26 May 2016
In the Fall of 1966, I was one lucky 10-year-old growing up in Baltimore. Our beloved Orioles won the American League pennant and were faced off against the mighty LA Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in the World Series. Little did the sporting world know, we had Brooks, Frank and Boog. My Dad took me to the first World Series Game ever played in Baltimore. He started a tradition with that first game, and he took me to every World Series game ever played in Baltimore, right up through Cal Ripken’s rookie year in 1983.
I decided to start my own father-son World Series tradition right after 9/11. That the World Series would be played at all following 9/11 was a bit surprising…..but Bud Selig, then commissioner of Major League Baseball, made a courageous and inspiring decision that The Show would go on. On the night that the Yankees clinched their berth in the 2001 World Series, I reached out to a ticket broker in New York to see if he could help me with tickets. While the game plan was to go The World Series in New York, the cost differential between going to a game in New York versus Arizona was so compelling that I headed west with my then 8-year-old son for the first World Series game ever played in the state of Arizona and the Mountain Time Zone.
My son and I arrived at the stadium in the early evening of Saturday, October 27. Taking parental license, I had outfitted my son head to toe in Yankees regalia. Driving into the parking lot, we were stopped by security which, of course, was very tight for the event. The agent peered into the car, saw my son’s gear, and asked if we had come from New York. Upon receiving an affirmative response, he directed me to pull over and wait, indicating he would be right back.
For those New Yorkers who were on the road in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it was likely an unforgettable experience. Once you were identified as a New Yorker, you literally couldn’t buy yourself a beer. Our fellow countrymen were all New Yorkers in those days.
Five minutes after we arrived in the parking lot, a senior representative of the Diamondbacks marketing staff came running over. He directed me to the VIP parking and asked to see our tickets. Upon examination, he declared they were no good for the game. That prompted a bucket of tears from my son – soon replaced by an enormous smile as we settled into our box seats, courtesy of the Arizona D-backs. And oh yeah, did I mention who was in the seat next to us: one Willie Mays.
What a series it was to be. From the perspective of a Yankees fan, the highlight of the two games we attended was Ray Charles performing America the Beautiful (Not a dry eye in the ballpark, including my own, when he finished).
The Yankees faced eventful co-World Series MVPs Curt Schilling in Game 1 (a 9-1 pounding) and Randy Johnson in Game 2 (The Big Unit pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only four baserunners and three hits while striking out 11). The Yankees battled back in New York in Games 3 and 4 (with President Bush throwing out an emotional first ball in Game 3).
The 2001 World Series was considered one of the greatest World Series of all times. It ended on a Game 7 walk-off hit in the form of a bases-loaded blooper off the bat of Luis Gonzalez, ending the Yankees reign. In 2009, Game 7 was chosen by Sports Illustrated as the Best Postseason Game of the Decade (2000-2009). For those who want to relive or perhaps learn for the first time about this historic World Series, I recommend a book by Buster Olney, who covered the Yankees for The New York Times: The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty. The book is a play-by-play account of Game 7, in addition to stories about key players, executives and moments from the 1996-2001 dynasty.
Rich Kronthal, a Westchester resident who has never forgotten what Baltimore means to him, is an avid college and pro ball spectator, commentator and aspiring sports analyst.