It is Nov. 1, 2001, Game Five of the World Series.
There are 56,018 people surrounding you in that one place you dream about being at in October, under the bright lights in the Bronx.
You are coming up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, and the opposing team has already gotten two of your teammates out. You are facing a submarine-type pitcher with a runner on second base. Your team is down by two runs.
You are the last chance to save the game.
That’s important enough, but picture this happening during a time when a city, and even a nation, is watching your every move, just waiting for something to scream and go nuts about.
Scott Brosius didn’t have to picture himself in that situation: he was that situation.
To paraphrase Yogi Berra, a man who usually flourished in these situations, “It’s about to be déjà vu all over again.”
You see, it was less than a day prior, Oct. 31 to be exact, that Tino Martinez was at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees down by two runs. And yes, Byung Yung Kim, the Diamondbacks closer, was also on the mound.
After studying the pitch selection of Kim on the TV monitors in the clubhouse, in preparation of an at-bat that may or may not be coming, Tino came up to the plate believing Kim would throw a first pitch fastball.
Did he ever.
Tino drills the ball to right center, over the wall, to tie Game Four at three apiece!
The Stadium was literally shaking while Tino rounded the bases. It was one of the most dramatic shots in baseball history, coming at a time and a place where clutch hits like that don’t usually happen in.
In fact, tying the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth occurred only one other time in World Series history, by the 1911 New York Giants. Coincidentally enough, they were also down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth to the Philadelphia A’s, before scoring two in the ninth to tie it up.
So how did it end?
Derek Jeter, the first batter in November Major League Baseball history, drives a Kim pitch over the right field wall near the 314 foot sign, to win Game Four.
Yes, the Giants also won their historical game, 4-3 in the tenth, just like the Yankees did.
Of course, the Giants’ walk-off didn’t happen a few minutes after baseball began play in November, giving Jeter the unanimous nickname, “Mr. November.”
Many said there wouldn’t be a more exciting or dramatic comeback than what happened that night and into the morning.
All of this was fresh in everybody’s mind as Brosius stepped into the box. He, just like Tino, has a backlog on Kim. While Tino had a plan going to the plate against Kim—look for a first pitch fastball—Brosius had experience coming with him: the experience of nearly winning the game the night before, driving a ball to left that went foul by about 15 ft.
Even so, you had to be crazy to think something could happen again. Sure, these were the Dynasty Yankees, and sure, they were in the predicament the night before, but…
Let me stop. I think as a fan during that time you can describe it as knowing you can, but knowing you can’t. I mean, the Yankees can surely come back; they showed they can with Tino and Jeter. But at the same time, it’s like relinquishing tickets you won at the boardwalk.
You can only buy so many things before you run out of tickets. Especially when you cash in for something that is extremely rare, like a game-tying homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
But I digress.
Scott Brosius takes the first pitch, low and inside.
Okay, fine, so Brosius is saying it can’t be exactly the same scenario. Although looking at Chris Chambliss, Reggie Jackson, Aaron Boone, and of course Tino, the Yankees like making history on first pitch swings.
Brosius takes a second, and then steps back in. He digs in, and Kim gets the sign. Kim drops down, with his unusual delivery, and releases the ball.
It doesn’t take long to comprehend what happens next.
Brosius begins his right handed swing, putting his bat through the strike zone. Can it really be? Seriously?
That hanging slider never had a chance.
Not even a second after it hits the bat, Brosius begins jumping up and down with his arms in the air, because he knows that ball is going over the wall!
For the second night in a row, the Yankees tie the game without even an out to spare!
The fans are going crazy. The players are going crazy.
Even the announcers are going crazy!
Gary Thorne, doing the game for MLB International asks, “DO YOU BELIEVE IT?”
John Sterling, for 770 WABC, indirectly responds, “I DON’T BELIEVE IT!”
When the FOX announcers finally decide it is okay to speak (my theory is they got as choked up just like the rest of us), Tim McCarver tells the world, “I have never seen anything like it.”
Just as they were going to break due to Byung Yung Kim being taken out of the game after having his heart broken, Joe Buck ends the fun with the words, “It borders on the surreal here in the Bronx.”
The Yankees eventually won it in the twelfth with a hit by Chuck Knoblauch which scored Alfonso Soriano.
To me, it was just an anti-climax to what was already one of the most amazing things I ever saw.
It’s really impossible to put into words what these two games meant to me as an eleven year old living through 9/11. I mean I lived probably 40-50 minutes from the Towers, but everything from the confusion surrounding me, to taking the bus home from school that day and seeing black smoke lazily floating in the sky, haunted me for weeks.
I can’t even imagine how it must have been being even in the Manhattan area of the City.
I really do believe it was baseball, though, that maybe didn’t help people forget, but gave people something to get excited about again.
For example, Mike Piazza’s home run during the first game back at Shea was an invigorating moment, no matter what kind of baseball fan you were. Even the most die-hard Yankees fan can look at that and go “yeah, that was pretty awesome.”
To me, baseball is like a network airing a new episode of your favorite TV show every night for six months straight. It’s that one constant in everyday life that you know you can go to when you’ve had a rough day. When it’s all said and done, most of your thoughts are centered on how your team did, not how your boss doesn't know how to do his job or how you sit for four hours in traffic every day.
To top that, watching your team in the World Series is like watching your favorite TV show, eating every one of your favorite foods, while at the same time riding on the most exciting roller coaster ever.
Just kidding. It’s better than that.
Especially if your team wins.
Now I know some people reading this, especially fans of other teams, will probably say, “You know, you guys didn’t win the series.”
Yes, that is true.
For me, though, the one exception of that feeling of watching your team win the Series was 2001.
When I think back to that one series, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t Luis Gonzalez sealing the Yankees’ fate with a bloop hit off The Great Mariano.
Instead, it was the Yankees showing more heart and desire than I ever saw before, with the team coming back at times I thought it wasn’t remotely possible.
The most important part, though, was that it came right off one of the biggest attacks on U.S. soil, during a time when people needed to reach inside themselves to find some hope.
So as the eighth year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks comes full circle tomorrow, I will take time out to remember a few different groups.
Those men and women lost from the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, as well as the ones lost by simply boarding a plane in the morning.
Those who responded in an amazing way to minimize the damage, including the police officers and firefighters lost during this attack.
And of course, the military heroes who have been fighting overseas ever since in order to keep this Nation free.
Not only that, though, I’ll remember the ones who made it okay to remember what happened, but at the same time, went on with their living by entertaining not only me, but millions of New Yorkers and hundreds of millions of people across the United States who needed something to be entertained by.
That is not to say baseball should be put in the same sentence with the real heroes of 9/11. However, just by doing what they do best, and that's play, they made a small contribution to the healing process that could never be forgotten.