One For the Ages
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JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, a truly magnificent world series. “Unbelievable” is the word sportscasters and fans used to describe what took place over the last week between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Last night, it ended in an unbelievably magnificent game seven. Here are some highlights. (Cheers and applause.)
SPORTSCASTER: Another strikeout for Clemens. Eight on the night. One away. Strikeout number seven for Curt Schilling. Into right center field. That ball is going to get down. That ball is going to put Arizona on top. Danny Bautista delivers again. Going for third. Out, but it’s 1-0 Arizona. Runners at the corners, one out. Martinez with a base hit to right. The Yankees have tied it. Soriano into deep left field. At the wall. Yankees on top, 2-1.
SPORTSCASTER: The right-hander has the best chance.
SPORTSCASTER: The bunt by Miller. Throw to second. Into center field. Dellucci will stay and it’s two on with nobody out. Two on, one out and Womack into right field, a hit. Here comes Cummings, it’s tied. Going to third is bell. Tony Womack delivers, it’s 2-2. Floater… Center field. The Diamondbacks are world champions! (Cheers and applause.)
JIM LEHRER: And with me now is sports commentator and author John Feinstein. John, what would you add to describe that finish last night?
JOHN FEINSTEIN, sports writer: I’d start with unique because it really was one of a kind. You just don’t see endings like that to any sporting event. Mariana Rivera is arguably the greatest relief.
JIM LEHRER: For those who don’t follow baseball, let’s set the stage. The guy who was pitching for the Yankees, the last of the 9th — Rivera.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Arguably the greatest relief pitcher of all times — certainly right up there. He had almost never failed in the last six years during this Yankee run of championships. When the Yankees get the ball to him in the 8th inning, generally the game is over and the Diamondbacks had fallen behind 2-1 in spite of the incredibly courageous pitching by their starter Curt Schilling. They come in in the bottom of the 9th beings fox television is set up in the Yankee clubhouse waiting to interview the champions again because Rivera is that automatic. Somehow they produce this rally that we just saw. My heart is beating fast again seeing it again.
JIM LEHRER: Me too. I was having the same thing just now.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: It just… It was… It gave you chills. It was great baseball on both teams… On the part of both teams. Gallant… The gallant Yankees who probably weren’t as good as any of the three teams they played in post season playing with the back drop of what happened Sept. 11 in New York and the Diamondbacks, this fourth-year franchise staying right with them and coming back after two extraordinary losses in New York where they were one out away from winning in game 4 and game 5 and lost both games on two-run homers in the bottom of the 9th inning that tied the game that the Yankees won in extra innings and they somehow come back and win.
JIM LEHRER: But those events in themselves would have been enough to make them an historic World Series let alone what happened last night. You mentioned Rivera. There were three other big pitchers involved. We saw two of them in action, Roger Clemens who is the Yankee pitcher who pitched… He pitched, what? Seven innings.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: He pitched 6.1 innings last night.
JIM LEHRER: 6.1 last night and then Curt Schilling who started and then randy Johnson. Tell us about Schilling and Johnson. These two big men.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, the interesting thing about Curt Schilling is he was having a very ordinary career until about five or six years ago. After a game one night Roger Clemens, who was an opponent, Schilling was with the Philadelphia Phillies at the time, sat him down and basically told him you’re wasting your talent. You’re much better than this. Why don’t you bear down and use this talent you have to be a great pitcher. Schilling took it to heart.
JIM LEHRER: He said throw the ball harder.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Throw the ball harder and work harder. Work ethic. Schilling was out of shape. He couldn’t go deep into games. Now you can’t get the ball out of his hand basically once he’s got it in his hand during a game. Randy Johnson is this freak of nature. Six feet and ten inches, the tallest pitcher in history. He probably pitched himself into the Hall of Fame with this post season because he needed a great post season….
JIM LEHRER: Tell people what he did.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, what he did was he won game number two as a starter, he won game number 6 as a starter. He pitched Saturday night. He threw over 100 pitches. He came back in last night, he’s 38 years old, he’s no spring chicken. He came back in in relief when Schilling gave up that home run to Alfonso Soriano and pitched the last inning and a third which is very, very hard to do because your arm is ready to fall off after you throw more than a hundred pitches. He came back the next night in game 7 of the World Series and get the last four outs. Schilling and Johnson together.
JIM LEHRER: Three out of the four.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Three out of the four and Schilling and Johnson in post season won nine of the 11 games, the Diamond backs won.
JIM LEHRER: Schilling started three games out of the seven games.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right, started 1, 4 and 7. Once upon a time that wasn’t uncommon. Pitchers would pitch on three days’ rest. Sandy Kofax won game 7 of the 1965 World Series with a two-hit shutout on two days’ rest. But nowadays pitchers never pitch on less than four days’ rest. For him to do it twice in a week is remarkable.
JIM LEHRER: A lot of people have said, John, that what this series also did was it showed the best of what baseball as a game is. Do you agree with that?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Absolutely, Jim. Baseball is the best game. It’s the best game because there’s no clock. You have to get that 27th out to win, no matter what time of day or night it is, no matter how long it’s takes – and it’s not scripted. Football everything is scripted. Basketball the coaches want to control everything. You go there, you go there. Once the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, nothing is scripted. There’s an old cliché in baseball that if you go to the ballpark no matter how many years you’ve been going you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before. In this post season– I’ve been watching baseball since I was five years old. I saw Derek Jeter makes two plays that I have never seen anything close to.
JIM LEHRER: The shortstop for the Yankees.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: The shortstop for the Yankees in the Oakland series made a play you can’t make running across the first baseline to pick up a ball know had been overthrown and make an out at the plate with a backhand throw. Then we saw the replay of that throw… Relay throws he made catching the ball and turning in midair and throw to go the third baseman to get the Arizona runner out.
JIM LEHRER: He was trying to stretch a double into a triple and normally would have been made if not for Derek Jeter.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: If Derek Jeter lands and throws he’s safe but he caught the ball and his baseball instinct told him he must release this ball in midair. He did and threw him out by that much.
JIM LEHRER: You mentioned Sept. 11 and the effect it had on the Yankees. A lot has been said about that. Put that in context for us because everybody, hey, wait a minute, it’s only a game. So what has… What have sports, the World Series, the Yankees, sports generally shown us about it’s only a game post Sept.r 11?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: I think at times like this you need something that’s “only” — something that doesn’t… That you know deep down doesn’t really matter in terms of the result — something that gets you away from these things that matter so horribly. That’s what sports in general has done for us, I think, since Sept. 11. But in New York, the Yankees, who are so much a symbol of this city, they’re the team that has been in New York for the longest time, they were there as the New York Highlanders in 1903, Babe Ruth and Yankee Stadium are so symbolic of what baseball became. For them to make this run, the way they made it in such dramatic fashion throughout this whole month of October was something the city needed because you can’t sit there every day and look at those pictures and know what’s going on and realize what’s behind and what’s ahead without having somewhere to go to escape from it.
JIM LEHRER: They were actually playing better than they were.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: They played over their heads this whole post season. I would make the case that if they had won they would have done so by beating three teams that were better than they were.
JIM LEHRER: Including the Diamond Backs.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Because the Diamond Backs outplayed them; the Diamond Backs outscored them 37-15. In the seven games. Yet the Yankees were two outs from winning.
JIM LEHRER: What about Joe Torre? People who come new to baseball only during the World Series or when the play-offs and they keep… They’re always going to the managers. Joe Torre becomes a figure because the Yankees have been in so many post-game, post- season games. Tell us about Joe Torre. What do you think about him?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: I grew up in New York City. People always say to me Met fan –Yankee fan. That’s the first question you get. I was a Met fan as a kid. But I’ve known Joe Torre since he was the manager of the Braves in the 1980s and the Cardinals in the 1990s. There’s no better person in sports. He has a sense of what’s important in life. I remember when I was sitting with him one day in his office and his older brother came in and Joe jumped up to his feet….
JIM LEHRER: Frank, right?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right… And hugged him and kissed him. I’m a stranger. I’m sitting there. He’s a man in a macho world. This is what you do when your older brother comes into the room. He’s an extraordinary person having nothing to do with the fact that he’s a hall of fame manager. Because he’s managing the Yankees I’m a met fan I’m supposed to root against the Yankees. I can’t root against the Yankees because Joe Torre is such a unique… To go back to the original word… Figure in sports because he gets it. He knows it’s a game but it’s also competition and you want to win. But he always keeps the whole thing in perspective.
JIM LEHRER: John, thank you.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Jim.