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Raising Arizona
Tom Verducci
November 05, 2001
Led by fireballers Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the long-in-the-tooth Diamondbacks kicked up their heels and jumped on the Yankees for a 2-0 World Series lead
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November 05, 2001

Raising Arizona

Led by fireballers Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the long-in-the-tooth Diamondbacks kicked up their heels and jumped on the Yankees for a 2-0 World Series lead

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"I never do that, but I did this one time," Morgan said. "I got a peek at my wife, my two little girls, my mom and an empty seat for my dad, whom we lost last November. He was watching from a better seat upstairs. My mom, Nellie, is 60 years old and about four feet tall. I caught a peek of her crying. Her boy's out there still pitching. I'm in the Fall Classic. I've been playing this game for 23 years, and here I am with the whole world watching. What a feeling."

Morgan retired, in succession, Paul O'Neill, Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter, who have 13 world championship rings among them. Lefthander Greg Swindell, making his World Series debut at the tender age of 36, took care of the final three outs of the three-hitter. The 34-year-old Schilling (102 pitches) had hardly broken a sweat, leaving him available to start twice more in the Series.

Gonzalez had snapped a 1-1 tie in the third inning with his two-run homer, the result of a misplaced pitch by New York righthander Mike Mussina that illustrated Mussina's lack of command on this night. Though catcher Jorge Posada had called for a 1-and-2 fastball away, Mussina, working on eight days of rest, threw one that tailed over the inside half of the plate. "It felt like high school," Mussina said about throwing balls where they could be readily hammered, "but in high school they don't hit them as hard. Having so much rest affected me. I got on the mound four times in between starts, but it's not the same as throwing in a game."

Not since the 1961 Yankees boasted Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle has a team with a 50-home-run hitter won a world championship. Gonzalez is trying to end that streak. He smashed 57 dingers during the season and through Sunday had tacked on another three in the postseason—this from a former lightweight hitter whom the Detroit Tigers traded to Arizona after the 1998 season for outfielder Karim Garcia, a prospect who never panned out. "And," Gonzalez emphasized, "the Tigers kicked in half a million dollars to get rid of me."

In Arizona, Gonzalez adopted a wide-open batting stance, a weight-training regimen borrowed from former Houston Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell, a heavier (33-ounce) bat recommended by Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra and the patience required of a father of three-year-old triplets. "I used to stress out more," Gonzalez says. "Now I have three little ones to chase around. You learn what's really important."

With those changes he blossomed into a power hitter. "The best part," says Grace, who played with Gonzalez on the Cubs in 1995 and '96, "is he's become a superstar and he's stayed one of the nicest guys in the game. He's the same guy he was when he was a crummy player."

After Gonzalez's homer the Diamondbacks broke open Game 1 with five unearned runs stemming from errors by rightfielder David Justice and third baseman Scott Brosius. Grace delivered the final two runs with a double in the fourth inning. "We spread the wealth," Grace said. "A lot of dreams came true tonight."

Game 2, on Sunday, was Johnson's turn to realize his dreams of glory. The 38-year-old Big Unit, who spent most of his career scowling even at his own teammates on the days he pitched, was so relaxed before his first World Series start that he joked with fellow Diamondbacks about their picks for that day's NFL games. "He's not the mummy he used to be when I got here," said Schilling, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in a trade last season.

"Shhhh," Johnson said to a reporter. "I'm supposed to be mean and nasty. Don't let the word get out."

So at ease was Johnson that, after pitching the seventh inning of a tense 1-0 game, he walked into the clubhouse office of director of team travel Roger Riley and joked, "Well, I didn't think we were going to score nine runs again." Third baseman Matt Williams soon made the rest of his night more comfortable by blasting a three-run homer off gallant lefthander Andy Pettitte.

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