The Yankees beat Smoltz, who had lost only once in 17 postseason starts, on a night when he became the first pitcher in the past 91 World Series games to whiff 10 batters. Pettitte, who allowed only five hits, outpitched him.
Atlanta joined the 1905 Athletics, the 1921 Yankees and the 1986 Mets as the only teams to lose a 1-0 World Series game on an unearned run. And when the Braves lost by one run again in Game 6, they assured themselves of being labeled as the Dynasty That Never Was. Though TEAM OF THE '90s is engraved on their 1995 world-championship rings, the Atlanta players have won as many world championships this decade as Marge Schott's Cincinnati Reds.
Perhaps history will condemn Grissom, Wohlers or even Cox to places alongside Lonnie Smith and Jeff Reardon, goats from the Braves' 1991 and '92 Series losses, in Atlanta infamy. As well as Cox's teams have played in the regular season this decade, they have these numbers to explain: In 63 postseason games they are 11-19 in one-run decisions and 4-9 in extra innings.
Wetteland, who saved each Yankees victory, won the MVP award, but no one had a better Series than Torre. He will have virtually the same club next season, with Key, a free agent, the only important player whose status is uncertain. Outfielder Ruben Rivera is New York's next phenom, following homegrown frontline players Jeter, Pettitte, Williams and Mariano Rivera in this decade. There will always be money to cover mistakes and upgrade the roster, and there is no reason to think the Yankees can't be back in the World Series next year—no reason unless they have exhausted their credit limit with destiny. "Joe Torre will never have another year like this one," Zimmer said. "There are not that many other things that could have worked out for him. Everything went his way."
You can never tell about destiny. On the same night in which the Yankees' third hitter drove in the third run in the third inning to beat a third Cy Young winner 3-2 to win New York's third world championship of the Steinbrenner era, a horse named Electric Yankee ran out of the third post position in the 11th race at Yonkers. It finished last.
Oh, well. Otherwise the Yanks had all the right horses, including those from the NYPD who spread some of New York's finest on the Yankee Stadium sod after the clinching victory. The cavalry kept the fans in the stands—another improbability come true—while the Yankees celebrated their championship on the field. Then Torre yelled into the ear of Leyritz, the lone New York player left from a 95-loss season six years ago, "You're used to getting these guys together. Let's do it one more time." Soon the Yankees ran a victory lap, with the mounted police as escort, around the old ballpark.
"We were floating," Cone said later. "Guys jumping up and down, slipping around. It was an incredible feeling."
That's how the story concluded. Cone had his fastball, Key had his bride, Frank had his heart and Joe had his ring. Could it have ended any differently?