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WHEN THE YANKEES WON THEIR FOURTH WORLD SERIES IN FIVE YEARS, back in 2000, Mariano Rivera took care of the last out of a game started by Andy Pettitte, with Jorge Posada behind the plate and Derek Jeter at shortstop. Nine years later, and now known as the Old Guard, the four Yankees stalwarts reassumed their positions, just as New York did atop the baseball world. ¶ It only seemed like a reenactment, like one of those Civil War battlefield docudramas. But it was the real deal, or as Yogi Berra, who played on 10 Yankees world championship teams, might say, déjà vu all over again. With Rivera, Pettitte, Jeter and Posada still playing crucial roles, the Yankees returned to glory. With a six-game conquest of the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies, New York won its 27th world championship, and the fifth for each of the Old Guard, all of whom were developed by the Yankees and brought to the big leagues in 1995. That leaves them halfway to Berra.
The cast around them was largely new, with none of the additions more expensive or important than off-season free-agent signees CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. It made for the perfect mix. The Phillies stopped the Yankees only in the two games started by ace Cliff Lee, with New York taking all four in which Lee didn't start. Relying on Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte, all of whom made their second start in the Series on short rest, manager Joe Girardi's club became the first to win the World Series with a three-man rotation since the 1991 Twins. And with Rivera getting the final out of all four wins, Girardi used only four pitchers to eat up more than 75% of the outs in the Series.
In the clubhouse after Game 6, Hank Steinbrenner, son of principal owner George Steinbrenner, gave an honest answer when asked how the front office viewed the team in spring training: "We knew we had the best team in baseball." Over the next 177 games, especially the six in the World Series, the Yankees left no doubt. The best team won.
GAME 1 at New York
PHILLIES 6, YANKEES 1
PHILLIES STARTER LEE HAD WAITED HIS ENTIRE career to pitch in a World Series, and when the day came at last, he quickly found himself in a monster jam in New York City. It wasn't the Yankees, though, who caused Lee trouble. It was the midtown traffic.
Lee left his midtown Manhattan hotel in a taxi at 4:45 p.m. but was still sitting in traffic about an hour later. He jumped out of the cab, walked to a subway station, hopped on one train, transferred to another and exited at 161st Street in the Bronx, from where he called the Yankee Stadium visitors' clubhouse for directions on how to get into the stadium.
It was 6:20 p.m. by the time Lee finally made it to the ballpark—barely an hour and a half before the scheduled first pitch. "He may have been late," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said, "but that didn't exactly bother him, did it?"
Few customers have ever been cooler in the World Series than Lee, who might as well have pitched Game 1 to the accompaniment of Sweet Georgia Brown, the Harlem Globetrotters' theme song, for the casual mastery he exhibited. Working with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step, he made it look easy.
Lee pitched a World Series game for the ages. He beat the Yankees 6-1 with a complete game, in which New York scored only an unearned run in the ninth. He walked none and struck out 10. It was the first time in World Series history that a pitcher had struck out 10 batters without allowing a walk or an earned run.