The Yankees won with a roster on which 14 of 25 players were not in the organization at the end of last season, including seven added after June 11 of this year. Every time a leak sprang, it was plugged with the help of an unmatched budget that swelled past $60 million. These were the dammed Yankees. Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz all but cursed them, saying the difference between the two clubs was the extra $18 million New York spent on its bench players.
Yes, the Yankees were deeper and had a superior bullpen. But Torre outmanaged Atlanta skipper Bobby Cox, and the New York pitchers outshone one of the best starting staffs of all time. "The bottom line is that we beat them at their own game," said New York catcher Jim Leyritz late last Saturday night. "They made mistakes, and our pitchers didn't."
All of that Yankees good fortune seemed ordained when the phone rang at Torre's house in New Rochelle, N.Y., at 5:45 a.m. last Friday. He had walked in the door only 30 minutes earlier after flying home from Atlanta following Game 5, which New York had won 1-0. The caller was someone from Columbia Presbyterian in New York City telling him that Frank was being prepared for a transplant after waiting 11 weeks for a suitable donor. "When Frank got the heart," Joe said, "I felt like we were meant to win. I mean, Dr. Oz doing the surgery? Come on. It's been like an out-of-body experience."
Five months earlier Cone had been on the ninth floor of Columbia Presbyterian, three floors above where Frank would undergo surgery. Doctors had removed an aneurysm in Cone's right shoulder by taking a vein from his thigh and grafting it onto the one that was about to burst. He was expected to be out for the season. While Cone was in the hospital, Betty Ford alumnus Dwight Gooden threw a no-hitter for the Yankees, though Cone did not see it. "No cable there," he said. "It was like Dwight was replacing me and things were going to be O.K."
It was Cone who started Game 3 in Atlanta and who was asked to save the Yankees after they had lost the first two games by a combined score of 16-1, the biggest differential at that juncture in World Series history. "The mood on the plane ride there was embarrassment," Cone said. "We were thoroughly embarrassed. It was like, Let's save some face."
The Yankees were angry, too. They had seethed after Cox changed pitchers with two outs and a 12-1 lead in the ninth inning of Game 1, as if the game were being played in West Palm Beach, Fla., in March. Some New York players felt Atlanta was rubbing it in. Moreover, they learned through personnel working in the Yankee Stadium visiting clubhouse that the Braves boasted about that win, some of them saying, "They don't belong on the same field as us." Said Cone, "Victory was certain. It was a given for them. Yeah, we noticed it."
Torre felt that for New York to get back into the Series, it had to take an early lead in Game 3. Atlanta lefthander Tom Glavine, who won the Cy Young in 1991, accommodated Torre by walking leadoff hitter Tim Raines to start the game. Torre called for a bunt, which Derek Jeter executed, moving Raines to second. Bernie Williams then drove a two-strike pitch into centerfield for a single, scoring Raines. New York had a lead—the first against Atlanta pitching in 46 innings, dating to Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Yankees would not yield the advantage, not even in the sixth inning when Cone rewarded Torre's faith in deciding to leave him in by getting Fred McGriff and Javier Lopez on pop-ups with the bases loaded to escape with a 2-1 lead. Several of Cone's fastballs were clocked at 93 mph.
"That inning," Torre would say after New York went on to a 5-2 win, "was what the World Series is about. If we get out of that inning with a lead. I just have to run the bullpen guys out there and put my hands in my pockets."
The Braves learned that trying to beat the Yankees' bullpen in the late innings was like trying to beat an IRS audit. New York won 96% of the time this year (75-3) when it led after six frames. In the World Series, Atlanta batted 19 times after the sixth and scored two runs. The Braves hit .315 for the first six innings and .176 afterward.
The Yankees' bullpen helped win the marathon Game 4 as well. It shut out Atlanta after the fifth inning, enabling New York to come back from a 6-0 deficit and win 8-6 in 10 innings. An epic? Ben-Hur didn't take as long and had a smaller cast. After four hours, 19 minutes, Torre had deployed all of his players except his top three starting pitchers and had used 10 players in the ninth spot of the batting order. Only one team, Connie Mack's 1929 Philadelphia Athletics, came back from a bigger World Series deficit, scoring 10 runs in the seventh inning to defeat the Chicago Cubs 10-8 in Game 4.