The year started out badly for Gooden, he was struggling just to win one game. Gooden was sent to the Yankee bullpen with an 0-3 record and an 11.48 ERA. He had almost been cut and he knew things had to turn around.
"I've just got to keep working on my mechanics," Gooden said. "It's complete frustration more than anything else."
Gooden went to work, and when the Yankees began to have injuries in the starting rotation, the man with the second chance at a career, got another shot in the rotation.
With the 10-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, where he would retire the final 22 batters he faced, Gooden was about to hit the pinnacle of his second chance.
On Tuesday night, May 14, 1996, Dwight Gooden, his father in the hospital in Tampa slated for next day double bypass surgery took the mound at Yankee Stadium to face the powerhouse lineup of the Seattle Mariners.
The likes of a young Alex Rodriguez, who would win the batting crown that year, Ken Griffey Junior, Edgar Martinez, Paul Sorrento, Jay Buhner were part of the lineup going up against the Doctor that night.
Though right off the bat (of A-Rod actually) things were looking very magical that night in the Bronx.
The backup center fielder, Gerald Williams, started that night ahead of Bernie Williams and sometimes in baseball, when your getting a spot start, the ball finds you.
In the Top of the First, Alex Rodriguez would hit a rocket to dead center field that if not a home run, was certainly going be for extra bases.
Williams twisted and turned before hoisting his glove to make a phenomenal catch which would end up becoming a double play.
When Paul O'Neill ran down Edgar Martinez's liner in right field, Gooden made the Mariners look foolish with a succession of weak pop-outs and soft flyouts
"Because it was a no-hitter, it was probably one my best catches," Williams would say later.
Gooden's fastball was popping the mitt, and his curveball was making one of the best lineups in baseball look like an A-ball team.
Gooden was looking good, and the 31,000+ that showed up that night knew it.
A scare in the 6th came and went, when with a man on third and one out, Griffey struck out and Edgar Martinez lined out to Williams. The Yankees would score two runs in the bottom of the sixth to give Gooden the runs he needed.
The No-Hitter was alive and when the 9th came around, the man of 2nd chances just needed 3 more outs.
Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez were due in the 9th, not exactly easy outs.
Gooden would walk A-Rod, get a ground out to first from Griffey and then would walk Martinez. With Jay Buhner up, he uncorked a wild pitch, which moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd with one out.
The lead was now in jeopardy, as one hit could ruin not only the no-no, but give up the lead as well. Gooden was not about to give up now.
With the count at 2-2, Buhner would strike out swinging and the no hitter was one out away from becoming a reality. First Baseman Paul Sorrento would come up to the plate, looking to not only end the no-no, but tie the game as well, if not give the Mariners the lead.
The first pitch from Gooden to Sorrento, check swing, strike one.
The Crowd at Yankee Stadium was pulsating, and Gooden was ready to throw pitch number 134 and it would be his last on this magical night.
On a Curveball, another beauty from Gooden, Sorrento popped up to rookie shortstop Derek Jeter.
Jeter settled under it and made the catch, Doc had done it.
Dwight Gooden had just thrown a No Hitter.
Jeter would later say, "It seemed like that ball was up in the air for five minutes."
For Gooden, it must have felt like two years, for when the ball landed in the mitt of Derek Jeter, the two year journey back to the Majors had finally reached its climax.
This night was the beginning of something magical during that 1996 season. When the Yankees won the World Series later that year, Gooden wasn't even on the postseason roster.
Yet you just knew that he was just as much a reason for that triumph as any of the players who made up the 25 man roster for Game 6 that night.
He finished the game with six walks and five Strikeouts, zero runs with 134 pitches thrown and of course, No Hits.
His teammates would lift him upon their shoulders and would carry him off the Yankee Stadium field that night.
A fitting end for a man who life had been down in the gutter, to get picked up and carried off to better things ahead.
"In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined this," Gooden said after the game.
Nobody could have imagined it, and yet it had happened. Gooden would go on to win 11 games that season, finishing 11-7, his first winning season since 1991.
The Yankees were off to great things that year and this 8 yr old from Hartsdale, NY knew it.
For it was on May 14th, 1996, the day when Dwight "Doc" Gooden defied the odds that I knew the Yankees were going to win the World Series.
For More on this Game, Click the Link which takes you to MLB.com Video
Thanks to Jack Curry of the NY Times and Harvey Frommer for the Quotes.
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