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"The Greatest Series" Excerpt

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Chris Donnelly, author of Baseball's Greatest Series: Yankees, Mariners, and the 1995 Matchup That Changed History, was kind enough to talk to me about his new book. 

You'll be able to read our Q&A on Thursday, but to whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from the first chapter ("Don-nie Base-ball") that Chris has given us permission to run.

Still giddy over Sierra’s game tying home run, the crowd looked for something special from Mattingly.  After a first pitch ball, Yankee Stadium organist Eddie Layton began playing "Charge" over the public address system, to which the crowd enthusiastically replied.  In the Mariners’ bullpen, Bill Risley warmed up. 

Staring from the mound at Mattingly was Andy Benes.  Benes, who the Mariners had acquired mid-season, had grown up in Evansville too.  He was six years younger than Mattingly, so he had watched the Captain along with the other residents of Evansville with great pride and reverence during the 80’s.  But that was then. 

Now, Benes wanted to get his native Indianan out without sustaining any further damage.  Benes threw a 1-0 change up, but missed his spot.  Instead of dipping down, the ball stayed over the plate long enough for Mattingly to turn on it.  Using a leg kick he had developed mid season to generate power, the Captain crushed Benes’ pitch, drilling it high and deep to right center field.  In the Yankees’ dugout, his teammates immediately jumped up from the bench to follow the flight of the ball.  Jay Buhner, the Mariners’ right fielder and a former teammate of Mattingly’s, chased the ball in vain.  It landed in the first row of the right field bleachers where several fans fought one another for possession of the cherished souvenir. 

Mattingly rounded first base and having watched the ball land over the fence allowed himself a miniscule fist pump.  His teammates raised their arms in triumph.  Bernie Williams led the celebration, enthusiastically waving his fists and high fiving teammate Jorge Posada.  Mattingly continued around the bases, finally reaching home plate where he high fived teammate Dion James, then the bat boy. 

As he returned to the dugout to receive further congratulations, pandemonium ensued all around him.  Full cups of beer fell from the upper deck, showering fans in the lower level.  Vince Coleman, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Buhner all took cover in the outfield as liquor bottles, coins and other objects began littering the field.  "It was the only time I ever felt unsafe.  The dugout was shaking," said Buck Showalter.  It was a terribly misguided yet touching display of emotion for their long suffering Captain.  Lou Piniella, trying to protect his players and perhaps attempting to stem the Yankees’ momentum, pulled his team off the field.  As he did so, a program struck him directly in the stomach.  Eventually, the crowd relented as the grounds crew cleaned off the field.  Chants of "Don-nie Base-ball" sprang up across Yankee Stadium.  It was an outpouring of affection not seen at the Stadium in years, perhaps decades. 

"You enjoy it.  When it’s that loud, it becomes almost funny," recalled Paul O’Neill of the moment. Though he had just given up the go ahead run, Andy Benes still thought the reaction of love and support by the fans for their Captain was one of the "coolest things" he had ever seen.  In the middle of it all, calmly standing in the dugout awaiting resumption of play as if none of this was occurring, was Donald Arthur Mattingly. 

Mattingly’s home run, the last of his career, nearly started a riot and could have potentially caused the Yankees to forfeit the game.  Programs, bottles, coins and who knows what else littered the field.  People were running for cover and players were high fiving one another like they were still in little league. 

It was the surreal atmosphere that was the 1995 Division Series between the Yankees and the Mariners. 

Yet Game 2, already in the sixth inning, was only just beginning to get crazy.  And, thankfully for both teams, who had been waiting for this kind of drama to revive their ballclubs for years, the Series hadn’t even come close to its most dramatic moments.