Work in Sports
There's Justice for the Yankees: MVP of the ALCS
Updated: Wednesday October 18, 2000 7:56 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Upper deck swaying, sound effects blaring. The mayor standing and clapping in the front row, fans in the bleachers shouting and going crazy.
Late innings, game on the line. A trip to the World Series at stake.
David Justice never shook.
Justice, who has played in more postseason games than anyone in baseball history, hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning Tuesday night that sent the New York Yankees over Seattle 9-7.
Not only did the drive clinch the AL Championship Series in Game 6, it earned him the MVP trophy.
"Just to see this place explode, we really needed it," he said.
He started the night hitting only .190 in the ALCS, but made up for all that with one swing.
Justice, at last!
Having missed out on Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa earlier this season, the Yankees got Justice on June 29 from the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Ricky Ledee and two young pitchers, hoping he might deliver some big hits.
Had he ever hit a ball harder?
"I don't think in a pressure situation in a game this big, no," he said.
It was a classic line drive into the upper deck in right field, a shot that greeted Mariners reliever Arthur Rhodes and rallied the Yankees from a 4-3 deficit.
Justice slapped hands with first-base coach Lee Mazzilli as he rounded the bag, on his way to a much bigger celebration at home plate. Double high-fives awaited from Derek Jeter and Jose Vizcaino, and Justice slammed down his helmet and he rushed to the dugout.
The sellout crowd of 56,598 roared its approval and he responded with a curtain call. Justice finished the series with a team-leading eight RBIs, even though he hit only .231 in the six games.
Still, that was enough to send the Yankees toward their Subway Series matchup with the New York Mets and give Justice another highlight for his October showcase.
His 51 RBIs are the most for any player in the postseason.
Back in 1995, Justice's home run gave the Atlanta Braves a 1-0 win over Cleveland in the clinching Game 6 of the World Series. And while that drive may be the biggest hit in his record 88 postseason games, there was no doubt this one was just as emotional.
"I never thought I'd ever hit a home run that would make me feel as good," he said.
He probably never figured he'd hit one like this for the Yankees, either.
Needing a spark, New York looked over every other major league roster this summer, trying to find the right guy to juice its offense. Then, after a deal for Gonzalez fell through and trade talks for Sosa did not develop, the Yankees got Justice.
"Well, we asked a lot of people in the organization -- scouts, our skipper here -- and everyone was on board and said Justice was the guy and let's do it," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "So we went ahead and did it. We're fortunate it's worked out."
Ditto for Justice.
"Before I got here, they won three of the last four World Series," he said. "They were a great ballclub before we got here and we didn't want to come in here and mess up the mix."