As the time to watch the sport of baseball has been cut short, and with the 2020 MLB regular season being pushed off as the spread of COVID-19 runs rampant throughout the entire globe, people everywhere are being forced to change their daily habits, some of which incorporated sports into them.
With all sports being pushed off of the table at this point, including March Madness and Spring Training, people are in scramble mode to try and figure out how they are going to fill their time, waiting out everything that is going on outside and remaining inside the confines of their comfy home bases. The sport of baseball is comfort food to a lot of its fan base, and without it, people, just like me, feel very empty without being able to look at the calendar and count down the days until Opening Day is upon us.
But have no fear, the archives of MLB historical annals are here. And we are starting off with baseball from the turn of the current century up until 2005.
Baseball has made a lot of changes in how it is run, how it is played, and how it is broadcasted to its fan base, but the overall goal and message of the sport has remained the same. With that in mind, take a look at some throwback games that could interest you in this time of self-quarantine and in-home days spent lounging around and potentially recovering.
Pokey Reese led off the game with a base on balls, Barry Larkin doubled Reese home from first on a one-hopper to the wall in left-center. And then stepped in the Kid.
With dreams of playing in the same clubhouse as his father and in his hometown, Ken Griffey Jr. decided to sign with the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason between the 1999 – 2000 MLB season, something that immediately drove all kinds of attention to this National League Central franchise.
His first at-bat resulted in a pop-up to second base, and while he was unable to add onto his second-best mark of having hit seven long balls on Opening Day in his career, his first long ball as a member of the Reds came six days later against the Chicago Cubs.
Junior injected a sense of life into the Reds’ fan base for over eight seasons, teaming up with the likes of Adam Dunn, Barry Larkin, and Jason LaRue during his stint. The absolute atmosphere that was rocking the stadium in Cincinnati was unrivaled and something that, to this day, may not have been seen.
October 3, 2001
New York Yankees vs. Oakland Athletics
Game 3, American League Divisional Series
Staving off elimination in Oakland somehow remains not the most-remember part of this game. What takes that tag… is actually a flip and a tag, all in the same motion, at home plate.
Having clung to a 1-0 lead going into the seventh inning, the New York Yankees were facing trouble, as the Oakland Athletics, winners of a whopping 102 games in 2001, mounted a two-out comeback on the support from Jason Giambi and Terrence Long.
As the story goes, and is how it is mostly remembered, the two-out slap double into the right-field corner by Long provided Giambi with a lot of real estate in front of him to run. What he thought he was afforded was an easy trip all the way around the bags, resulting in the tying run crossing home in the bottom of the seventh inning.
But what he did not realize was that due to his speed, even a spectacular defensive assist could nab him just at the last possible moment.
As right fielder Shane Spencer decided to haphazardly hurl the ball into the infield to no one in particular, the Captain decided to throw his hat into the ring on this play, helping not only save the game but also the season for the Bronx Bombers. His dart across the diamond, over the first-base line and towards the dugout, all while grabbing the bounding ball and flipping it – on the run – to Jorge Posada at home plate helped them tag out the lumbering first baseman, who decided that it was best to put all his weight and focus on running and not on sliding, which would have almost guaranteed the run would have scored.
Giambi was tagged out, the bottom of the seventh inning ended, closer Mariano Rivera came in and shut the door on the A’s for the final six outs, the Yankees rebounded and won the final two games of the series, advancing to the World Series, and they won their fourth consecutive pennant.
Now take a deep breath – because the entire game provides just as many interesting moments, provided you enjoy shutting down a 102-victory team, at home, in the playoffs. Mike Mussina was absolutely on something that night for the Yankees, and he was exactly what the team needed to keep them in the hunt for the pennant.
Rivera did his usual thing, and the Yankees continued their MLB dominance of the late 1990s and the early 2000s.
October 26, 2002
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Angels
Game 6, World Series
Three runs scored in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Three runs scored in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Defeat. And a lost series.
Those are the words still ringing in the ears of the San Francisco Giants franchise’s ears after blowing their golden opportunity in 2002 to bring the team’s first World Series title to the Bay. But letting up six runs in the final three frames is absolutely unforgivable, especially after having been out to a five-run lead entering the bottom half of the seventh inning.
Manager Dusty Baker monumentally took pitcher Russ Ortiz out of the game after recording the first out of the seventh inning, paving the way for the Angels to make their fateful comeback, which resulted in a Game 6 victory at home and a Game 7 win that buttoned up the series.
Game 6 was filled with no scoring early for the Giants, but as a huge difference compared to the 2001 ALDS game just covered, pitching ended up not being a strong suit for the winning team in this fight.
Their offensive output came across the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, but that was all she wrote for the Giants. Scott Spezio made it a 5-3 game against Felix Rodriguez, right after Ortiz was pulled, and the final nail in the coffin was provided by Darin Erstad in the following frame, putting LA up for good.
If you want to watch how not to finish out a game in the World Series, see how the Giants handled their end-of-game and end-of-series pitching matchups… it is a sight for sore eyes.
October 16, 2003
Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
Game 7, ALCS
For having a baseball game run four minutes short of four hours long, it all ended in a blink of an eye, thanks to Aaron Boone.
The current Yankees manager hit a long ball off of Boston Red Sox reliever Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th inning on the first pitch, making Rivera a winner and sending the Yankees back to the World Series.
Rivera put up three shutdown, dominating innings of work against the vaunted Red Sox lineup, helping set the table for Boone’s heroics to send Yankee fans home happy that night.
Each team hit three long balls, with Giambi knocking two out of the park himself for New York. Trot Nixon and Kevin Millar both went deep off of Roger Clemens for Boston, with David Ortiz taking reliever David Wells deep in the eighth inning to the right-field porch.
What makes this game so tantalizing to rewatch is obviously the rivalry between these two, but also how each handled the pitching situation differently. NYY used six arms in their victory, with no hurler going longer than three innings, while Boston let Pedro Martinez work 7.1 innings and throw 123 pitches, something that would not fly in today’s baseball.
Alan Embree and Mike Timlin helped bridge the next 1.2 innings, before Wakefield came in and pitching a quiet 10th inning before letting up the bomb to begin the bottom of the 11th.
Just an overall awesome game to watch and that atmosphere in Yankee Stadium is bar none, even when watching it back through YouTube or the MLB archives.
October 1, 2004
Texas Rangers vs. Seattle Mariners
While it may have just been another regular-season game, don’t tell that to the 45,000+ people that chose to actually go see a Seattle Mariners game.
They were all there to see Ichiro Suzuki break the all-time record for most base hits in one regular season, set by George Sisler with 257. And while a six-spot in the third inning was plenty for the Mariners to beat the Texas Rangers, the real hype came when Ichiro knocked a ball back up the middle into left-center field to record his 258th hit of the season.
Fans went crazy, Ichiro showed his true appreciation for what Seattle meant to him, and the Mariners were able to give their franchise icon a celebration they had been having problems with giving him for a while. He had three hits on the night in five attempts in what ended up being the final win of that season for Seattle, their 63rd.
Ichiro’s lasting impact on the game of baseball is something that most players cannot even come close to having, especially with how he was able to unite different cultures along the way through this children’s sport. Seattle has not really had much to cheer for since then in terms of baseball, outside of King Felix’s perfect game in 2012.
October 26, 2005
Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros
Game 4, World Series
Continuing with the theme of postseason games being featured on this list, breaking a streak of 88 consecutive seasons in between their World Series titles is always something that can be celebrated, and especially when it happens for a team like the Chicago White Sox.
And even better – it was over the Houston Astros in a four-game sweep when they were still members of the NL Central. Even if at that time they were not cheating, it is still a simple thing to be able to bond over at this time.
Having put up five, seven, and seven runs the previous three games in the series, the White Sox relied on a lone run scored in the eighth inning to project them to victory. A single by Jermaine Dye that brought Willie Harris in to score was all the White Sox needed to complete their four-game sweep.
Pitching carried this team in the World Series, and it was all started off by Freddy Garcia, who spun a gem of a game – seven innings, four hits, no runs, three walks, seven strikeouts, all on 107 pitches. Cliff Polite and Neal Cotts came in and earned holds after Garcia, and big Bobby Jenks shut down the Astros in the ninth inning, pushing the White Sox to the ultimate victory.
Dye, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Aaron Rowand, Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik, and Tadahito Iguchi all earned a ring that year, among others, but just seeing that team finally reach the promised land after so many years of falling short was a great culmination to this season.