Yankees starter Andy Pettitte had just left his heart in the middle of the pitching rubber in Yankee Stadium, and his defense was about to use up all of its weekly miracles in a matter of mere seconds.
Somehow scurrying across a bed of hot coals, Yankees reliever Phil Coke pitched just poorly enough to transform a devastating wild pitch into inning-ending magic—blowing the nonexistent roof off of “The House that Steinbrenner Built.”
The Yankees now desperately wanted to hear the loud crack of a wooden bat. It was the 40th anniversary of the moon landing in 1969, and the Bronx longed for someone to put a baseball where Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong once boldly stepped.
They needed anything that could be confused with an offensive pulse, as the Orioles had held New York hitless since allowing a solo home run to lead off the second inning.
The likes of David Hernandez, Mark Hendrickson, and Jim Johnson had recorded 22 outs without allowing a broken-bat single, an infield hit, a blooper over shortstop, or anything resembling an “H” by official scorer standards.
The leadoff hitter for the bottom of the ninth was Alex Rodriguez. The hopes of him sending fans skipping to the motionless lines of Bronx parking garages ended even before a “let’s go A-Rod” chant could get organized.
Suddenly, an unfamiliar sound then began to travel over the stadium’s speakers.
It was the tune to Billy Joel’s “Big Shot,” which of course meant the arrival of Hideki Matsui to the batter’s box.
“The Sayonara Kid” was certainly a sight for sore eyes, though his unmistakable limp implied that his chronically injured knees were equally as sore.
It was a poor man’s Kirk Gibson moment—a very poor man’s...we are talking homeless holding an old Styrofoam coffee cup with “I need change” written across the front of it.
What happened shortly thereafter would have made Roy Hobbs of the legendary baseball film The Natural send a smile and wink in his direction.
Matsui took a healthy cut at a 2-0 pitch from Johnson and was somehow left holding nothing more than a toothpick.
He wasn’t jammed. He didn’t hit the ball off the end of the bat. His trusty Mizuno simply fell apart in his hands.
“Godzilla” returned to the dugout for a spare and delivered a blast that Hobbs’ famous “Wonderboy” had produced so many times before.
It was yet another walk-off for the Yankees, and an elated roster was awaiting their newest hero at home plate.
Matsui launched his helmet into the air, as per A-Rod’s request, and the Yankees battled for the catch like a group of bloodthirsty women seeking the bouquet at a wedding ceremony.
It was another magical moment in the new stadium, further enticing fans to believe the ghosts of Yankee past have not yet abandoned their “beyond the grave” duties.
A.J. Burnett got one step closer to receiving a sponsorship deal with Reddi-wip, and the Yankees pulled even with Boston for first place in the AL East.
There is a long way to go in the 2009 MLB season, but it was comforting to Yankee fans to see their walk-off lightning strike for already the ninth time of the year.
Also seen at: Heartbeat of the Bronx