Jim Leyritz and the Great World Series Comeback:
OCTOBER 23, 1996
The game was played before 51,881.on a Wednesday night at Fulton County
Stadium in Atlanta, Yanks versus Braves who had a 2-1 lead in the World
Through five innings it looked as if the home team was headed for another
victory. Their fans, tomahawk chopping in earnest, were pumped up over
Atlanta's six run lead. Denny Neagle was shutting down New York.
But in the sixth the Yanks scored three times. Enter Jim Leyritz, Number
13, as a defensive replacement for Joe Girardi. The muscular Leyritz had
spent much of the game in the weight room.
To preserve the lead, Braves skipper Bobby Cox started the eighth inning
with closer Mark Wohlers, who could hit 100 MPH on the radar gun. With two
on, Leyritz stepped into the box. He worked the count to 2-2, fouling off
two blistering fastballs. Then Wohlers hung the slider. Then deep to
left, fly ball disappearing over the wall. Leyritz hung three runs on the
scoreboard. The Yankees hadn't won the game and tied the Series with one
swing, but it sure seemed that way.
''I'm not thinking home run right there,'' Leyritz said. ''I'm thinking
I've got an opportunity to drive in one run if I get a base hit." "I lost
it," Wohlers said. "I blew it."
The game moved to the tenth, tied, 6 up. Southpaw Steve Avery, the
replacement for Mark Wohlers, got the first two batters. Then Tim Raines
walked. Jeter got an infield single. Bernie Williams was intentionally
walked to get at Yankee rookie Andy Fox. Joe Torre, inserted his last
pinch hitter, Wade Boggs, who walked. A run was forced in. The Yanks had
their first lead. Then another run was tacked on.
It took seven pitchers, five pinch hitters, a reserve catcher, a pinch
runner - - the whole Yankee bench not including pitchers for the victory
to be achieved, but the Yankees won the game, finally, 8-6.
For journeyman Jim Leyritz who triggered what happened, that home run was
his greatest moment in baseball. "Because it was in the World Series," he
said, "It helped us get the momentum back and go on to win the World
Series. And it really made my mark as far as being a Yankee."
# # #
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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