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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times -- not only for the Yankees and its players, but for the city of New York, and its leader. The New York Yankees are arguably the most decorated sports franchise in professional sports. The Yankees have won more titles than any other team in baseball and their 23rd title since 1901 ties them with the Montreal Canadians for most titles overall since then. Memories of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle in Yankee pinstripes will forever be embedded into sports folklore.

However, before the 1996 Yankees captured this year's World Series championship Saturday night from the Braves, they hadn't won a title since 1978.

For 18 years, Yankees players and fans had to deal with George Steinbrenner's quick trigger finger, his escapades with Dave Winfield and Billy Martin and his overexercise of his power, among other things. They also had to suffer through the tragic deaths of their heroes, Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Thurman Munson.

At the beginning of this 1996 baseball season, most Yankee fans were distraught at the firing of Buck Showalter, the team's previous manager. Showalter had been a fan favorite and was liked by both players and the media.

In his place came Joe Torre. Torre, who had played and managed for 26 years without getting into the World Series, inherited a team that most of the experts predicted to finish third in their division. However, from the beginning of spring training, Torre took control, bringing with him a renewed fever for the game and a distinctively new style of play.

For Torre, the win capped off a roller-coaster year. His brother Rocco had died, earlier in the year, and his brother Frank had spent most of the year direly waiting for a heart transplant, which he received Friday.

On Tuesday, October 29, Joe Torre was aboard a float going down Broadway, with tears in his eyes. I was there, and I had tears in my eyes as well. To see the absolute joy in his and his players' hearts was overwhelming.

Wade Boggs, whose only other chance for a championship had passed through Bill Buckner's legs in 1986, was as spiteful as a young child. Cecil Fielder, who had bounced around Toronto, Detroit and Japan, finally realized the joy of a championship. Bernie Williams, whose son had been extremely sick earlier in the year, had finally thrown the title of "potential" off of him and blossomed into a true superstar.

And then there were Doc and Darryl. I'm sure Gooden and Strawberry, who 10 years ago had traveled down Broadway with the Mets, and who had gone through so many trails and tribulations to get to this point, treasured the moment more than any others.

And finally there were the fans. The city of New York is considered by many as a haven for crime and violence. I was born and raised in Queens, and I love New York, but honestly, the city is currently in a downward stasis.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, New York was together as one. Many people at that parade didn't know anything about baseball. Many there weren't even Yankees fans. But they were there together, and it didn't matter if you were black or white, red or yellow, 10 years old or 60 years old. At that point, at that time, the 3.5 million people who had gathered in lower Manhattan for the largest parade of all time were as one.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani summed it up best, "The Yankees overcame many obstacles and the Yankees symbolize the city. The Yanks are back and New York City is back."

Giuliani went on, "To you, the fans, you are the very best in baseball and in any sport. Chipper Jones, the Atlanta third baseman, said yesterday that, 'The Yanks have probably got the best fans I've ever seen.' We are the capital of the world, and the champs of the world, and it doesn't get any better than that."

No, it doesn't.