Yankees win one for ages, stake claim to 'best ever' 3-0 win over Padres delivers 24th title, caps record-setting season

New York Sweeps World Series

October 22, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- The New York Yankees kept their date with destiny last night, defeating the San Diego Padres, 3-0, to sweep the 94th World Series and begin an argument for the ages.

Is this the greatest team in history, or what?

The Yankees have won two World Series in the past three years, and the title was the 24th in the franchise's rich history. The 1998 club set an American League record with 114 regular-season victories and went 11-2 in the postseason to establish itself as the winningest team in the history of the sport. Whether it is truly the best, of course, is a subject ripe for for years of dinner-table debate, but it clearly is one of the greatest teams ever -- and the final proof was in the pounding of the overmatched Padres.

"To me, it would be," said center fielder Bernie Williams. "I'm proud of this team, and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished this year, winning 114 games and having an opportunity to win the World Series. When I look back at it 10 or 15 years from now, I'm going to say I played with probably one of the best teams that ever played in the American League."

No challenge went unanswered. The Yankees fell behind in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium and stormed back with a seven-run rally in the seventh inning. They had to shuffle the starting rotation when left-hander Andy Pettitte had to return home last week because of a family emergency, but No. 4 starter Orlando Hernandez started Game 2 and dominated the Padres in his place.

The scene shifted to San Diego on Tuesday, but the song remained the same. The Padres took a three-run lead into the seventh inning, but the Yankees battled back again and defeated record-setting bullpen closer Trevor Hoffman -- proving that no one is immune to the power of the pinstripe.

No major-league baseball club had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven postseason series, and this certainly wasn't the year to set such a precedent at the Yankees' expense. The Padres went down again in Game 4 and the Yankees' claim to baseball immortality was confirmed.

Last night, New York starting pitcher Pettitte shut out San Diego into the eighth inning before getting relief, and the Yankees hitters did just enough to bring down Padres ace Kevin Brown.

Bernie Williams broke a scoreless tie with an RBI chopper in the sixth inning. In the seventh inning, Scott Brosius singled home a run and rookie Ricky Ledee hit a sacrifice fly to score the third run.

Brosius came up big in the games and was named the World Series MVP. The third baseman went 8-for-17 in the series with six RBIs.

Fittingly, Brosius handled the last ball of the season, a grounder by Padres pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney.

"I think the biggest moment is that third out, throwing the ball and knowing it's going to end the game and end the season," Brosius said. "There's nothing better than coming up and seeing the players' eyes and that sense of achievement and accomplishment and excitement. It was just a great scene."

The Yankees won 125 games in the regular and postseason, far and away the most of any team in baseball history. Their .714 combined winning percentage is the best since the 1927 Murderer's Row Yankees team that went 110-44 and swept the World Series for a .722 winning percentage.

That club is generally considered the greatest team of all time, but this Yankees club won 11 more games and had to win three playoff rounds to win the World Series, which clearly puts it among the elite teams in baseball history.

"There's going to be a lot of arguments historically about where this team fits in," said 20-game winner David Cone. "It's the most professional team. It's the best team in baseball. We've worked very hard to play professionally, to come out every night. We won 114 games in the regular season, and you don't do that without being an unbelievably professional team, and I'm very proud to be part of it."

It had reached the point where the Yankees almost had to win the World Series impressively to assure their place in history, but that kind of pressure is nothing new to anyone who has put on Yankee pinstripes.

"There are very high expectations when you wear a Yankee uniform," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I'm not putting any other club down, it's just when you work for George Steinbrenner he's a perfectionist and he always is trying to improve on perfection, so when you come to New York, you understand that getting to the World Series is what it's all about."

"This is the top," a weeping Steinbrenner said. "This is truly one of the greatest teams in baseball history. I've never seen anything like this. They don't quit and seem to overcome everything," Steinbrenner said.

The Padres beat 100-game winners Houston and Atlanta in the National League playoffs. A record crowd of 65,247 saluted San Diego players who came back on the field after the game.

"We got close," first baseman Wally Joyner told the fans, "and it was very special because of you."

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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