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No excuses

Braves take the blame for failing to mount comeback

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Posted: Thursday October 28, 1999 01:59 AM

  Roger Clemens tips his cap after a brilliant performance in the series clincher. AP

By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated

NEW YORK -- It is said in Boston, greater Dallas-Fort Worth, and certain pockets of Flatbush that God is a Yankee fan.

The sole recourse for the non-believer is to chalk up the Yankees' incredible 76-year, 25-championship run to medicine men, witch doctors and voodoo priests.

The Yankees swept a series in which they trailed four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux 1-0 in the eighth inning of Game 1, and trailed two-time Cy winner Tom Glavine 5-1 in the fifth inning and 5-3 in the eighth inning of Game 3.

In Wednesday's clincher, Roger Clemens, who struggled with his consistency all season and had not pitched in a World Series since the "Bill Buckner Game" in 1986, outdueled John Smoltz, who entered the game with a 12-3 postseason record.

In winning their second straight Series and eighth straight Series game over Atlanta, the Yankees seem to have added the Braves' "number" to the pile already in their possession.

Smoltz commended the Yanks on their come-from-behind ability. "All year long that's been our strong point-get to the eighth inning and hand it to [set-up man Mike] Remlinger and [closer John] Rocker. We weren't able to do that. The Yankees played pretty much a perfect Series."

Third baseman Chipper Jones seemed to have acknowledged the apparent inevitability of a Yankees win before the game even started when he dismissed comparisons between this series and the Mets' near comeback in the National League Championship Series.

After the game, he offered no excuses for his team's loss.

"It's a time of disappointment but a time to walk out of the clubhouse with our heads held high," he said. "We lost to a superior team, so we tip our caps."

Bret Boone capitulated. "Losing puts a little damper on this season, but this team has nothing to be ashamed of," he said from his locker at the far end of the visitor's clubhouse. "It's a pretty good team that just beat us, a pretty darn good team."

In the center of the clubhouse, Rocker, first baseman Ryan Klesko, and pitcher Bruce Chen munched solemnly on corn, crab and yellow rice.

Pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg, who sat out the entire season, could only usher a piece of roast beef back and forth across his plate with his fork. During the meal, retiring National League President Len Coleman, Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson and actor Danny Aiello entered the clubhouse.

By the time the press began to file out, Robinson and Coleman were seated at the table, talking to Rocker and Klesko about baseball.

Aiello was telling jokes. Rocker and Klesko weren't laughing, but they weren't crying either. At one point, the Braves' 25-year old closer even smiled. Without anyone saying the word, a sense of perspective seemed to have developed around the table.

Nearby, starter Kevin Millwood offered, "This season was outstanding. With all of the injuries we've had, no one even expected us to be here." Unfortunately for the Millwood and the Braves, the Yankees seem to hold a copyright on destiny.

At some point early in this Series it became obvious that this, like many before it, was the Yankees' year. Like the Dodgers in the 1940's and 50's and the Red Sox throughout the last three-quarters of a century, the Braves can only wait 'til next year, and hope the magic finally wears off.

Said Rocker, "I didn't want to be on the losing end, but the bottom line is it was a long season and I'm glad it's over."


 
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