Leyritz puts cap on the full N.Y. treatment

October 05, 1995|By JOHN EISENBERG

NEW YORK -- At 1:24 a.m., with the fans roaring and dozens of cops ringing the field and a storm of beer cups coming down just about as hard as the steady rain, they played "New York, New York" on the public address system at Yankee Stadium.

And the whole stadium sang with Frank Sinatra.

Every word.

Then they played it again. And a third time.

Who wanted to leave this party and go home?

Deep in the bowels of the ballpark, a burly little catcher with a receding hairline and a tattoo on his left arm plopped into a chair and answered a few questions from reporters. Sweat and rain dripped from his chin.

"Yeah, I was getting tired," said the Yankees' Jim Leyritz, whose home run off Tim Belcher in the bottom of the 15th inning gave the Yankees a 7-5 win over the Seattle Mariners in Game 2 of their divisional playoff series.

It was official: The Mariners had gotten the full New York treatment.

The Yankees left not a single heart string unpulled nor a single emotional card unplayed in the first two games of this series, revealing just how desperately they wanted to win both before going to Seattle to finish the best-of-five series.

It worked.

Joe DiMaggio threw out the first pitch before Game 1 Tuesday night, Phil Rizzuto last night. Robert Merrill sang the national anthem last night. Emotional tributes to Mickey Mantle and Thurman Munson ran on the scoreboard before and throughout the games.

Two jacked-up sellout crowds sent roar after roar up the Grand Concourse and into the night. Their favorite player, Don Mattingly, playing in the postseason for the first time after 14 years as a Yankee, could hardly take a step without stirring a standing ovation. And you can't print what the zoo creatures in the outfield bleachers were chanting.

"They were throwing stuff and yelling and just going crazy, totally out of control," the Mariners' Tino Martinez said.

One fan was wrestling with security cops -- on the field, in fair territory -- as the last out was recorded in the bottom of the fifth inning last night. Just one of those special New York baseball moments.

When Mattingly hit a home run to give the Yankees the lead in the bottom of the sixth last night, the bleachers shook and Mariners manager Lou Piniella, who knows the neighborhood, briefly pulled his team off the field as the fans in the upper deck littered the outfield grass with drink cups and other projectiles.

When first-base umpire Jim McKean called a Mariners runner safe on a close play at first in the top of the seventh, George Steinbrenner immediately appeared in the press box, as if by magic, and led a collection of reporters to a video room, where he ranted and raved at the replays.

New York, New York, just can't do baseball with any more gusto or intimidation than it did for two nights here. Why, even Spike Lee showed up, proving that the game isn't totally unhip, at least not yet.

And then the Yankees went out and came from behind three times last night before winning on Leyritz's homer. The Mariners appeared to have won the game in the 11th inning on Ken Griffey's third home run in two days, but the Yankees scored a run in the bottom of the 11th to keep the game going. The Mariners threw out the winning run at the plate that inning.

"It was a special game," Yankee manager Buck Showalter said. "You put on a uniform to play in games like this. I can't remember another with so many twists and turns and ebbs and flows."

The New York treatment.

All night long, the Yankees fans stood and roared for Mattingly, who, though not nearly the player he was six years ago, remains a brilliant fielder, a clutch hitter and the team's emotional centerpiece.

"He's the reason the fans still came out to watch the Yankees for all those years when the team was so lousy," Cone said. "That's the biggest reason that it's special why this team made the playoffs. Donnie's situation is the theme everyone is playing on."

Last night he singled in the first, walked in the third and homered in the sixth, as the crowd pelted him with chants of "Don-nie Base-ball!"

They were still chanting at the end of the night. Chanting and singing.

"Do you feel more a part of the Yankee tradition now?" someone asked Showalter.

He paused. "That's a good question," he said, "and you know, I think I do. I wondered for a lot of years what it was like to experience a big game in October here. And now that I have, I must say: It exceeded my expectations."

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