The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament continues with the 1980-1999 bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves to move in on the poll below.
#4: Tino's 1998 Game 1 slam
As I did during my last post in the Top Moments Tournament series, I actually happened to cover Tino Martinez's amazing slam in my three-part series on the iconic moments of the Yankees' 27 championships. Here's how Tino's slam went down and crushed the San Diego Padres' hearts:
The '98 Yankees were an amazingly good team that seemed to dominate everyone they faced. They just didn't have any weaknesses. They romped to a then-AL record 114 victories with an outstanding +309 run differential, swept the Rangers in the ALDS, and rebounded from an unexpected 2-1 ALCS deficit to beat Cleveland in six games. The World Series was not much of a contest, even though the Padres were a fine team. It still brought some memorable moments, especially in Game 1.
ALCS MVP David Wells did not bring his good stuff to Yankee Stadium for the opener, as San Diego touched him up for three homers to take a 5-2 lead. Padres ace Kevin Brown allowed just the two runs through six, but the Yankees knocked him out of the game and put two runners on for Chuck Knoblauch. He was the goat of ALCS Game 2 when he argued with the umpire rather than throwing out the game-winning run. Knoblauch atoned for his mistake by smashing a three-run homer, knotting the score at 5-5.
The rally was already exciting, and a few batters later, Tino Martinez had a chance to make it unforgettable with the bases loaded and the score still even. He has struggled in his playoff history to date, but after a close 2-2 pitch called a ball, Tino launched Donnie Wall's next pitch to the upper deck in right for a go-ahead grand slam. Yankee Stadium, now 75, literally shook. The Yankees won the next three games to sweep and secure their 24th World Series title.
#5 Dave Righetti's July 4th no-hitter
Long before he became the Giants' pitching coach, Dave Righetti was a tough-to-handle brash lefty for the Yankees. Traded as a minor leaguer by the Rangers to the Yankees in the '78 Sparky Lyle deal, "Rags" made the starting rotation by the '81 campaign and later won the AL Rookie of the Year in the strike-shortened season with an AL-best 2.05 ERA and 58 ERA- in 15 starts. While that was the last year the Yankees would reach the World Series for quite some time, they had a nice young pitcher on their hands. In '83, Righetti set a career-high in innings pitched with 217, highlighted by nine memorable innings against the Boston Red Sox on July 4th.
Righetti entered the game with a 3.58 ERA in 16 starts and 77 strikeouts, but he was not picked for the AL All-Star team. He then set out to prove the people who snubbed him wrong, although his next scheduled start was unbearably hot. It was Independence Day (and owner George Steinbrenner's birthday), and at Yankee Stadium, the humidity was exhausting. The time between innings also took longer than usual because broadcasters Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer came down to the field to do promotions between some of the innings, prolonging Righetti's time in the heat. Nothing could actually cool down Righetti that day though.
The sweltering afternoon game began with Righetti striking out seven of the first ten Boston batters. Aside from a Jim Rice walk in the first and a Reid Nichols walk in the fifth (who was promptly picked off), the Red Sox had nothing going against Righetti. The Yankees tallied a run in the fifth against John Tudor via an Andre Robertson RBI single, and DH Don Baylor took Tudor deep on a solo homer in the sixth. Boston remained hitless through the sixth, seventh, and eighth, as Righetti dazzled them and worked a timely inning-ending double play on Tony Armas after another Rice walk in the seventh. The Yankees put one more insurance run on the board in the bottom of the eighth, setting the stage for Righetti to try to close out the no-no.
In the ninth, Righetti walked catcher Jeff Newman for his fourth and final free pass of the game. He was quickly erased on a fielder's choice to shortstop by shortstop Glenn Hoffman. A slow grounder by Jerry Remy to Robertson at second sent the Red Sox down to their last out, but it would be an incredibly tough out Rags: Wade Boggs. The Hall of Fame third baseman hit a staggering .352/.443/.480 in the '80s and in '83, he went on to win the first of five batting titles with a .361/.444/.486 triple slash in his sophomore campaign. He was also difficult to strike out, for he fanned just 745 times in his entire 18-year career, a span of 10,740 plate appearances.
Fortunately, Righetti managed to strike Boggs out, who later said, "If I got a hit, there was probably no way I would have gotten out of New York alive." The crowd was in a frenzy and an exhausted Righetti put his arms up and hugged catcher Butch Wynegar in relief. It was the Yankees' first no-hitter since Don Larsen's perfect game 27 years prior, the longest no-hit drought in team history. The fact that the Red Sox were the victims made the feat even sweeter. Although he would later go on to bullpen success, Righetti's July 4th no-no was easily the highlight of his 16-year career and one of the Yankees' finest moments of the '80s.
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