The results are in for the semifinals of Pinstripe Alley's Yankees Top Moments Tournament:
(Founding-1959) Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech: 59%
(1960-79) Bucky Dent's playoff homer: 41%
(2000-present) Aaron bleepin' Boone: 73%
(1980-99) Jim Leyritz's game-tying World Series homer: 27%
It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that it came down to these two moments, given the tournament setup and the incredible memories they created. So without further ado, here is the final matchup of the Top Moments Tournament:
Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" Speech
On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig stepped to the microphone at Yankee Stadium on Lou Gehrig Day after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that would later be known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease put an early end to the Iron Horse's career, also forcing an end to Gehrig's consecutive game streak at 2,130 games from June 1, 1925 to May 2, 1939 because of his deteriorating health.
After announcing his retirement on June 21, Gehrig made his famous speech in front of more than 60,000 fans between games of a double header against the Senators on Independence Day. In the emotional farewell, Gehrig thanked the fans for their kindness and encouragement following his grim diagnosis, and claimed himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth", which would become one of the most iconic sports moments in history. Gehrig closed his speech with the similarly famous line, "So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for", before being joined at the microphone by his Murderer's Row partner, Babe Ruth.
By the time Gehrig made his famous speech, his condition had already worsened considerably. His number 4 was retired by the Yankees, earning him the honor as the first baseball player to have their number retired in baseball. In December of 1939, Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame in a special vote by the Baseball Writers Association as the second-youngest player ever to be voted in. Gehrig passed away in 1941, exactly 16 years after he famously took over for Wally Pipp in the Yankees' lineup to begin his great consecutive game streak.
The Luckiest Man speech is much more than just an iconic player's farewell to the game of baseball, instead representing a dying man showing grace and humility in the face of a tragic illness that ended his career and life all too soon. Gehrig walked away because his condition made him feel like he was hurting his team, but as his manager told him on the day of his famous speech, he was never that.
Entry written by Tanya Bondurant on November 19, 2013.
Aaron Boone's Game 7 home run
Game 7. Yankees-Red Sox. If you're a fan of the greatest rivalry in sports, then 2003 was as good as you can hope for. The Yankees had won 101 games under Joe Torre behind one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. The starting rotation led by Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and David Wells led the major leagues in innings pitched, FIP, and fWAR while their closer, some guy named Mariano Rivera, had a pretty decent season too with 40 saves and a minuscule 1.66 ERA.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, had hired a new General Manager in Theo Epstein, and signed little-known free agent backup DH David Ortiz a few weeks before the start of spring training. Ortiz went from starting the season as a part-time player to hitting 31 home runs and finishing fifth in the MVP voting, much to the delight of Red Sox fans.
The Yankees and Red Sox were neck-and-neck throughout much the 2003 season before the Yankees pulled away with the division title in the final two months. The ALCS was about as heated as this rivalry has been in a long time, from both the fans and the players. This was highlighted during Game 3 in Boston, where tempers flared and the benches cleared. Going into Game 7, the Yankees and Red Sox were dead even in head-to-head matchups throughout the season.
The game itself did not start off well for Yankee fans. Pedro Martinez was lights out early on while Yankees starter Roger Clemens struggled to get into rhythm. The Yankees were already down 4-0 when Mussina relieved Clemens with two on and nobody out in the top of the fourth to get out of the jam. Jason Giambi was able to get to Pedro with a pair of solo home runs in the fifth and seventh innings to cut it to 4-2, but Ortiz responded with a home run in the eighth to extend the lead back to three. After Nick Johnson popped out to lead off the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox were five outs away from the World Series. That's when the magic began.
Derek Jeter doubled to right and scored on a single by Bernie Williams to cut it to 5-3, prompting Boston manager Grady Little to go out to the mound, presumably to bring in a lefty to face Hideki Matsui. Instead, he left Pedro in the game, and two doubles later from Matsui and Jorge Posada, the game was tied at five. Little's decision to leave Pedro in the game was a big talking point for Red Sox fans in a classic second-guess situation.
The game went into extras, as Rivera came on in relief as the game remained tied through the ninth and tenth innings. The Yankees were running out of time after Rivera pitched his third inning of relief. Nobody knew if Rivera could pitch any more, and Jose Contreras was going to be the next guy out of the bullpen. Thankfully, we never had to see that happen, as with Tim Wakefield on the mound, Aaron Boone came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the 11th.
Boone didn't even start the game for the Yankees. He was sat down for Game 7 in favor of Enrique Wilson, who had a history of success against Pedro. Boone entered earlier as a pinch-runner before taking over at third base, and was getting his first at bat of the game. He connected on Wakefield's first pitch of the inning, homering over the left field wall and sending the Yankees to the World Series, breaking the hearts of plenty of Red Sox fans in the process. In a special moment, his brother Bret Boone was in the booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver as he hit one of the biggest home runs in Yankees history.
Entry written by Chris Kirby on December 9, 2013.
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