88: Yankees strike again with 9th-inning magic

He was the last chance for the New York Yankees. He was the only obstacle left for the Arizona Diamondbacks to win Game 5 of the 2001 World Series.

He was hitting just .143 in the postseason. But Scott Brosius, while not a great hitter, had come up with clutch hits before. He proved that in the 1998 World Series, when he was Most Valuable Player.

But on this night in Yankee Stadium, New York needed another miracle -- and the Diamondbacks needed one more out, something they failed to get 24 hours earlier. In Game 4, Byung-Hyun Kim, an out away from a 3-1 victory, allowed a game-tying two-run, two-out home run to Tino Martinez in bottom of the ninth, and then a game-winning homer to Derek Jeter in the 10th inning. The dramatic victory enabled the Yankees to tie the series at 2 games apiece.

The clock reads 12:30 a.m. as the sidearming Kim peers in at the sign from catcher Rod Barajas. He is determined to end the game and turn the criticism from possibly blowing the World Series to putting Arizona a step closer to its first world championship of any kind in a professional sport.

Kim is decent closer, but certainly nowhere near the class the great relievers in history, like Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter or Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' current closer. All season, Kim was a semi-reliable member of a pitifully insipid bullpen, yet Arizona manager Bob Brenly boldly said time after time, "He's my closer, period."

Perhaps still reeling from Martinez's and Jeter's Game 4 homers, Kim gets into immediate trouble in Game 5. Jorge Posada punches a leadoff double into the left-field corner. Kim then falls behind the next batter, Shane Spencer. But Kim rebounds and gets Spencer to ground out. He then strikes out Chuck Knoblauch, setting the stage for Brosius confrontation.

With Brosius batting a buck forty-three, Yankees manager Joe Torre has no alternative but to think about going to his bench for a pinch-hitter. But he quickly rejects the idea. He knows Brosius. He knows what's in his heart, in his mind. "He's delivered time after time for me, for us, over the last few years," he says to himself.

Torre would later say: "Sometimes the matchup doesn't seem right, but you have to know your players, and the opposing players, and make your judgment on that."

He sticks with Brosius.

Martinez had gone to the plate in the ninth inning of Game 4 looking to hit a home run off Kim, but Brosius has no such thoughts. He has not homered since September 21, nearly six weeks ago. All he wants is to hit the ball hard, hit it someplace to "keep the rally going."

Kim's game plan is to keep the ball way from Brosius. He throws a slider at the outside corner. The pitch spins, but it does not bite. It hangs -- belt high. Brosius' eyes widen as he sees the ball spinning toward the middle of the plate, right in his house.

He swings and hammers it. The ball soars toward the left-field seats. As Kim's neck snaps back to watch the ball, hoping and praying that it does not leave the park, Brosius raises his hands in his follow-through, knowing instantly he has tied the score. Yankee players leap out of the dugout, their arms jubilantly raised. They dance in front of the dugout, hugging, screaming, their faces betraying complete incredulity.

Kim, meanwhile, is devastated. He falls to his knee, and drops his head. As Yankee Stadium shakes, and as Brosius triumphantly races around the bases, Arizona first baseman Mark Grace and shortstop Tony Womack race to the mound simultaneously to console Kim, a tortured and broken symbol of pain and agony.

Grace is the first to reach Kim, still bent over, shocked beyond imagination, a devastated 22-year-old far from his home in South Korea. Two blown saves on consecutive nights in the World Series? It had never been before. Kim looks up sadly at Grace, then at Womack. He cringes, and winces, and is on the brink of tears.

"I never felt for a person as much as I felt for him," Grace says today. "You see things on the news, people who've lost loved ones to tragedy, and you want to reach out to them, to hug them, to console them; You cry for them because you feel their pain. Well, when Kim gave up Brosius' homer, only a night after giving up two to lose the game, well, this wasn't death or a fire or a car accident, but I'm telling you I never felt so bad for someone on the field before."

Grace holds Kim and tells him, "Everything's going to be all right." Kim leans into Grace, like a son burying his head into his father's chest, a touching human moment that few people have ever witnessed, particularly at this level of competition.

The sports and non-sports world felt badly for Mitch Williams when he relinquished Joe Carter's three-run, World Series-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. The sports and non-sports world felt for Bill Buckner, who sadly ambled off the field, a dejected symbol of failure, after committing an error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Ralph Branca and Dennis Eckersley are all representative of historic losing moments, but no major-league baseball player ever endured a more heartbreaking 24 hours than Kim. And no franchise had endured a more exhilarating 24 hours than the Yankees. For after Brosius' homer, the Yankees win the game in extra innings to take a 3-2 Series edge.