New York Yankees History: Greatest games, learn the top ten here

William Parlee
NEW YORK, NY – JULY 09: Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees celebrates at home with teammates Jorge Posada #20, Mariano Rivera #42, Alex Rodriguez #13 and Curtis Granderson #14 after hitting a solo home run in the third inning for career hit 3000 while playing against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on July 9, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Few teams in baseball have had as many exciting, impactful games as the New York Yankees in their 107-year history.  With so many great games to choose from, there are bound to be those that don’t agree with me.  And that’s fine; it’s what denotes a New York Yankees fan, we all have our favorite players, seasons, and yes greatest games.  I have the benefit of being an old Yankee fan who has seen all but two of these games myself.  But I also respect the history of the games that came before me.  Here are my top 10 Yankee games ever.

10.  Yankee Stadium opens, April 18, 1923

After ten years of tenancy at the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants, the Yankees build their own stadium. The Yankees proved that they had become the gold standard in baseball by building the largest ever built baseball stadium.  The franchise spent less than a year and $2.5 million erecting New York Yankee Stadium, a monstrous palace that housed some 20,000 more seats than the next largest major league facility. None of the Stadium’s 74,000 seats would be empty for the first game ever played there on a crisp, sunny Wednesday afternoon.  The Stadium was known as the house Ruth built. The game that day was against the rival Red Sox.  The Yankees would shut out the Sox 4-0.

9.  Deter Jeter’s trip into the stands, July 1, 2004

In the 12th inning of a tie game against the Red Sox, Trot Nixon popped up down the left-field line. Derek Jeter, in a dead sprint from his shortstop position, made an over the shoulder catch. He had so much momentum that he launched himself over the railing and ended up two rows deep. He emerged with a cut on his chin and blood running from his cheek.  Team trainer Gene Monahan, manager Aaron Boone, and Alex Rodriguez helped Jeter off the field with his parents shocked in the stands. The Yankees went on to win the game in the bottom of the 13th inning on a John Flaherty single.



8.  Aaron Boone the hero, October 13, 2003

Yankee manager Aaron Boone made his mark in New York Yankee history long before he managed his first Yankee game.  Aaron Boone was a trade-deadline acquisition and unlikely playoff hero for the Bronx Bombers. In Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox, Boone led off the bottom of the 11th inning and sent the first pitch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield threw soaring into the Bronx night for a walk-off homer that sent the Yankees to the World Series for the sixth time in eight years. Boone, an average player, placed his name into the history books that night in Boston.  The Boston Red Sox have a name for Boone, which I won’t repeat here.

7.  Ron Guidry 18 strikeouts, June 17, 1978

On June 17, 1978, Ron Guidry would put his name in the history books by striking out a  Yankee-record 18 batters. Guidry’s 18-strikeout performance is usually cited as the launching pad of the  Yankee Stadium tradition of fans standing and clapping for a strikeout with two strikes on the opposing batter.  After about 12 strikeouts the tension in the stands became papable. For the season, Guidry went 25-3 in a season that is among the top 10 for winning percentage in all of baseball history. He led the league with a 1.74 ERA, a .893 winning percentage, nine shutouts, and 248 strikeouts. Guidry’s success during 1978 was due in large part to his mastery of the slider. His 248 strikeouts set a Yankees’ team record for most strikeouts notched by a pitcher in a single season.

6.  Babe Ruths called shot, October 1, 1932

Babe Ruth was seldom intimidated by any player or pitcher, and such was the case on October 1, 1932.  On that night Ruth, who self-assuredly looked to the Chicago Cubs bench and pointed a finger toward the mound. Charlie Root, the Cubs pitcher, with two outs, remembered Ruth saying, “You still need one more, kid.” Others insist he was pointing to the center field to let everyone know where the next pitch would be hit.

There was no argument over what happened next. Ruth crushed Root’s next pitch exactly where he had allegedly predicted it would go, to Wrigley Field’s center-field bleachers. As he circled the bases, Ruth waived off the Cub bench, which even after the monster blast was riding him hard. If that didn’t quiet the Cubs, Gehrig followed next with a home run of his own, the Yankees were on their way to a 7-5 win and a four-game sweep of the Cubs.

5. Roger Clemens one-hitter, October 14, 2000

There is no way to describe Roger Clemens’s pitching performance on October 14, 2000, then to say it was surrealistic. It was Oct. 14, 2000, in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Seattle Mariners. Playing on the road, New York Yankees pitcher Clemens tossed a complete-game, one-hit shutout and struck out 15 batters. For any other franchise, what Clemens did would easily be considered the best pitching performance in team postseason history.  But for the Yankees, his day was second only to Don Larsen, who pitched first-ever World Series perfect game in 1956.

4. Roger Maris hits #61, October 1, 1961

The New York Yankees 1961 season was all about the M&M boys.  Roger Maris and Micky Mantle were going deep all season long at record rates. As the end of the season came closer, they were closing in on one of baseball’s most hallowed records: Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record of 60 in 1927. To the eyes of the omnipresent Gotham media, Mantle was the hero in pursuit, Maris the relative villain—the young Midwesterner who hated the big city atmosphere of New York, the new kid in town who hadn’t plied his trade long enough in pinstripes.  Maris didn’t have a good relationship with the press, which didn’t make his relationship with the fans any better.  As the end of the season progressed, Mantle became injured, and Maris overtook him.  On October 1, 1961, Maris, would hit his record 61st home run, beating out Babe Ruth.  However in the midseason seeing that a home run race was in progress, Commissioner Ford Frick decreed that, because of the American League’s increased 162-game schedule, any recordset after the 154th game—the old season standard—would be denoted in the record book with a “distinctive mark,” an asterisk.

3. Don Larsen’s Perfect Game, October 8, 1956

Don Larsen was not one of the greatest Yankee pitchers, in fact, he’s probably not in the top twelve. But he does have a claim to fame for the Yankees and all of baseball. He is the only pitcher to have a perfect game in the World Series. On October 8, 1956, Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. It was game 5 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Larsen needed just 97 pitches to complete the perfect game, and only one Dodger batter (Pee Wee Reese in the first inning) was able to get a 3-ball count.

Brooklyn’s Maglie gave up only two runs on five hits. Mickey Mantle’s fourth-inning home run broke the scoreless tie. The Yankees added an insurance run in the sixth. Throwing fastballs, Larsen got ahead in the count at 1–2. On his 97th pitch, a called third strike by home plate umpire Babe Pinelli Larsen caught Mitchell looking for the 27th and last out. After the pitch, catcher Yogi Berra leaped into Larsen’s arms in celebration, setting up the “everlasting image.” Larsen’s unparalleled game earned him the World Series Most Valuable Player Award and Babe Ruth Award.

2. Reggie’s threesome October 18, 1977

On October 18, 1977, in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder, Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a row off of three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers.  The Yankees would end a 15-year championship drought in 1977, but not without enduring through a memorably tumultuous season—and certainly not without first-year New York star slugger Reggie Jackson, the unapologetic ego who was often in the middle of the tumult.  Despite Jackson’s self-serving personality, his three home runs made him a semi-favorite unless Thurmon Munson was on the field.

1. Chambliss Walk Off, October 14, 1977

On a cold autumn night on October 14, 1976, the fifth game of a winner take all ALCS games; the game would be at a standstill at the bottom of the ninth. Kansas City relief pitcher Mark Littell would be taking warm-up tosses, Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard was cautioning the crowd of over 58,000 about throwing debris onto the playing field. The game had already been stopped several times for bottles, firecrackers, beer cans, and rolls of toilet paper being thrown from the stands, all while Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss waited in the cold.

The delay prevented Littell from staying loose and interfered with his rhythm. Finally, at 11:13 PM, Chambliss stepped into the box, and home-plate umpire Art Frantz yelled, “Play ball.” Littell would throw Chris a high fastball that the Chambliss would smash over the right-field wall for a walk-off win and one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, as the Yankee stands emptied onto the field.

There were so many people on the field and blocking home plate that Chambliss wasn’t actually sure he stepped on the plate. Discussing it with Graig Nettles, Nettles suggested he go back out and step on the home plate so that the umpires wouldn’t say he missed the plate and not count the run. Chambliss borrowed a police raincoat as a disguise and returned to the field that was jammed with fans and stepped on home plate, that sealed the deal, and the Yankees won the pennant.  They would go on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 2 in the 1977 World Series, their first World Championship in fifteen years.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.