And the victory flag is unfurled
It's a century late, but it's well worth the wait
To be crowned as the CHAMPS—of the world!
It was going to be a highly unusual World Series. That was clear even before the first pitch was thrown.
As the last notes of the national anthem ended, all eyes turned toward centerfield, where a Yankee Stadium star was making an unexpected appearance. For four years a bald eagle named Challenger had marked the end of the anthem by flying from deepest centerfield to home plate. But 10 days earlier, spooked by the noise of an F-14 jet flyover, Challenger had lost his bearings and swooped low, almost colliding with Derek Jeter. The famous eagle had already booked an event that conflicted with the Series, but when the Chicago newspapers and sports radio outlets learned of Challenger's absence and began questioning New York's patriotism, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner told his staff, "I want the bird!"
Now Challenger took off, heading flawlessly toward home plate, past Bernie Williams, past Alfonso Soriano—but then, right before approaching David Wells on the pitcher's mound, the eagle wheeled and headed straight for the box seats just to the left of the Yankees' dugout. As dignitaries dived for cover, Challenger's handler, Al Cecere, raced from home plate to the box and lifted the bird off the head of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. "The governor's hair looks exactly like Challenger's nest," Cecere said at a postgame press conference. "He was just trying to go home."
Going home was more than the Yankees could do as the Cubs took away their home field advantage with a 4--1 victory in which Wood held the Bombers to six hits. When New York manager Joe Torre—known for his swift late-inning hook—was asked how he felt about Wood's complete game, he responded, "What's a complete game?" ("He was probably joking," Roger Angell would write in The New Yorker.)
The joy in Chicago was short-lived; the Yankees evened the Series with a 9--3 thumping behind Andy Pettitte's five-hit pitching and just the second two-homer game of Williams's season, then took home field advantage back when Mike Mussina's four-hitter and a six-RBI outburst from Hideki Matsui gave the Yankees a 7--3 victory at Wrigley.
Game 4 would define the Series. And it was in Game 4 that one of the sport's most commanding figures took center stage.
It wouldn't have happened in Miami, where the challenges of the climate are heat, humidity and rain. In Chicago, however, there is the Hawk, a vicious wind that can chill the bones and freeze the soul—and profoundly affect the flight of a pitched ball. And on the night of Wednesday, Oct. 22, the Hawk was flying.