The Yankees had won three World Series in four years, and felt like an unstoppable force heading into the 2000 season. However, a lackluster 87-win regular season that saw them drop 15 of their last 18 games had fans questioning if their magical run was nearing an end.
Yet on this day 18 years ago, the Bombers were preparing for an epic World Series battle against the crosstown rival Mets. The Yankees flipped a switch in October after crawling their way to the finish line of the regular season. They were helped along in large part thanks to a clutch home run from trade deadline acquisition David Justice, who provided one of the most underrated moments of the last Yankees dynasty in Game Six of the ALCS.
The Mariners finished with a better record than the Bombers in 2000, and even took Game One of the ALCS in the Bronx, but the Yanks would storm out to three-straight wins by a combined score of 20-3 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Mariners dug out a win with their backs against the wall in Game Five, and were threatening to force a decisive Game Seven when they grabbed a 4-0 lead in Game Six, as the Yankees’ usual perennial playoff performer Orlando Hernandez faltered in the Bronx. The Yankee offense responded with a trio of runs in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a Jorge Posada double and a Bernie Williams single, cutting the Mariners’ lead to 4-3, and it stayed that way until the seventh.
Jose Paniagua relieved Brett Tomko to start the bottom of the seventh, and immediately put runners at the corners after a leadoff single by Jose Vizcaino, a sac bunt by Chuck Knoblauch and a single by Derek Jeter. Arthur Rhodes came on to relieve Paniagua, and his first assignment was Justice.
Justice was everything Brian Cashman hoped he would be when he brought him over from Cleveland at the trade deadline. He posted a .977 OPS as a Yankee in the regular season and already had a pair of homers in the playoffs heading into Game Six. Now facing Rhodes, with the Stadium buzzing, Justice worked a 3-1 count before turning on a fastball and sending it deep into the New York night, sending the Bronx into delirium. It was also a quality bat drop, as Justice admired his mammoth home run that put the Yanks on top 6-4.
Here’s Michael Kay and John Sterling’s call of the big moment, because you know, they used to call games together.
Justice’s home run sparked another three runs from the Yankees off Rhodes in the seventh, giving the Bombers some valuable breathing room as they hung on for a 9-7 win to clinch their third-straight American League pennant. Justice would take home the series MVP, thanks in large part to the biggest home run of the series in Game Six. Justice turned out to be another fantastic trade by Brian Cashman, as Justice played a major role in the Yanks’ run to a 26th World Series title.