Rewind: 2001 World Series—New York Yankees vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

Rewind: 2001 World Series—New York Yankees vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

On November 1st, 2001, The New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks were deadlocked at 2 runs apiece in the 11th inning of the World Series. For the first time in Major League Baseball history, the season had stretched into November. Due to the tragedy of September 11th, the MLB season was delayed for three weeks in 2001. As a result, the usual World Series setting in October was no more. The 2001 World Series will be remembered as a true rollercoaster of an ending in a matchup filled with members of the Hall of Fame. Although Arizona emerged as the winners, the trophy was up for grabs for the entire series. 

The true talent in this series is historically unmatched. Led by ace pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the Diamondbacks had the strongest one-two punch in the league. Across the diamond, Roger Clemens from the Yankees stood atop the MLB, having recently been awarded the Cy Young award for the league’s best pitcher. Backed up by a consistent fastball-thrower Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera—the MLB’s all-time leader in saves—the Yankees were especially strong on the mound. In addition, shortstop Derek Jeter was a rising star in the league, finishing with an impressive .328 batting average. For Arizona, left fielder Luis Gonzalez led all Diamondback hitters with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs. As New York prepared to win its fourth consecutive world championship, the matchup between both powerhouses presented a phenomenal case for one of the best series in MLB history. 

From the opening pitch, Arizona dominated game one. Playing at home, the Diamondbacks produced four runs in both the third and fourth inning to win by a 9-1 landslide. After letting up a run in the first inning, Curt Schilling pitched lights out, improving his postseason record to 4-0. The following night, Randy Johnson gave Arizona another impeccable starting performance, shutting out the Yankees. A huge 3-run home run in the 7th inning by Matt Williams propelled the Diamondbacks to a 4-0 victory as well as a two-game lead in the series.

Facing adversity, New York needed to make a statement at home in order to stay afloat.  Thanks to a go-ahead RBI single by Jorge Posada and a masterful performance from Roger Clemens, the Yankees escaped game three with a much-needed 2-1 win. In-game four Arizona fought back to take a 3-1 lead heading into the last inning. However, closer Byung-Hyun Kim gave up a tying two-run home run to Tino Martinez, giving the Yankees new life and a surge of momentum. In extra innings, Derek Jeter topped off the incredible comeback with a solo blast to right field, ending the game and tying up the series at 2-2. As if these heroics weren’t enough, New York followed up in game five with yet another walk-off victory. An Alfonso Soriano run-scoring single in the 12th inning put the Yankees a single game away from snatching the trophy as the series shifted back to Arizona.

On the brink of elimination, the Diamondbacks came out swinging in game six. Arizona scored 15 runs on 25 hits in a 15-2 blowout. As the D-backs forced a game seven, a historic pitcher duel was staged for the season’s final game. Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens were the two best pitchers in the league, each player having won the Cy Young for his respectable conference. 

The wizardry on the mound was on display for the first seven innings as the two teams were deadlocked at one run apiece. However, Alfonso Soriano broke the tie, hitting a clutch solo home run to give New York the lead. Heading into the 9th and final inning, Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera took the ball in an attempt to close out the series. Shockingly, Rivera blew the save. A run-scoring double by Tony Womack evened the score at 2-2. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Luis Gonzalez delivered a hit for the ages. A broken-bat blooper found the edge of the left-field grass, scoring Jay Bell as the winning run. Rivera’s blown save in game seven is one of the most unexpected moments in sports history as it gave Arizona its first World Series ring in franchise history. 

The large number of high-pressure games and nail-biting endings secured the 2001 World Series as one of the most legendary sports events to this day. As the series unfolded, the compilation of exhilarating walk-offs and historic matchups solidifies this particular series as one for the ages.