Well, they do get along like a Cub Scout pack, too. Infielder Dale Sveum liked this team so much that after he was released on Aug. 3, he chose to hang on as a bullpen catcher rather than go home to his wife and two kids—even though he had a guaranteed contract. In the first moments after their Series-clinching win the players honored Darryl Strawberry, their teammate recovering at home from colon-cancer surgery, by chanting, "Straw-man! Straw-man!" This was a team only a heat-seeking headline writer couldn't love, a Reader's Digest team in a tabloid town.
"It's a team that doesn't spike the ball," manager Joe Torre says. "They have an inner conceit. They know they're good, but they don't have the need to flaunt it."
The Yankees' role as ghostbusters actually began in spring training when owner George Steinbrenner asked Torre, "Has anyone ever gone 162-0?"
"He was kidding," Torre says. "I think. I didn't realize how close we would come."
How close? At 125-50, the Yankees played 75 games over .500 during the year that marked the 75th anniversary of the franchise's first world championship as well as the opening of Yankee Stadium. Their winning percentage—.714—was as monumental as Babe Ruth's career home run total. Of the 50 games New York did lose, all but 18 were decided by one, two or three runs. "I can't see anybody dominating the league the way we did," shortstop Derek Jeter says. "I mean, 125-50? That's ridiculous."
These Yankees may appear to be mere pickpockets to the Murderers' Row team of '27. In this Year of the Dinger, no Yankee had as many as 30 home runs. Nor was there a certain Hall of Famer on the roster, though Jeter and 20-game winner David Cone are putting up eye-catching resumes.
Make no mistake, the Yankees did have top-shelf talent. On most days they started an All-Star at every position but catcher. "People say they don't have superstars," says Paul Molitor, the Minnesota Twins DH, who attended Game 4. "But they have a handful of guys who, if you put them on another club, would be superstars."
The Yankees didn't play music in the clubhouse after games this season—they were too familiar with victory to celebrate it—though outfielder Bernie Williams could be found before most games bare-chested, facing into his corner locker, caressing soft jazz out of the strings of his Fender Stratocaster. A perfect Yankees moment, this being a team of brilliant studio musicians without a marquee solo act.
Picking a telling Yankees statistic is as easy as pointing out stars on a clear night—and the best numbers had nothing to do with individual achievement. For instance, the Yankees tied a major league record by going 24 straight series without losing one—and 11 days after that streak ended they began one during which they held a lead in 48 consecutive games. As late as June 22 they had more postponements at home (six) than losses (five).
The best gauge may be what October wrought: New York buzzed through the postseason 11-2, despite having the top five spots in its batting order hit a combined .219. Even that didn't hurt the Yankees because their relentless lineup turned opposing pitchers into Sisyphus, as it had all year long. In the playoffs they drew nearly twice as many walks as their opponents (62-32), and their bottom four hitters combined to bat .305—including rookie Ricky Ledee, who wasn't on the Division Series roster but who joined Billy Hatcher (Reds, 1990) and Babe Ruth (1928) as the only players to bat .600 or better while playing in every game of a World Series.