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Puerto Rican Players Help Lift New York Spirits and Yankees to the World Series

October 25, 2001
Copyright © 2001 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Roaring shouts became the soundtrack for the red, white and blue dotted Yankee Stadium on Monday night. For the people of New York City, in a place that has so recently become subdued following the attacks on September 11th, the atmosphere was a therapeutic opportunity to cheer and scream. They were cheering their beloved Bronx Bombers. The Yankees definitely provided an outlet for their enthusiasm.

As the crowd joined the players in singing "New York, New York" along with the famous Frank Sinatra recording, it was a display of pride for a city that had triumphed against all odds -- on the playing field, as well as downtown. As the Yankees celebrated their fourth consecutive American League pennant Monday night, in a 12-3 victory in Game 5, their thoughts were never far from the people of the city who so rightly deserved the championship. The Yankees had been playing for the American League Championship Series (ALCS) title, facing a seemingly hopeless situation against the record-tying Seattle Mariners (most wins in a regular season), but most importantly, they were playing to heal a city struck by an unimaginable tragedy.

The series was a huge challenge. The Yankees, as returning Champions, were placed against the favorites, the Mariners, who had ended the regular season with 116 wins. Both teams had battled fiercely to advance from the first round of the championship series, the Yankees overcoming the Oakland A’s after losing the first two games of a best-of-five series and Seattle beating a fast-starting Cleveland Indian team. The strong roster of the Yankees provided for the quick turnaround against the Mariners. Two outstanding performers on that roster are Puerto Rico natives Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada, both favorites among the fans.

Adding to his records and reputation as a proven player under pressure, Bernie Williams became the first player ever to hit homers in three straight games in the ALCS. "It’s nice to know, but for me it’s infinitely more important that we won the game," Williams said. "We were able to come up with the championship, and we’re looking forward to going to the World Series."

As the senior player on the Yankee rooster, debuting in 1991, Williams showcased his abilities in every game of the series, consistently slamming home runs that proved crucial to the victory of the team. His persistency in Game 3 against the Mariners gave the home team a head start to a 12-3 win. And Williams’ timely shot in the eighth inning of Game 4 tied the game and provided the turning point to a win in that game. He ended the series by hitting a double that clinched another pennant for the Yankees (their 38th), reaching a grand total of 16 home runs in his post season career. That number places Williams fourth on the all-time list, behind Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Jim Thome. He has exceeded, by one homer, the legendary Babe Ruth, asserting his position as a favorite to the New York fans who’s chants of "Ber-nie! Ber-nie!" echoed throughout the stadium.

Complementing those chants are calls of "Hip, hip Jor-ge!" for Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. Posada started the division series against Oakland with a second inning score off of Chuck Knoblauch’s single in Game 1. He helped the Yankees come alive in the postseason when he provided them with their only home run in Game 3 of that series. That home run gave the Yankees their first lead in 81 innings against the A’s and helped to catapult them into their historic comeback.

However, in keeping with the recovering spirits of an injured city, Posada’s greatest thrill came from the New York grandstands at Game 4. Present at the game were Posada’s wife and 23-month-old son, Jorge IV, who is recovering after major surgery for craniosynostosis, a condition that causes the bones in the skull to fuse before the brain has stopped growing. As with Jorge’s recovery, the revival of Yankees has renewed the spirits of all New Yorkers and many millions more around the world.

Their work is not finished. The Yankees will now put their World Championship on the line in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ironically, it is New Yorkers and their baseball team who have acted like the mythological phoenix and risen from the ashes.


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