The Yankees officially chose their new manager on Monday, and their selection was a familiar name to baseball -- Aaron Boone.
Boone will bring back some pleasant memories from the 2003 season for Yankees fans. The third baseman was absolutely pivotal to their American League pennant that year.
Boone was in the prime of his career. He began the campaign with the Reds, the same team that he'd been on since they drafted him out of USC in 1994. He had hit a career-high 26 homers in 2002 and looked to be off to a similarly hot pace in 2003, especially on May 8. That day, he hit a trifecta of dingers against the Cardinals:
Boone went deep 16 times in the first half, good enough to earn the lone All-Star appearance of his career. The Yankees were impressed, and seeking an improvement over the aging Robin Ventura at the hot corner, they acquired Boone at the non-waiver Trade Deadline for pitchers Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning.
It was a change of pace for Boone, who had never played a game for any other team since his debut with the Reds in 1997. His offensive production slowed down a bit in the second half and he only belted six more long balls, but he still contributed on defense.
During a tight extra-innings contest against the Orioles on Aug. 16, Boone helped save the game by tagging a stumbling Jack Cust for the final out as he tried to score the tying run.
The Yankees won the AL East, giving Boone his first taste of postseason play. Unfortunately, after a two-hit playoff debut in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Twins, he hit a rough patch. Over the next nine games, he went 3-for-27 with nine strikeouts and no extra-base hits as the Yankees passed by the Twins and battled the archrival Red Sox to the seventh game of the ALCS.
Boone didn't even get the start in Game 7, as manager Joe Torre went with backup Enrique Wilson, who had a better history against Pedro Martinez. Boone entered as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the eighth, just after the Yankees tied the game at 5 against Pedro in dramatic fashion.
It wasn't clear if Boone would even get an at-bat, but the game continued deep into the night. Finally, he got his chance leading off the bottom of the 11th against Tim Wakefield, who had mystified the Yankees with his knuckleball all series long. Boone picked the right moment to break out of his slump:
Boone instantly became a playoff hero, as he was just the fifth player ever to end a postseason series with a walk-off homer. The Yankees won their 39th pennant and faced the Marlins in the World Series. While the Yankees fell to the Fish in six games, Boone did add a World Series homer to his ledger, too, a solo shot against Chad Fox in the Game 3 victory:
That Fall Classic was the last time Boone appeared in Yankees pinstripes. Now, he'll try to lead them back to the World Series from the dugout.