April 30, 1998
Yankees 9, Mariners 8 (10 innings)
As a Yankees fan in the mid-nineties, there was one team I detested more than all others. It wasn’t the Red Sox, the team’s historical rivals. Nor was it the Blue Jays, who ruled baseball in the earlier part of the decade. But rather, it was the Seattle Mariners, who beat the Yankees in heartbreaking fashion in the ’95 AL Division Series. And on the Mariners, there was one player who I hated/feared more than all others: Ken Griffey, Jr. who destroyed the Yankees in that five game series in ’95 and always seemed to do damage whenever he was up to bat. Besides, as an obnoxious Yankees fan, I felt Griffey was overrated, while my team’s Centerfielder, the less-flashy, but equally (if not more so) laid back Bernie Williams was underrated.
Well, earlier this week, Griffey announced his retirement. He put up some great numbers in his day (cleanly, I might add), will surely make the Hall of Fame and while I can respect him and what he’s done, I still dislike him. Once an obnoxious Yankees fan, always an obnoxious Yankees fan.
I remember one game in particular where, if I had not been an obnoxious Yankees fan, I would have appreciated his offensive abilities. Unfortunately for me, he put up a few runs early on in this game. But in the end, the Yankees somehow managed (in thrilling fashion) to defeat the hated Mariners and Griffey’s awesome display of power didn’t really matter that much.
The date was Thursday April 30, 1998. The Yankees were wrapping up the first month of what would be their greatest season ever (or at least of my lifetime). I was wrapping up my junior year of college. My roomate Jon (the convert) and I should have been working on a group project for one of our classes. Instead, we decided to head to The Stadium with our suitemate Royce to catch a Yankees game before finals started. Because it was a mid-week game, the Stadium wasn’t near being sold out and we managed to get seats in the lower level on the third base side.
David Wells, who was erratic early on in the ’98 season started for the Yankees. He gave up four runs in six innings, two of them to Griffey, who hit two home runs (with future Yankee Alex Rodriguez adding his own home run). Despite the fact that the Mariners struck first, the Yankees showed up to play, with the lead see-sawing back and forth until it was 7-4 Yankees going into the eighth. In the eighth, Mike Stanton gave up four runs, before Darren Holmes (“that young man from Colorado,” who seemingly was behind a number of Yankees losses early in the season) shut the Mariners down. The game went into extra innings thanks to a Tim Raines solo shot in the bottom of the ninth.
Mariano Rivera quieted the Mariners in the top of the tenth. In the bottom of the inning, Tino Martinez singled in Chuck Knoblauch to seal a win for the Yankees, sending the crowd home very happy. Despite Griffey’s two home runs, the Yankees came out on top. Griffey would only be in the league for another season and a half and the Mariners never really again struck fear into the hearts of Yankees fans.
As Griffey put up Hall of Fame numbers, our Centerfielder won four World Series rings. I’d rather have Williams’ career. But then again, I’m an obnoxious Yankees fan.