2001 Season Recap
The 2001 baseball season had it all - power hitting, power pitching, dominant teams and doormats, hall-of-famers retiring, top-notch rookies coming in to replace them, and of course, a postseason like no other.
In the end, it was the Arizona Diamondbacks, all of 4 years old, to win their first championship in one of the most thrilling, improbable World Series in recent history. The Diamondbacks, backed by timely hitting, sheer determination and the one-two punch of starting pitchers Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, edged the perennial American League champion New York Yankees in seven games.
World Series Co-MVPs Schilling and Johnson staked the Diamondbacks to a 2-0 series lead but the teams then headed to the Big Apple for the next three. With the city's emotions running high and the American flag pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center flying overhead, President George Bush threw out the first pitch, a perfect strike on what appeared to be a circle change-up, to kick off Game 3. Yankee workhorse Roger Clemens, who was an amazing 20-3 during the regular season, pitched a gem as the Yankees climbed back into the series with a 2-1 win.
Games 4 and 5 were mirror images of each other and were not to be believed. In each, Arizona held two-run leads heading into the bottom of the ninth and in each, the Yankees hit two-out, two-run, game-tying homers off distraught Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim, and won in extra innings. In Game 4, it was first baseman Tino Martinez with the clutch bomb to right-center, while Derek Jeter won it in the bottom of the tenth with a solo shot of his own. In Game 5, it was third-baseman Scott Brosius' turn for the ninth inning heroics, setting the stage for rookie Alfonso Soriano to drive in the winning run in the 12th frame.
The Diamondbacks appeared to be sunk, down 3 games to 2 to the defending champs. But they were heading home with their two top guns on the mound. Game 6 was an absolute whitewash as Johnson shut down the Yankees for seven innings and the Arizona offense exploded for 15 runs in a 15-2 win.
The stage was set for Game 7. Schilling, working on three days rest for the second time in the series, battled his idol Clemens in a one-game, winner-take-all frenzy. The pitchers' duel was as advertised. In the top of the eighth, Soriano broke a 1-1 tie with a homer to left off Schilling. Once again, Arizona appeared to be sunk. They entered the bottom of the ninth down one run, with the almost-impossible task of scoring off ace reliever Mariano Rivera. This time, however, it was Arizona's turn for the magic. After two hits, an error by Rivera and a hit-by-pitch, the score was tied. And when Luis Gonzalez dropped a single behind the drawn-in infield, the Diamondacks were the champs. Bedlam ensued. Johnson, who entered the game in the eighth, got the win, his third of the series.
It was an October Classic, uh, make that a November Classic, befitting the 2001 season that was packed with memorable performances. Giants slugger A0109020Barry Bonds had what some are calling the best offensive season ever, swatting 73 home runs, walking 177 times and slugging at a .863 clip. Rookie Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki had two of the best rookie seasons in history and led the St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners, respectively, to postseason play. The Mariners tied the all-time record for wins in a season, going 116-36 before finally bowing out to the Yankees in the ALCS.
And 2001 was the year we said goodbye to two legends, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. Each retired after the season and baseball already misses the performances and the class of these two certain hall-of-famers.