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Standing tall

Diminutive Chad Curtis brings down Braves in Game 3

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Posted: Wednesday October 27, 1999 06:17 PM

  Chad Curtis pumps his fist as he watches his game winning home run. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- He sat and stewed last year as the Yankees swept San Diego.

And again Saturday when he didn't get into Game 1.

And then again Sunday, when he watched Game 2 from the dugout. Chad Curtis finally got to play Tuesday night. And by the time the night was over, the second-shortest Yankee was standing tall.

"I don't think -- in fact, I know -- I've never hit one in the regular season, I've never hit a walk-off home run," Curtis said after his leadoff shot in the 10th, his second of the night, gave New York a 6-5 win over Atlanta and a 3-0 World Series lead.

"I've heard people talk about tingling," Curtis said. "I've never felt that before. I think somewhere between second and third, I felt like there was electricity running through my legs. It was a great feeling. You're rounding third base coming home, seeing all your teammates there waiting for you in a World Series game."

He couldn't remember all of the triumphant jog around the bases, how he pumped both fists into the air and then did it again. Or the the high-five from coach Jose Cardenal at first base. Or the one from Willie Randolph at third.

He remembered back to last October, when after 456 at-bats during the regular season, he never saw a pitch against the Padres.

"It was very frustrating," Curtis said Tuesday. "I played 152 games. that's 152 of 162. I never stepped on the field in the World Series."

While the Yankees capped their amazing season with a sweep, he hurt.

"I wasn't pouting. We won the World Series," he said. "By the same token, I felt I was more congratulating my teammates than celebrating with them. That was something I was uncomfortable with."

If Tom Glavine hadn't gotten the flu, Curtis would have started against the lefty in the opener.

"I was really fired up to play in Game 1," Curtis remembered. "I had been there probably a half hour."

Then somebody told him Greg Maddux, a righty, had replaced Glavine as Atlanta's starter.

"I said, `What?' He was joking, I thought," Curtis said.

So there he was Tuesday night, hitting the first World Series walk-off homer since Toronto's Joe Carter took Mitch Williams deep in Game 6 in 1993 to win the Series.

And what about that fifth-inning homer, the one that made it 5-2 and started the Yankees on their comeback? That was an old memory by now.

"We were flat there," Paul O'Neill said. "We were down 5-1 and Glavine was just mowing us down."

All the other Yankees are well-known: Jeter and Williams, Knoblauch and O'Neill, Martinez and Brosius, Davis and Girardi.

But Curtis?

He was supposed to lose his job to Darryl Strawberry.

Or to Shane Spencer.

Or to Ricky Ledee.

Or to Tony Tarasco.

"I don't have so big an ego that I can't admit that other players are better than me," Curtis said.

But when it was time to lead off the 10th inning, Curtis was there, leading off.

"It's always somebody you don't expect," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Cox had remembered watching Curtis before the game.

"I was amazed," Cox said, "when he was standing by the other players, how short he is."

No matter what else happens, Curtis has that moment, a replay that will be shown over and over in Yankee Stadium.

"I hit it for my grandma," he said, still on the field with the game-winning ball, "but I got to give it to my 2-month-old son."

Mike Remlinger had just come in, and throughout the ballpark, there was the feeling the win was there for the taking. John Rocker had pitched his two innings, and the rest of the Braves' bullpen scares mainly their own fans.

Curtis fouled off the first pitch, then took a ball.

And then came the drive.

Left fielder Gerald Williams knew after two steps.

"I have a tendency in these situations to try and hit a home run," Curtis said. "So, I went up there and tried to hit a liner up the middle, and I hit a homer."

Funny how that happens. Yankees manager Joe Torre, who says that all the time, made sure to join the group greeting him right away.

"I said you had a hell of a first World Series game," Torre told him.

He's the man of the night, the talk of the town, a New York hero.

But Curtis, at 5-foot-10 an inch taller than Chuck Knoblauch, doesn't even know if he'll get back on the field for Game 4.

"I'm going to wait on that," Torre said, "and see what happens."


 
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MLB Scoreboard: How They Scored: Atlanta at New York
Stats
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Multimedia
Chad Curtis discusses the teamís decision to boycott interviews with Jim Gray. (112 K)
Curtis talks about the electricity of his game-winning moment. (199 K)
Manager Bobby Cox believes the Braves still have a chance to get back in the series. (153 K)
Cox knows at any moment the game can be decided by an unknown. (78 K)
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