Second-round action in our All-Time Yankees Fantasy Showdown continues, with the Gehrig region providing a spine-tingling moment that would be an instant Yankee Classic if it played out in real life.
For the uninitiated, we’re using Out of the Park Baseball 21 to stage a simulated tournament between the Yankees’ best teams to see who reigns supreme. You can check out summaries of other second-round action here, and here.
Let’s get to it.
(1) 1998 vs. (4) 1943
The 1998 Yankees’ bona fides are well-established: they amassed a franchise-best 114 regular season wins with production up and down the lineup and consistent starting pitching on their way to the organization’s 24th World Series title. The ’43 team is odd in the fact that they were a World War II-era team missing its best player in Joe DiMaggio, so questions about their actual quality are reasonable. But that didn’t stop them from cruising to a 4-1 series win over 1947 in the first round.
Forty-three started strong in Game One, scoring three first-inning runs off ’98 starter David Cone before sitting back and watching their own hurler, Spud Chandler stymie Derek Jeter and company over 7.1 shutout innings while striking out 11 and walking one. Those three early runs held up for a 3-0 win.
The ’98 bats woke up in Game Two, however. With the score tied 3-3 entering the bottom of the 7th, future captain Derek Jeter led off with a double against lefty reliever Marius Russo. After an intentional walk to center fielder Bernie Williams, Russo struck out right fielder Paul O’Neill, but then conceded a line drive single through the second base hole to Scott Brosius. The ball was hit too hard (110.6 mph exit velocity) for Jeter to score, so it was bases loaded with one out and first baseman Tino Martinez at the plate. And wouldn’t you know it, Russo’s third pitch of the at-bat was a wild one, which allowed Jeter to score the go-ahead run. Even the best teams rely on well-timed luck. Brosius sealed the victory for ’98 in the next inning, hitting a bases-clearing three-run double to put his squad up 7-3, where the game ended.
Ninety-eight continued the momentum with a 3-2 win in Game Three behind the pitching of “El Duque” Orlando Hernandez, who tossed seven innings of two-run ball. And ’98 seized a 3-1 series advantage with a 6-4 win in Game Four, powered by a three-hit, two-RBI performance from Jeter (including a 7th inning home run) and a four-hit game from Williams.
Game Seven proved to be the most dramatic of the tournament thus far. “El Duque” was on the hill for ’98, but was uncharacteristically off to start the game. A leadoff walk to designated hitter Snuffy Stirnweiss was followed by back-to-back jacks by Charlie “King Kong” Keller and Nick Etten. Just like that, the top-seeded ’98 team were in a 3-0 hole after the first inning. It was a familiar place: David Cone surrendered three runs in the first innings of Games One and Five and ’98 went on to lose both games.
“El Duque” avoided more damage, but could only provide two more innings of work. In the bottom of the 3rd, 1998 clawed two runs back on the strength of a homer from second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. And there things sat for the next five innings – a 3-2 lead for 1943 entering the bottom of the ninth with a chance to seal the upset victory and advance into the Elite Eight.
They called on righty Johnny Murphy to close out the win. Murphy had made two appearances in the series, in Games One and Five, both of which ’43 won. He’d been nearly flawless, striking out four batters over two innings while conceding a lone hit. Paul O’Neill led off for ’98 and Murphy continued his dominance, fanning him on six pitches. Somewhere in the 1943 clubhouse, an attendant slyly checked the temperature of the chilling champagne.
Scott Brosius, however, was busy digging into the batter’s box and smacked a double to right on the first pitch. The tying run was in scoring position and the game was far from over.
Tino Martinez was up next and, like his fellow lefty O’Neill, was set down on strikes. Things were back on track and ’43 was one out away.
Up stepped catcher Jorge Posada, who was 0-3 on the night with two strikeouts. But there would be no cat-and-mouse game between pitcher and batter in this moment. On Murphy’s first pitch, Posada absolutely unloaded, smashing a towering home run into the right field bleachers to walk off his ’98 team to victory. His shot left the bat at 111.9 mph and soared 421 feet, bringing this second-round matchup to a dramatic close.
(2) 1937 vs. (3) 1932
This second-round matchup features teams just five years apart, but it really represents the ending of one era and the start of another. The ’32 team was Babe Ruth’s last title winner, while the ’37 team was propelled in large part by a young Joe DiMaggio, playing in his sophomore season. There was still a fair amount of overlap, of course: both squads had Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez.
It was a closely contested and pretty tidy series. Ruth’s ’32 team struck first with a 2-1 victory in Game 1, relying chiefly on Ruffing’s efficient starting pitching. But in Game 2, Ruffing was on 1937’s side and keyed them to a 2-0 win to knot the series 1-1.
Thirty-seven then started to swing the bats, winning both Games Three and Four by 6-4 score lines. Designated hitter Myril Hoag had a pair of hits in each game and racked up three RBI. Catcher Bill Dickey pounded out five hits over those contests and drove in three as well.
Red Ruffing again led ’32 to victory in Game Five, 2-0, staving off elimination, but their relief would be short-lived. Thirty-seven cruised to a 6-1 win in Game Six to clinch the series and advance. Hoag, who drove in three more runs in the final victory, was named series MVP.