I’ve been fortunate to attend a lot of incredible sporting events throughout my life, but none have topped Oct. 26, 1996, at Yankee Stadium.
That was the greatest night of my sports fandom, as the Yankees defeated the Atlanta Braves, 3-2, in Game 6, of the World Series.
That enabled the Yankees to win the World Series, four games to two. The victory gave the Yankees their 23rd World Series title overall, and first in 18 years.
The win was the beginning of the best baseball dynasty of my lifetime, as it was the first of four Yankees titles in a five-year period.
The road to the title was a wild and woolly one for the Yankees, as they fell behind in the series against Atlanta two games to none. Then they went down 6-0 in Game 4.
At that point, I had no hope that the Yankees would come back against host Atlanta, the defending World Series champions, that night. I actually had taped the game on my VCR (remember those, LOL), just to have it on tape.
I was about to erase it midway through the game, because I figured, why bother, but was talked out of it by a dear friend of mine, Sean Thomas, a proud 1989 Lakeland graduate.
I was so glad I listened to him. The Yankees, ignited by Jim Leyritz’s three-run homer to tie the game at 6-6 in the eighth, rallied for an improbable 8-6 victory, the second biggest comeback in World Series history.
As wild as that comeback was, the way I got into Game 6 may have even been crazier.
A few days after the Yankees clinched the pennant against the Baltimore Orioles, I must have waited outside Yankee Stadium (this was long before Stub Hub) for hours. I barely moved, yet I was nowhere near the front of the line, trying to get World Series tickets.
Eventually, I just gave up.
On the subway platform, I somehow (God must have been looking out for me) struck up a conversation with someone and wound up buying two tickets in the right-field bleachers for $50 each (the face value was $25) to Game 6 from him.
As lucky as I thought I was, that wasn’t even the half of it.
On the subway back to Grand Central, I overhear the guy who sold me the tickets talking to someone. The guy he was talking to tells him, in so many words, that he couldn’t believe he sold them to me for that low of a price, and that he could’ve got way more for them the night of the game, which is very true.
The guy who sold me the tickets tells him, “I felt sorry for him. He’s just a kid who took the train by himself from Westchester.”
Funny thing was, at the point, I was 25. I guess, for that night anyway, it paid big-time to look younger than I was!
I still wasn’t out of the woods, though. There were a lot of fake tickets being sold, so I was a little nervous.
Thus, when I got in that night, I was relieved. I was on cloud nine. It was a feeling that was tenfold after the final out landed in third baseman Charlie Hayes’ glove on a pop up!
The person I went with that night, God rest his soul, was my father, Michael, who was the biggest Yankees fan I knew. There was no one I would have rather had been sitting next to when that ball went into Hayes’ glove, sending Yankee Stadium into euphoria.