The Round of 16 in our All-Time Yankees Fantasy Showdown wraps up, with the DiMaggio region featuring both a surprising upset and a nail-biting seven-game series that was decided in the 9th.
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, here and here.
Here we go.
(1) 1961 vs. (4) 2009
The 1961 Yankees are often tossed around as one of the greatest baseball teams of all time, and not just in terms of the franchise. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris captured the city’s, and nation’s, collective imagination with their chase of Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. Maris, of course, hit 61 and Mantle had a major league-leading 10.4 bWAR year.
But in this round, they go up against a 2009 squad that, while not nearly as dominant at the top of the roster, might be a bit deeper, with eight members of the go-to starting lineup posting OPS+ marks of 118 or better.
In Game One, though, it was the pitchers who dominated. CC Sabathia got 2009 off on the right foot with eight shutout innings en route to a 2-1 series-opening win. Whitey Ford put up an admirable effort himself, striking out 13 batters over eight innings, but he gave up a two-run homer to first baseman Mark Teixeira in the first inning that proved to be the difference.
Game Two was also closely contested, with 2009’s Andy Pettitte outpitching Bill Stafford on the way to a 3-2 win. The ’61 boys would get in the win column in Game Three, however, with an 11-7 victory in 10 innings that saw shortstop Tony Kubek go 4-6 including a go-ahead two-run single in the 10th. Mantle provided insurance with a two-run homer in the next at-bat.
But 2009 found themselves on top of another one-run contest, winning Game Four 6-5 on the backs of a two-RBI performance from Derek Jeter (including a solo homer in the third), a three-hit night for Teixeira and a crucial three-run double by center fielder Melky Cabrera in the 6th.
In Game Five, 2009 left nothing to doubt with a resounding 10-4 win to close out the series. Teixeira came up big again, pounding out three hits and driving in three runs as he was named series MVP with a .455 batting average, one home run, and six RBI. Jorge Posada also contributed with a big three-run homer off Ford in the 6th inning.
(3) 1938 vs. (7) 1999
If 2009’s upset win over 1961 lacked the drama of a long series, this matchup made up for it, going the distance.
The underdog 1999 team got out of the gate first, with a 4-1 Game One win as starter Roger Clemens outdueled his counterpart Lefty Gomez. But in Game Two, Joe DiMaggio led the way for 1938, notching three hits, including a two-run shot off David Cone in the 5th, en route to a 6-2 win to even the series up.
In Game Three, “El Duque” Orlando Hernandez flummoxed ’38 hitters over 6.1 shutout innings, with Ramiro Mendoza and Mariano Rivera successfully closing out a 3-1 win. And their momentum continued in Game Four, with an 8-6 victory powered by designated hitter Chili Davis’ two-run walk-off home run in the 9th.
Down but not out, 1938 stanched the bleeding with a thorough 10-2 win behind Gomez’s 10-strikeout performance in Game Five. Every ’38 batter entered the hit column, with five turning out multi-hit performances. George Selkirk, Joe Gordon and Bill Dickey all went deep.
Thirty-eight followed a similar script in Game Six, cruising to a 12-2 win, with Frankie Crosetti and DiMaggio both going yard.
The series would all come down to Game Seven, and this one was a nail-biter. It was “El Duque” squaring off against Monte Pearson and ’99 took an early lead in the 3rd. With two outs in the innings, Jorge Posada on third and Chuck Knoblauch on first, catcher Bill Dickey uncorked a wild throw trying to nab Knoblauch stealing second. That allowed Posada to score and gave ’99 a 1-0 lead.
But in the bottom of the 4th, ’38 responded with three runs, including a bases loaded walk conceded by “El Duque,” to take a 3-1 lead that held up until the 8th inning. With two outs and the bases empty in that frame, Derek Jeter smacked a double into left-center. Paul O’Neill followed that up with a walk before Bernie Williams smashed a double into the right field corner that plated both runs. The score was now tied 3-3 as the series entered its endgame.
The next two half-innings were scoreless, and ’99 called on Mariano Rivera to keep it that way in the bottom of the 9th. Joe Gordon grounded out to second base on the first pitch, so things were going according to plan. But Rivera would throw just one more pitch on the night, which right fielder Tommy Henrich deposited over the right field fence for a series-winning walk-off homer. The 1938 squad, favorites in the series, had overcome a 3-1 deficit to eke out a win and the right to play 2009 in the Elite Eight.
Frankie Crosetti, who hit .385 with one homer and three RBI, was named series MVP.