Yankees won 25th championship with pitching, defense
Posted: Thursday October 28, 1999 01:47 AM
Paul O'Neill (17) congratulates Bernie Williams after scoring on one of the Yankees' many singles. Al Bello/Allsport
NEW YORK (AP) -- Derek Jeter was in the middle of the champagne celebration just like he was in the middle of almost every Yankees rally.
He sprayed an entire bottle of the bubbly on Joe Torre's head. Then he got really adventurous and let loose on owner George Steinbrenner.
But the Boss was in a forgiving mood. And why not?
The New York Yankees had just completed their second straight World Series sweep, beating the Atlanta Braves 4-1 Wednesday night.
"Jeter is in deep trouble," Steinbrenner said. "Tell him I'm kidding."
Past Yankees dynasties have been led by sluggers like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson. For this group of Yankees -- the first team in 25 years to win three titles in four years -- no player defines it more than Jeter, the happy-go-lucky shortstop who arrived at the start of this run in 1996.
"He's going to give Yogi a run for his money," general manager Brian Cashman said, referring to Berra's 10 World Series titles. "We're just fortunate to have him."
That's partly because these Yankees aren't really the Bronx Bombers anymore; they didn't rely on the longball to win the World Series. Jeter, known for his defense and clutch hitting, was one of the players who helped make sure the Yankees didn't need many home runs.
New York scored three runs in the third inning without an extra-base hit and Jim Leyritz added a homer as the Yankees became the first team in 60 years to sweep back-to-back Series. New York was also the last team to accomplish the feat.
"This is what we play for," Jeter said in a slightly subdued celebration that was dampened by the death of Paul O'Neill's father earlier in the day. "We want to be the last team on the field. People wrote us off earlier in the season but we did it when we had to."
Operating with machinelike efficiency, the Yankees of the 1990s joined DiMaggio's teams of the 1930s and Mantle's of the 1950s as the only Yankees teams to win three Series titles in four years.
But outside of a four-homer performance in Game 3 that brought back memories of the Bronx Bombers, this group of Yankees prefers a much slower method of offensive torture.
A majestic blast from Ruth, Mantle or Jackson typified great Yankees teams of the past. But Torre's Yankees, who didn't have a 30-homer hitter for the second straight year, would rather foul off tough pitches, string together singles and work out walks.
"What helps us is that we're just thinking, 'jab, jab, jab,' as opposed to knockout punch," Torre said. "We're thinking of a line drive. That's basically our game."
The big third-inning rally in Game 4, like so many for the Yankees, was started by their pesky one-two duo at the top of the lineup. In their second year as teammates, Jeter and Chuck Knoblauch have become close friends and frequent dinner partners.
But it's the work they do against opposing pitchers that is most important to the Yankees, scoring nine of New York's 21 runs in the Series.
"We just try to get on base and let the other guys get us in," Jeter said.
Knoblauch started the rally with an infield single that bounced off the glove of shortstop Walt Weiss, who couldn't make the backhand play. Jeter then lined an inside-out single to right field, sending Knoblauch to third base.
The table had been set. Now it was up to the middle of the lineup to finish the job. Of course, they did.
Jeter stole second as O'Neill struck out. After Bernie Williams was intentionally walked by John Smoltz, Tino Martinez hit a hard grounder off first baseman Ryan Klesko's right arm for a two-run single.
One out later, Jorge Posada - catching Roger Clemens for the first time in two months -- lined an RBI single to right to make it 3-0.
"This is 25 men all contributing to a goal," Cashman said. "We give Joe a number of players and he utilizes them perfectly. It's a different player every time."
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