Since I started covering the Yankees in 2001, I have witnessed some of the most memorable moments in history at Yankee Stadium. Not just Yankees history or Yankee Stadium history, but baseball history.
The Aaron Boone home run. The Red Sox ALCS comeback. Roger Clemens' 300th win. Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius hitting dramatic homers in the bottom of the ninth on consecutive nights in the 2001 World Series.
But when I was asked what moment stands out to me from my time as a fan (1978-2000), there was one that jumped to mind immediately.
It was Tuesday, October 17, and the Yankees were trying to close out the Mariners in Game 6 of the ALCS. The Mets had closed out the Cardinals in the ALCS the night before, and a win over Seattle would send the Yanks into the first true Subway Series between the crosstown rivals.
As a kid growing up in New York in the '80s, I had many more friends that were Mets fans than Yankees fans, since the 1986 Mets captivated the city and seemed to turn most 10-12 year olds into Mets fans. But with a father who grew up in the Bronx, I wasn't about to be a convert (He did help me become a San Francisco Giants fan, however, having moved to the Bay Area in 1989, but that's another story). A World Series between the Yankees and Mets would be the most memorable baseball week in my lifetime.
I was at the game with my buddy Matt Sadofsky, his sister, Janna, and their father, Lenny. Sadofsky and I were fraternity brothers at Boston University, and as Yankees fans living in Boston, we had become good friends while fending off the Sox fans that surrounded us.
We watched the ALDS games at a sports bar in 1995 (that was the year of the Baseball Network, so the Red Sox series against the Indians was on local TV, forcing us to spend what little money we had to watch at the Sports Depot) and sped home in about 38 seconds to watch Jim Leyritz hit his homer after the manager told us they were closing up.
Sadofsky and I had attended several games together, but this one felt different. I had never seen the Yankees clinch a series (I did see the Reds clinch the 1990 World Series title in Oakland with my dad, but that didn't really measure up) and it was pretty cold that night, but we were ready to watch the Yanks move on to the Fall Classic by disposing of A-Rod and the Mariners.
Seattle jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Orlando Hernandez on RBI doubles by A-Rod and Edgar Martinez in the first and two-run homer by Carlos Guillen in the fourth. The Yankees answered with three in the fourth, getting a two-run double by Jorge Posada and an RBI single by Paul O'Neill, knocking starter John Halama out of the game.
But Brett Tomko did the job in relief of Halama, holding the one-run lead into the seventh. That was the inning during which I actually feared for my life.
Jose Vizcaino singled off Jose Paniagua to put the tying run on base, then Chuck Knoblauch bunted him into scoring position. Derek Jeter poked a single through the hole at short to put runners at the corners for David Justice.
That's when Lou Piniella went to the bullpen, calling in lefthander Arthur Rhodes. Justice, who had been a huge acquisition for Brian Cashman in late-June, hammered a 3-1 pitch over the right-field wall, putting the Yankees ahead, 6-4.
I can honestly say I wasn't sure that the upper deck was going to hold up since it was shaking so hard. I remember high-fiving Matt and Lenny so hard my hand hurt, though it was close to numb to begin with from the cold and the constant clapping. The chants of "We want the Mets!" were going on all over the Stadium, while signs reading things like "Bring on the Mets" could be seen all over the upper deck.
The Yankees went on to score three more runs in the seventh, but the Mariners answered with three in the eighth against El Duque and Mariano Rivera, cutting it to 9-7. Rivera got the first two outs in the ninth before A-Rod singled to bring Edgar to the plate as the tying run, but Rivera got him to ground out to short to clinch the pennant.
Not only was this the first time I had seen the Yankees clinch, but it turned out to be my final great moment at the Stadium as a fan. I attended Game 2 of the Subway Series (the Clemens-Piazza game) in the Bronx, but it didn't come close to matching the intensity of that Justice homer.
I've seen dozens of great moments at the Stadium in my eight years on the beat, but there's something about seeing one from the seats with friends that makes it more memorable.