Series culminates in thrilling fashion
Fans left with indelible images entering offseason
NEW YORK -- It all began with pitchers and catchers reporting, then a World Baseball Classic won by Japan, then Opening Day pageantry, then longer pitch counts, then All-Star voting and a Midsummer Classic in St. Louis, then the Trade Deadline moves and those wild pennant races, and then a postseason that everyone watched right down to the very end, when Japan's Hideki Matsui was a hero and the Yankees were world champs again.
There is that bittersweet feeling now -- the satisfaction of knowing that a story once again had a big ending that was celebrated by just one team, and yet that emptiness of knowing that there is a long winter ahead and a patient wait until next spring, when everyone in every Major League Baseball town will be hopeful about the 2010 season.
We are left with lasting images now. This is officially last season, even as the champagne dries. Here are some from the 105th World Series, a classic Wednesday-to-Wednesday showdown that the Yankees won in six over the Phillies:
Hideki Matsui's home run going up, up, up -- seemingly rising forever, and then finally coming down and landing in the second deck in right field. A veteran supposedly at the twilight of a two-continent career, on bad knees, in the last year of a contract, not even a blip on the radar screen of World Series Most Valuable Player consideration through five games. Taking over the last night of a Major League Baseball season and making it his own with six RBIs and MVP.
"I guess you could say that this is the best moment of my life right now," Matsui said. "If I were to look back, yes, this would be the best."
Alex Rodriguez surrounded by global media, teammates pouring champagne on his head from behind, the moment he always dreamed of, and then a teammate named Derek Jeter about 10 feet away shouting above the questions, "Hey, Alex, how does it feel?"
Brian Cashman, the Yankees' general manager, walking away from his team's clubhouse celebration scene and breathing out a big exhale of relief.
"This was one of our hardest," Cashman said. "This was a lot closer than six games. That Philly team is fantastic, and what that franchise has done ... we're scared to death of them, to be honest with you. This was a heavyweight fight."
Mariano Rivera vs. Shane Victorino in a classic final at-bat, at least one of the longest ever to finish a Major League season, if not the longest. It was 10 pitches, the first eight of them cutters, then two four-seamers, and -- finally -- a groundout to Robinson Cano, who threw over to Mark Teixeira at first to secure a 7-3 victory and the 27th world championship for the Yankees.
"Victorino put a long at-bat together, man," said Nick Swisher, who caught the second-to-last out, a fly ball from Jimmy Rollins. "I was like, 'Just put it in play. Dude, get it over with.' Then he finally did, and that was the most fundamentally sound ground ball I ever saw Robinson Cano pick up."
Superb in Game 6
|Year||Opp.||Gm 6 res.||Series res.|
|2009||PHI||W at home||W in 6|
|2001||ARI||L on road||L in 7|
|1996||ATL||W at home||W in 6|
|1978||LA||W on road||W in 6|
|1977||LA||W at home||W in 6|
|1962||SF||L on road||W in 7|
|1956||BRO||L on road||W in 7|
|1953||BRO||W at home||W in 6|
|1951||NYG||W at home||W in 6|
|1947||BRO||L at home||W in 7|
|1936||NYG||W on road||W in 6|
|1926||STL||L at home||L in 7|
|1923||NYG||W on road||W in 6|
|1921||NYG||L at home||L in 8|
Chase Utley over in his Phillies clubhouse, and Reggie Jackson over in the Yankees' clubhouse, a player from the present and a player from the past, both of them now connected as the only men ever to hit five home runs in a single World Series.
"I'm more disappointed that we weren't able to be world champions," Utley said. "But it always makes you feel good when you're able to contribute. I felt like every game was a pretty good game. Both teams had opportunities to win at different times; the Yankees were just able to win more than we were."
People already buzzing about a parade, which will be at 11 a.m. ET on Friday through the familiar "Canyon of Heroes" in Lower Manhattan. It will be a spectacular scene, the first chance since 2000 for the Big Apple to shower its Yankees with that kind of love. The Empire State Building was alit in blue and white on Wednesday night. They have the champs again.
Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" played over and over and over again, dozens of times, until the last fans had left, just as they did it in old Yankee Stadium in the days when the Bombers were winning world championships like they were easy.
Rollins, talking one last time about a series that, on a Jay Leno TV appearance after winning the National League pennant, he predicted would be Phillies in five.
"They got the hits. We didn't," Rollins said. "It's simple. It's really simple. There's no science other than that. Either you get the hit or you don't. They did."
Jeter, a five-time world champion, being asked by a reporter for his perspective on what had just happened: "Read that sign right there."
He was pointing to the clubhouse wall, which was adorned in "World Champions" signs everywhere. Indeed, that said it all.
Kurt Russell, the actor and former baseball player, now practically Yankees family, standing off to the side of the exploding Moet & Chandon bottles in the victor's clubhouse after watching the whole postseason along with his stepdaughter, Kate Hudson, who dates Rodriguez.
"It was an interesting series," Russell said. "Bobby Valentine and I were talking today. There was some strange pitching at times, some strange hitting and fielding, bad umpiring, but the thing was that toward the end of every game -- including tonight, because it was the final game -- you had your moment of tenseness and suspense.
"There were some great key moments in the series. And that's always what's fun about any World Series, or in any sport where you're playing for a championship. Those moments come about, and players step up and do something great, and that's always fun to watch. It's always fun to see who that person's gonna be, because they all want to be that person."
A final matchup between two pitchers that made you think you were watching classic TV, surely a replay of a big game long ago. Pedro Martinez vs. Andy Pettitte.
All those "Who's Your Daddy?" chants that filled the night air while Martinez made at least one final start in front of Yankees tormentors. There was never much gas in his tank for this final 2009 start with the Phillies, as Pettitte won the battle of old warriors.
All those "Andy-Pettitte!" chants as the left-hander with a record six series-clinching victories battled in his final inning and then had to be removed, receiving a thunderous ovation as he walked off the field one last time in 2009 and took off his cap to acknowledge the faithful.
Charlie Manuel, the Phillies' manager, predicting that his team would be back -- and, he hoped, to face the Yankees in a rematch.
Joe Girardi letting out the kind of glee in that postgame on-field celebration that seemed so different for him, after all those days of calculated answers for all the questions about rotations and bullpen use and so forth. He was wearing No. 27 for a reason.
"This is what the Steinbrenner family has strived for year after year after year and has tried to deliver to the city of New York," Girardi said. "George Steinbrenner and his family are champions. To be able to deliver this to the Boss, the stadium that he created and the atmosphere he has created around here is very gratifying for all of us."
A world championship in the first year of Yankee Stadium -- just as Babe Ruth and his Yankee teammates had done in 1923. This was even better, because they clinched this one at home.
One more look at A-Rod, soaked with champagne, a sight that you had to get used to after all those years when it never seemed that it would happen.
"It is a difficult thing to do," Rodriguez said of winning it all. "Especially with the Division Series and the League Championship Series, it's not easy. Philadelphia was a great team. Anaheim was a great team. And Minnesota. You have to beat three great teams. I'm just glad it happened. I was proud to be part of a world championship team."
Then this from him, talking about his teammates: "I love all these guys."
The clock striking midnight and thus moving to Nov. 5, meaning this had matched the latest finish in Major League history (also 2001), an eighth month of real baseball finally finished, and the realization that it is over.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.