NEW YORK — Paint the town in pinstripes! Nearly a decade after their dynasty ended on a blooper in the desert, the New York Yankees are baseball’s best again.
Hideki Matsui tied a World Series record with six RBIs, Andy Pettitte won on short rest and New York beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 on Wednesday night, finally seizing that elusive 27th title. It was the team’s first since winning three straight from 1998-2000.
Matsui, the Series MVP, powered a quick rout of old foe Pedro Martinez. And when Mariano Rivera got the final out, it was ecstasy in the Bronx for George Steinbrenner’s go-for-broke bunch.
What a way for Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and crew to christen their $1.5 billion ballpark: One season, one championship for the franchise with more titles than any other in pro sports.
And to think it capped a season that started in turmoil — a steroids scandal involving A-Rod, followed by hip surgery that kept him out until May.
“My teammates and organization stood right next to me,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to enjoy it, and we’re going to party!”
During postgame ceremonies on the field, the big video board in center flashed: “Boss, this is for you.” And commissioner Bud Selig dedicated the moment to Steinbrenner.
About 100 miles south, disappointment.
For Chase Utley and the Phillies, it was a frustrating end to another scintillating season. Philadelphia fell two wins short of becoming the first NL team to repeat as World Series champions since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.
Ryan Howard’s sixth-inning homer came too late to wipe away his World Series slump, and Phillies pitchers rarely managed to slow Matsui and the Yankees’ machine.
In a fitting coincidence, this championship came eight years to the day after the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona on Luis Gonzalez’s broken-bat single off Rivera.
New York spent billions trying to get back. At long last, it did.
“We’re looking forward to this parade,” Jeter said.
Hey Babe and Yogi, Mr. October and Joltin’ Joe — you’ve got company. Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and a new generation of Yankees have procured their place in pinstriped lore.
And for the four amigos, it was ring No. 5.
Jorge Posada, Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera came up together through the minors and were cornerstones for those four titles in five years starting in 1996.
Now, all on the other side of age 35, they have another success to celebrate. And surely they remember the familiar parade route, up Broadway through the Canyon of Heroes.
Indeed, a New York City-sized party is next. Nine years in the making, with all the glitz and glamour this tony town can offer.
“You never know when you’re going to get back here,” Posada said.
Carrying flags that read 2009 World Series champions, Joba Chamberlain and Nick Swisher led a victory lap around the warning track. Players high-fived fans, then sprayed bubby behind the mound.
For the 79-year-old Steinbrenner, who has been in declining health, it was the seventh championship since he bought the team in 1973.
Though he stayed back home in Tampa, Fla., he certainly wasn’t forgotten. The grounds crew wore “Win it for The Boss” shirts last week, which were on sale outside the ballpark Wednesday.
New York wasted its chance to wrap things up in Game 5 at Philadelphia, then set its sights on clinching the World Series at home for the first time since 1999.
While nine years between titles is hardly a drought for most teams, it was almost an eternity in Yankeeland.
New York’s eight seasons without a championship was the third-longest stretch for the Yankees since their first one, following gaps of 17 (1979-95) and 14 (1963-76).
Reggie Jackson’s three homers in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers made the Yankees champs in ‘77. On this November night, Matsui delivered a sublime performance at the plate that must have made Mr. October proud.
Playing perhaps his final game with the Yankees, Matsui hit a two-run homer off Martinez in the second inning and a two-run single on an 0-2 pitch in the third.
A slumping Teixeira added an RBI single in the fifth off reliever Chad Durbin, and Matsui cracked a two-run double off the right-center fence against lefty J.A. Happ.
A designated hitter with balky knees, Matsui came off the bench in all three games at Philadelphia. Still, he had a huge Series, going 8 for 13 (.615) with three homers and eight RBIs. His go-ahead shot off an effective Martinez in Game 2 helped the Yankees tie it 1-all.
Bobby Richardson was the only other player with six RBIs in a World Series game, doing it for the Yankees in Game 3 against Pittsburgh in 1960. Richardson had a first-inning grand slam and a two-run single in the fourth.
Matsui’s big hits built a comfortable cushion for a feisty Pettitte, who shouted at plate umpire Joe West while coming off the field in the fourth. Still, Pettitte extended major league records with his 18th postseason win and sixth to end a series.
The 37-year-old left-hander, pitching on three days’ rest, became the first pitcher to start and win the clincher in all three postseason rounds. He beat Minnesota and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL playoffs.
Pettitte lasted 5ª innings, allowing three runs, four hits and five walks. Chamberlain and Damaso Marte combined for 1 2-3 innings of scoreless relief before Rivera secured the final five outs.
It had been nearly a half-century since players had won five titles with one team. The last to do it? Of course a bunch of Yankees: Yogi Berra (10 titles), Mickey Mantle (seven) and Whitey Ford (six) in 1962, according to STATS LLC.
For Joe Girardi, a three-time Yankees champion as a player, it was the fulfillment of a mission. When he succeeded Joe Torre in October 2007, Girardi chose uniform No. 27, putting his quest on his back for all to see. His tenure didn’t start out so well, with New York missing the playoffs in its final season at old Yankee Stadium following 13 consecutive appearances.
Steinbrenner’s well-paid players hadn’t soaked themselves in bubbly after the season since Bernie Williams gloved Mike Piazza’s midnight flyout at Shea Stadium to win the 2000 Subway Series and cap the Yankees’ third straight championship and fourth in five years.
Two outs from winning in 2001, the Yankees stumbled in the desert. New York then spent more than $1.6 billion after that trying to regain glory, falling short with infamous flops such as Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez and Carl Pavano.
But last offseason the Yankees got smart, adding a trio of top free agents — Teixeira, Sabathia and A.J. Burnett — for $423.5 million. They jelled with Rodriguez, the game’s highest-paid player but a winner for the first time in 16 major league seasons.
A-Rod became a newly minted champion following a sordid spring in which he admitted using steroids from 2001-03 with Texas and then needed hip surgery.
Maybe now, demanding fans in the Bronx will consider him a true Yankee.