Yanks sweep Padres, take place among baseball's best
Posted: Saturday November 28, 1998 12:21 AM
SAN DIEGO (CNN/SI) - The 1998 World Series may not have contained much suspense, but you couldn't ask for a more fitting finish.
After dominating the American League during the regular season like no other team in baseball history, the Yankees dispatched the San Diego Padres in similarly quick fashion.
Their 125th win of the season clinched a record 24th World Series championship.
"This is truly, you can say it now, one of the greatest teams in baseball," said an emotional George Steinbrenner, the team owner. "We really worked for his."
New York notched its second championship in three years and its first sweep since 1950. The Game 4 victory gave the Yankees an overall 125-50 record and a win total that ranks right up there with all the other big numbers put up in the majors this year. Their 114 regular-season victories were the most ever for a champion.
And it was a tribute to a team vastly different from all those other pinstriped winners. Without a Ruth, DiMaggio or Mantle among them -- no certain Hall of Famers and no one even elected to start in the All-Star game this season -- these Yankees posted a .714 winning percentage, the best in the majors since their Murderers' Row club of 1927.
Yankees manager Joe Torre praised what he called "the most determined team I've been around."
"I don't know if we have the best team of all time, but I do know that we have the best record," Torre said. "We have to take a back seat to no one in my lifetime."
Brosius carried on the Yankees' tradition of unlikely infielders, coming up big in huge games -- remember Bucky Dent and Brian Doyle? The third baseman went 8-for-17 in the Series with six RBIs.
Fittingly, Brosius handled the last ball of the year, a grounder by pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney.
"I think the biggest moment is that third out, throwing the ball and knowing it's going to end the game and end the season," Brosius said. "There's nothing better than coming up and seeing the players' eyes and that sense of achievement and accomplishment and excitement."
And sure to touch off the debate about baseball's greatest team.
"I think that will probably be talked about forever," Brosius said. "The comparisons will go on and on, and maybe nobody will have a definite answer. But you can look at this year and say we had the single best season of any other team."
The Padres, the only team in the majors that did not get swept in a regular-season series this year, beat 100-game winners Houston and Atlanta in the NL playoffs. A record crowd of 65,247 saluted San Diego players who came back on the field after the loss.
Pettitte shut out San Diego into the eighth inning while the Yankees hitters did just enough to bring down ace Kevin Brown.
Bernie Williams, playing perhaps his last game for New York, broke a scoreless tie with an RBI chopper in the sixth. In the seventh, Brosius singled home a run and surprising rookie Ricky Ledee hit a sacrifice fly.
The Padres tried to rally in the eighth, when Tony Gwynn's single finished Pettitte. A single by Ken Caminiti off Mariano Rivera loaded the bases with two outs, but Jim Leyritz, a postseason hero in the past for the Yankees and San Diego, flied out to Williams in center field.
Gwynn went 8-for-16 in the Series. He was only player remaining from the Padres' team that lost in five games to Detroit in 1984, the only other time San Diego was in the Series.
"Sure, we would have liked it to have worked out better, but the Yankees have a great club -- probably the best team we've faced all year," Gwynn said. "They did everything they needed to to win."
The Series sweep was the first since Cincinnati upset Oakland in 1990, and was the Yankees' seventh. Also, New York won its eighth straight Series game while the Padres lost their seventh in a row.
For a team that led the AL in pitching and scoring, it was a complete performance that produced its seventh straight win in this postseason.
Perhaps the Yankees had something else going for them, too -- inspiration from slugger Darryl Strawberry, out because of colon cancer. All the Yankees had his No. 39 embroidered on their caps, and they chanted "Straw Man! Straw Man!" in the victorious clubhouse.
Pettitte won just six days after his father underwent heart bypass surgery, allowing five hits in 7 1-3 innings. It was reminiscent of his performance in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, when he beat Atlanta 1-0.
"This is more gratifying than the Game 5 victory," Pettitte said. "It has been an up-and-down year, especially with the situation with my dad. He's home watching. I know he's at home with a big smile on his face."
Brown, who could not hold a three-run lead in the seventh inning of Game 1, took the loss.
Rivera closed out his spectacular postseason, getting the last four outs for his third save of the Series. Including the playoff wins over Texas and Cleveland, he pitched 13 1-3 scoreless innings and recorded six saves.
Pettitte and Brown dueled evenly into the sixth, when the Yankees moved ahead by the slightest of margins.
But Jeter quickly broke for home and Brown saw he had no play, getting the out at first. Jeter took no chances, sliding home and toppling Padres catcher Carlos Hernandez.
Williams finished 1-for-16 in the Series. He's eligible for free agency, and there's been talk that he might leave for Arizona, Colorado or another club and a salary of more than $10 million a season.
In the eighth, Jeter led off with a walk and O'Neill reached on an infield single, a close play disputed by Brown and manager Bruce Bochy. Both runners moved up on Williams' groundout and Brown intentionally walked Tino Martinez to load the bases.
That brought up Brosius, acquired in the winter after hitting just .203 last year for Oakland. The hero of Game 3 with two homers, he hit an RBI single.
Ledee followed with a sacrifice fly. He finished 6-for-10 in three starts.
Brosius and Ledee provided the last of several highlights for the Yankees this year, a season that included David Wells' perfect game and the debut of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
Notes: Home run champion Mark McGwire, who threw out the ceremonial first ball, showed off his fielding prowess in the fourth inning. Sitting next to commissioner Bud Selig in a front-row box on the third-base side, he one-handed a foul grounder by Chuck Knoblauch and flipped it over his head into the crowd. ... Former Yankees ace Whitey Ford celebrated his 70th birthday. He holds the Series record with 10 wins.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.