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The 1996 World Series matched the defending champion Atlanta Braves against the New York Yankees, with the Yankees winning in six games to capture their first championship since 1978, and their 23rd overall. The Yankees became the third team to win a World Series after dropping Games 1 and 2 at home, following the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the 1986 New York Mets. They also became the first team since the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers to win four straight games after dropping the first two.

Game 5 was the final game to be played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadiummarker. Atlantamarker became the first city to host the World Series and the Olympics in the same year.

Background

The 1996 World Series marked the beginning of the New York Yankees' dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, the dynasty may or may not have happened if there wasn't a strike in 1994, as the Yankees had the best record in the American League then. Despite the rich playoff history of the Yankees, the defending champion Atlanta Braves entered the Series as heavy favorites.

The Yankees had reached the Fall Classic after their ALCS victory over the Baltimore Orioles, while the Braves had rallied from a 3–1 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

The Braves used the dominant pitching of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, as well as timely hitting, to defeat the Indians the year before, and looked to reuse that recipe against the upstart Yankees. In , John Smoltz returned to form, winning 24 games and a Cy Young Award, providing another serious pitching threat for Atlanta. New York brought a lineup mixed with veterans, like Paul O'Neill, and young stars, like rookie Derek Jeter. The Yankees bullpen was also vastly superior to the Atlanta bullpen, which would prove to be the deciding factor in the Series. However, some of the players with the Yankees would not have been there if the strike hadn't taken away their season in 1994.

After victory in , New York would go on to win the Series three of the next four years. The Braves, while winning their division every season from through , have not won a World Series game since Game 2 of this series.

Over the course of the 1996 World Series, the Braves hit .315 during the first six innings and .176 afterward. Atlanta had more hits, runs, homers, and a lower team ERA during the course of the series, but still lost. (Much like the 1960 Yankees performance against Pittsburgh).

Summary

Matchups

Game 1

Sunday, October 20, 1996 at Yankee Stadium marker in Bronx, New Yorkmarker

Game 1 and Game 2 were originally scheduled for Saturday October 19 and Sunday October 20 respectively. Rain on October 19, however, washed out Game 1. The schedule was moved up one day, with Game 1 and Game 2 rescheduled for October 20 and October 21, The Monday travel day was eliminated. This was the last rain out in a World Series game until Game 4 of the 2006 World Series. This was the first rain out in a World Series game since Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, which happened across town at Shea Stadiummarker during the Mets' championship season when they played the Boston Red Sox, whom Wade Boggs was with at that time.

The Braves, who had won the last three games of the NLCS by a combined score of 32–1, continued their roll early in the Fall Classic. Nineteen-year old rookie center fielder Andruw Jones became the youngest player to homer in a World Series game in the second inning. He went deep to left again off Brian Boehringer in the third inning to provide the fireworks in a six-run inning for the Braves. A Fred McGriff home run off the foul pole in the fifth left Atlanta ahead 9–0. Jones had his third hit and scored in Atlanta's three-run sixth. Braves starter John Smoltz would pitch six easy innings before turning it over to the bullpen in Atlanta's 12–1 rout.

Game 2

Monday, October 21, 1996 at Yankee Stadium marker in Bronx, New Yorkmarker

After showcasing their big bats in Game 1, the Braves used the dominant pitching of Greg Maddux to win Game 2. Fred McGriff, who went two for three with a sacrifice fly, had single RBIs in the first, third, and fifth innings, while Marquis Grissom added a run-scoring single in the sixth. This was more than enough for Maddux, who pitched a gem, scattering six hits in eight innings. Mark Wohlers pitched the ninth to combine with Maddux on the 4–0 shutout. With the series going to Atlanta, the Braves appeared on the brink of a championship repeat.

After Game 2, Joe Torre and his first base coach José Cardenal met with the furious Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, at that post-game meeting. Torre guaranteed three victories in Atlantamarker and then bringing the series back to Yankee Stadiummarker to clinch at home. Steinbrenner doubted Torre, saying, "If you guys can't beat the Braves at home, you surely can't beat them down in Atlanta." The Yankees ended up winning the next four games to win the series.

Game 3

Tuesday, October 22, 1996 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadiummarker in Atlanta, Georgiamarker

The Yankees needed a solid performance from David Cone and got one, with him pitching six innings and only giving up one run. Tom Glavine also turned in a fine start for the Braves, pitching seven innings giving up two runs, only one of them earned, but with New York clinging to a 2–1 lead in the eighth, Bernie Williams, who had two RBIs in the game, launched a two-run homer off Braves reliever Greg McMichael, which put the game out of reach. After the Braves got a run off Yankees rookie Mariano Rivera, closer John Wetteland had two strikeouts in a perfect ninth.

Game 4

Wednesday, October 23, 1996 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadiummarker in Atlanta, Georgiamarker

Game 4 would prove to be the decisive game of the 1996 World Series. Fred McGriff had a home run and Marquis Grissom hit a two-run double to deep center as the Braves stormed out to a 6–0 lead by the fifth inning. New York starter Kenny Rogers lasted only two innings, while Braves starter Denny Neagle was in control. However, he suddenly ran into trouble in the sixth inning, which began when Derek Jeter's seemingly catchable foul-fly was not caught when right field umpire Tim Welke got in the way of Braves right fielder Jermaine Dye. Given a second chance, Jeter responded with a lead-off hit that opened the door to three runs, with two of them coming off a Cecil Fielder single which was aided by an error on right fielder Dye. Neagle was knocked out of the game, leaving the 6–3 Atlanta lead in the hands of their bullpen. Mike Bielecki came in with nobody out to strike out the side in three straight. The Braves could not score on the New York bullpen and in the eighth, manager Bobby Cox decided to put closer Mark Wohlers in the game an inning early. Wohlers allowed two hits, then reserve catcher Jim Leyritz connected for a stunning game-tying home run. In the tenth, Steve Avery walked in the go-ahead run following a somewhat questionable move on the part of Cox to advance two runners by intentionally walking Bernie Williams with runners on first and second, then Braves first baseman Ryan Klesko lost a routine pop-up in the lights, leading to another Yankee run. John Wetteland shut the Braves down in the bottom of the inning as the Yankees, who had come back from a 6–0 hole, won 8–6 and firmly shifted the momentum of the series.

The Leyritz home run is viewed as a watershed event in Yankees and Braves history. For the Yankees, it launched their late-90's dynasty and is seen as the passing of the torch of baseball's most dominant team from Atlanta to New York. For the Braves, it represents a curse that has led to years of playoff struggle. Wohlers, who gave up the blast, never quite recovered from the play. He inexplicably lost his accuracy throughout and , never again showing the dominance he had before the Leyritz home run.

This was the second biggest comeback in World Series history. The 1929 Philadelphia Athletics scored ten runs in the seventh inning to defeat the Chicago Cubs 10–8 in Game 4.

Game 5

Thursday, October 24, 1996 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadiummarker in Atlanta, Georgiamarker

With the Series tied at two apiece, John Smoltz and Andy Pettitte faced off in a pitcher's duel in the final game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadiummarker and gave up a total of zero earned runs. After an error by center fielder Marquis Grissom allowed Charlie Hayes to reach opening the fourth inning, Cecil Fielder doubled in the unearned run. Pettitte, who was torched in Game 1, was dominant for New York, pitching shutout innings. He allowed a leadoff double to Chipper Jones in the ninth, but John Wetteland came on and closed out the Braves, preserving the 1–0 win. Smoltz was the hard-luck loser, pitching eight innings, giving up only four hits and one unearned run. The Yankees had swept the Braves in Atlanta, and now returned to the Bronx with a 3–2 series lead.

The Braves joined the 1905 Philadelphia Athletics, the 1921 New York Yankees and the 1986 New York Mets as the only teams to lose a 1–0 World Series game on an unearned run.

Game 6

Saturday, October 26, 1996 at Yankee Stadium marker in Bronx, New Yorkmarker

Prior to Game 6, Yankees manager Joe Torre's brother Frank underwent heart transplant surgery.

The Yankees, seeking to clinch their first world championship since 1978 and the first for a New York City baseball team since the Mets won in 1986, tagged Atlanta ace Greg Maddux for three runs off four hits in the third inning. The Braves loaded the bases on Jimmy Key in the fourth, but could only get one run. Key pitched into the sixth, only giving up the single run, before turning the game over to the Yankee bullpen. Maddux, meanwhile, kept the game close, pitching innings with three runs allowed. In the ninth, John Wetteland gave up a run, making it 3–2, but got the save when Mark Lemke popped out to third baseman Charlie Hayes with the tying run on second. The Yankees were champions once again, with Wetteland notching saves in all four of New York's victories, earning him the Series MVP.

Bobby Cox was ejected in the fifth inning after an argument that began when Marquis Grissom was called out by umpire Terry Tata after attempting to take second on a passed ball. Replays clearly showed Grissom to have been safe, and the missed call likely cost the Braves a run as Chipper Jones doubled one batter later. Though the argument began between Cox and Tata, it was ultimately umpire Tim Welke who tossed Cox when he shouted something in Welke's direction on his way back to the dugout after the Tata argument. Cox was undoubtedly still furious with Welke from the play in Game 4 when he had obstructed Jermaine Dye's attempt to catch a pop-up, leading directly to a Yankee run and opening the door for New York's comeback in that game. An in-game statistic, as well as the commentary for the video recap of the series, erroneously reported that Cox's ejection was the first since Whitey Herzog's ejection in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, ignoring that Cox had been ejected once before in the World Series (in Game 3 of the 1992 World Series for throwing a batting helmet onto the field).

It took Yankee manager Joe Torre 4,272 games to get to the World Series as a player or manager, the biggest drought for any player or manager in the history of Major League Baseball. He and the Yankees were bestowed the Commissioner's Trophy by American League President Gene Budig, who presided over the trophy presentation instead of the Commissioner, who was not yet named as of 1996.

Composite box

1996 World Series (4–2): New York Yankees (A.L.) over Atlanta Braves (N.L.)

Series quotes

Broadcasting

  • This was the first World Series to be televised by the Fox Broadcasting Company.
  • Play-by-play man Joe Buck became the second youngest person (at the age of 27) to broadcast a World Series. Vin Scully, who this year called the World Series over CBS Radio Sports, is still the youngest at 25, when he called the 1953 World Series.
  • During Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, a fan behind home plate held up a sign that said "John 3:16". Tim McCarver made mention of this sign, saying that the fan was a true Yankees fan because he knew Tommy John's career ERA. John's career ERA is actually 3.34, not 3.16.


References in popular culture

On an episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza, an employee of the Yankees, destroys the team's 1996 World Series trophy by dragging it behind his car. This is one of many stunts performed by George in an effort to make Yankees owner George Steinbrenner fire him so he can take a job offer from the New York Mets. However, the plan backfires, as Steinbrenner fires Mr. Wilhelm instead, making Wilhelm free to go to the Mets. Also in a Seinfeld episode that year, George is hitting home runs over the center field wall at Yankee Stadium and teaching Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams how to properly hit home runs. Jeter replies "We won the World Series" and George says, "Yeah (sarcastically) in 6 games!"

Records

  • In Game 1, on October 20, 1996, Andruw Jones became the youngest player, 19, in World Series history to hit a home run, surpassing Yankee great Mickey Mantle on Mantle's birthday.
  • Also on October 20, Andruw Jones became only the second player in World Series history (after Gene Tenace in 1972), and youngest ever, to hit a home run his first two times up in a Series.
  • The Braves beating the Yankees in the first two games by a combined score of 16–1 was the biggest run differential in World Series history.


Uniforms

  • First World Series to feature the series logo on the side of each team's hats.


Aftermath

For the Yankees and their fans, the World Series win ended the longest drought in franchise history, but the team, like baseball itself, was still reeling from the player's strike two years before and the fallout from it. The strike resulted in many lost opportunities, as they had the best record in the American League that year and were looking to the postseason, a possible World Series appearance, and possibly, a win. The strike extended the drought and traumatized the Yankees and their fans to their core because their star player then, Don Mattingly, never played in the postseason and had his best chance at a World Series title ended by the strike.

Some of the players who were with the Yankees in 1994 weren't with the team in 1996, including Mattingly, who retired in 1995.

The Braves would make, to date, one World Series appearance after moving into Turner Fieldmarker, and that took place in 1999, when they again met the Yankees.

Notes



References



External links




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