Thursday, June 25, 2009

1999 World Series: Game 2

[With the Yankees squaring off against the Braves this week, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the two World Series during which they faced off in the late 90's]

Before Game 2 at Turner Field, Major Leauge Baseball presented its All-Century Team. During the 1999 season, fans were allowed to vote, from a predetermined list of the greatest players of all time, the top 25 players to comprise the team. There were six pitchers, nine outfielders and two players at each infield position. In addition, an oversight committee appointed five other players who they felt belonged to the time.

As FOTB Jason has consistently pointed out, fan voting is a terrible way to select the best players for any sort of team. Case in point, Mark McGuire made the All Century Team at first base, receiving more votes than Lou Gehrig and bumping out blank ink Hall Of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Jimmie Foxx and Eddie Murray. Futher evidence of the short sighted nature of fan voting is that Cal Ripken Jr. was the top vote getter at shortstop, while Honus Wagner had to be appointed by the committee.

Regardless of the nitpicks, it was quite the spectacle. Every living player nominated to the team was in the house, including Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, and the ostracized Pete Rose. Rose was the subject of a contentious interview with Jim Gray, during which Gray immediately attempted to get Rose to admit to betting on baseball. Rose has since admitted to this very deed, but it was rather foolish for Gray to put him on the spot and expect that after years of denial, Rose would simply admit that he lied during the broadcast of the World Series to millions of viewers. The interview would become a hot topic again before the World Series was over.

After the All-Century ceremony concluded, of all the legendary players in attendance, Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's home run record while in a Braves' uniform was chosen to throw out the first pitch. Unfortunately for the fans in Atlanta, most of the excitement for them was contained to the pregame festivities.

Kevin Millwood, just 24 years old at the time, was actually the best pitcher on the Braves in 1999. Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine all had relatively off years, while Millwood pitched 228 innings to a 2.86 ERA, a .996 WHIP and went 18-7. Over three starts and one relief appearance in the postseason he had thrown 22.2 IP with an ERA of 2.87.

Things went south for Millwood as soon as he took the mound. He allowed back to back singles to Chuck Knoblauch and Deter Jeter to start the game then Paul O'Neill added another base hit to drive in Knoblauch. With men on first and second, Bernie Williams grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, which looked to be Millwood's stepping stone to getting out of the inning. However, yet another single, this time by Tino Martinez drove in Jeter. A walk to Ricky Ledee allowed Scott Brosius the chance to drive in O'Neill with the fifth single of the inning. Remarkably, without an extra base hit and while grounding into a double play, the Yanks managed to push across three runs.

After being staked to the early 3-0 lead, David Cone never looked back. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, which was immediately erased by a double play. By then, Millwood had already been chased from the game in the third inning before he could record an out and the Yanks led 6-0. Cone did issue 5 free passes, but that single to Greg Meyers in the 5th was the only hit. He went 7 innings, struck out four and didn't allow a run.

The outcome of the game was never in danger but the Braves did get on the board in the ninth, scoring two runs against Ramiro Mendoza and Jeff Nelson. The Yanks had just flipped the script on the Braves. Unlike 1996, it was the Yankees who were heading home with a 2-0 series lead.

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