This Day in Yankees History: Rivera, Rizzuto, and Races- September 17th

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 17: Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays September 17, 2011 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)

Trying a new, more time-friendly approach to the TDYHs. Real life has taken some time away from working more extensively on these posts, and though I much prefer the format of intensely focusing on one event, I would always rather have some content out there than no content at all.

Top Three September 17th Highlights in Yankees History

1. 2011- Mariano Rivera ties the all-time saves record.

San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman passed Lee Smith for the most saves in the history of baseball with his 479th save on September 25, 2006. Even then though, he was not the consensus pick for the greatest reliever in the history of baseball. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera attained that title through postseason success and remarkable consistency as the relief ace for the best team in baseball since 1997. Rivera did not need the most saves in history to secure this title, but he achieved that milestone anyway almost five years after Hoffman passed Smith. Hoffman ended his career in 2010 shortly after attaining his 600th career save, now with the Milwaukee Brewers. Fans realized that with a good 42-save season in 2011, Rivera could pass Hoffman, and Mo would do just that. First, he had to tie him after reaching number 600 on September 14th in Seattle. Three days later, the Yankees carried a 7-6 lead into the ninth against the Toronto Blue Jays thanks to a two-run homer in the seventh from Curtis Granderson. Rafael Soriano struck out the heart of the order in the eight, and Mo entered in the ninth. It was a typical Rivera save: three up, three down, no sweat. With two outs, Eric Thames lifted a fly ball to center for an easy final out. Hoffman had company. Currently at 608 saves with the potential to add some more if he successfully returns in 2013, it will be difficult for any future reliever to pass the great Rivear.

2. 1951- Bunter extraordinaire Phil Rizzuto's walk-off suicide squeeze puts the Yankees in first place.

While the New York Giants' heroics charging down the stretch against the first-place Brooklyn Dodgers in a thrilling finish for the National League, a great ending to the AL pennant race was forgotten. The Yankees and Cleveland Indians fought for first place during most of September, and one of finest games they played came on September 17th at Yankee Stadium. Eddie Lopat and Bob Lemon dueled to a 1-1 tie going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Lopat yielded just three hits, but one of them was a single to drive in Jim Hegan in the sixth inning to tie the game. Hegan was only on base because shortstop Phil Rizzuto fumbled a grounder. "The Scooter" had a chance to atone for his error in the ninth when Lemon allowed one-out singles to Joe DiMaggio and Gene Woodling. He challenged the light-hitting Rizzuto by walking Bobby Brown in front of him to load the bases, oddly sending the winning run to third base. Manager Casey Stengel put the squeeze on, and one of the greatest bunters in the history of the game somehow made contact with a high, inside Lemon fastball as DiMag sprinted down the line. The ball stayed fair and the Yankees won. Lemon could do nothing but fire the ball into the stands in a fury as the Yankees took back sole possession of first place.

3. 1931- The Yankees bludgeon the lowly St. Louis Browns in a doubleheader sweep by a combined score of 23-1.

Although the '31 squad was very good and won 94 games with a .614 winning percentage, they finished 13.5 games behind one of the great teams in American League history, the Philadelphia Athletics (107 triumphs and a .704 winning percentage). Regardless, manager Joe McCarthy showed New Yorkers that he knew how to manage a ballclub in this, his first season in New York. In game one, Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey had one of the greatest games of his career, belting two homers (including a grand slam) and driving in seven runs while the Yankees whitewashed the Browns 17-0. The second game was more subdued with a 6-1 final, although Babe Ruth also belted two homers, his 41st and 42nd of the season. "The Bambino" led the league in homers for the last time in '31 by tying teammate Lou Gehrig with 46. Hall of Fame starter Lefty Gomez, 22 at the time, tossed a three-hitter with seven strikeouts for a Game Score of 82, the second-best start thus far of his young career.

Honorable Mentions

1961- Roger Maris belted a 12th-inning two-run homer against the second-place Detroit Tigers to help the Yankees win their 102nd game of the season. The clout was Maris's 58th of the season, tying him with Jimmie Foxx of the '32 Athletics and Hank Greenberg of the '38 Tigers for the third-most prolific homer seasons in history. Only Babe Ruth's 59 in '21 and 60 in '27 were higher at the time.

1964- The Yankees reached a tie for first place in the AL for the first time since August 6th by beating the Los Angeles Angels, 6-2. They drew even with the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox, although they were technically two thousandths of a decimal point ahead of both. Mickey Mantle led the charge with two milestones: his 2,000th hit and 450th homer.

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