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This Day in Yankees History: Joba gets attacked by midges during ALDS in Cleveland

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Tiny gnats alter postseason history and Mickey Mantle’s cleat gets caught in drainage cap during 1951 World Series

New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. The playoffs may be underway, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a trip into the past. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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69 Years Ago

The 1951 World Series pit the Yankees against their crosstown foes, the New York Giants, who were riding high following a pennant-clinching game. During Game Two of the Subway Series in the Bronx, Willie Mays hits a fly ball toward right-center field, halfway between Mickey Mantle, then a 19-year-old rookie playing right field, and Joe DiMaggio. Both Mantle and DiMaggio sprint toward the ball, and when DiMaggio calls Mantle off at the last moment, Mantle stops short and catches his spike on a drainage cap in the outfield of Yankee Stadium. Mantle falls to the ground, severely injuring his right knee. Mantle is carried off the field in a stretcher; many believe this accident contributed to the nagging injuries and leg pain through which Mantle played his entire career. The Yankees would go on to win the Series, beating the Giants in six games.

Mickey Mantle Injuring His Knee

13 Years Ago

In Game Two of the 2007 ALDS against Cleveland, Joba Chamberlain’s amazing rookie season hits a strange roadblock at Jacobs Field. With a 1-0 lead, the Yankees call on Chamberlain to relieve Andy Pettitte in the bottom of the eighth inning. Shortly after Chamberlain jogs out to the mound, a swarm of midges — biting flies that infest the banks of Lake Erie during warmer months of the year — invades the field.

Visibility becomes a serious issue for the Yankees on the field, who couldn’t stop swatting the air in front of them to combat the relentless mosquito-like bugs. On the mound, a giant swarm of midges blanket the back of Chamberlain’s neck and get in his eyes, affecting his concentration and ability to see field of vision. Yankees head trainer Gene Monahan hurries to the mound and applies a significant amount of bug spray to Chamberlain. The repellent is ineffective, however, and the midges relentlessly bother Joba, who walks Cleveland’s leadoff batter and throws two wild pitches.

The Yankees lose the game when Joba cannot regain his composure and gives up the go-ahead run. Up until that point, he had been lights out during the month of September, and many fans maintain the Yankees would’ve beat Cleveland and advanced to the ALCS had the midges never showed up. As an especially strange incident, “the bug game” will forever remain a part of baseball postseason lore.

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Happy birthday to former Yankees infielder Rey Sánchez, who turns 53 today.

Rey Sanchez

The Cubs traded Sánchez to the Yankees in mid-August during the 1997 season. New York needed a replacement at second base at that time, after Mariano Duncan seemingly lost his ability to hit and Mets pitcher Ricky Bones beaned Luis Sojo with an errant fastball that fractured Sojo’s left ulna bone. Sánchez hit .312 and provided solid defense in the infield for the Yankees during the 38 games he played in the Bronx.

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We thank Baseball-Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.