The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament continues with the 1980-1999 bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves move on in the poll below.
#2: David Wells' Perfect Game
The Yankees sparked some controversy after the 1996 World Series when they let the popular Jimmy Key walk in favor of fellow lefty David Wells, who'd been on four different teams in the previous five seasons. The hefty, tattooed, biker-bred Wells seemed an odd fit for the clean-cut Yankees of the late 90's, but his Yankee-killing reputation and his success at the Stadium convinced Bob Watson and George Steinbrenner otherwise.
After a solid '97 campaign that included a big win in the ill-fated ALDS vs. Cleveland, Wells stumbled out of the gate in '98, posting a 5.23 ERA over his first eight starts and drawing criticism from Joe Torre over his questionable conditioning. As if to prove his manager right, he took the hill vs. Minnesota on May 17th, three days before his thirty-fifth birthday in a state he later described as "half in the bag." We'll never know for sure if Wells was really drunk or hung over that Sunday afternoon, but the end result can't be disputed. After striking out eleven Twins through an untouched 8.2, Wells got shortstop Pat Mears to loft his 120th pitch to Paul O'Neill in right for the final out of the fifteenth perfect game in MLB history and the first for the Yankees since Don Larsen's in the 1956 World Series.
Wells' perfecto sealed for him a permanent place in Yankee lore and won him the coveted "true Yankee" title that he still holds to this day, even though he pitched just four total seasons in pinstripes. He cemented his status with a third-place Cy Young finish in '98 and a 4-0 playoff record that year en route to the club's historic 125-win run of dominance. His trade to the Blue Jays after the season drew the ire of many of the Yankee faithful even though the team got Roger Clemens in return.
#7: Don Mattingly's playoff home run
To say that Don Mattingly has issues with timing is probably the understatement of the millennium. The nine-time Gold Glove winner spent his Yankee career as player and coach tiptoeing around championships and pennants like they were made of hot lava. Despite batting .307 and belting over 200 homers across a fourteen-year run, he found himself sandwiched in-between World Series berths in 1981 and 1996. He returned as hitting instructor in 2004 just in time to miss another trip to the Fall Classic, then left as bench coach after 2007 just two years before the Yankees' next title in 2009. Needless to say, when Donnie Baseball finally got his first and only taste of October as a player in 1995, he was determined to make it count.
At 34, addled by chronic back woes, Mattingly looked a lot like his former self late in the '95 season as the Yankees won 19 of their last 23 games to secure the American League's first-ever wildcard. After winning Game 1 of their Division Series match-up with the Mariners, the Yankees trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth in Game 2. Leading off the inning, Ruben Sierra homered to right off Andy Benes to tie things. Then Donnie stepped to the plate with the old Yankee Stadium buzzing like it hadn't in years. On probably the most memorable swing of his decorated career, he drove Benes' second offering into the right field bleachers as Gary Thorne delivered his call on national TV: "This one from Mattingly...oh, hang on to the roof! Goodbye! Home run!"
The Yankees won Game 2 in fifteen innings on a Jim Leyritz walk-off, but the series, and the season ended four days later in an excruciating extra-innings defeat in Seattle. Nevertheless, the Yankees' captain did everything he could. In the only twenty-five postseason plate appearances of his career, he batted .417/.440/.708 and drove in six runs over what would be his final five games in baseball.
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