MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

2001 Series no nightmare for Torre

Former manager recognized in Yankees' return to Arizona

2001 Series no nightmare for Torre

PHOENIX -- It's been nearly 15 years since the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series in seven games at what was then called Bank One Ballpark to the D-backs, and no matter what he says, Joe Torre will never get over it.

"We only needed one more run," said Torre, the Yankees manager then and Major League Baseball's chief baseball officer now, to the crowd before Monday night's renewal of the long dormant Yankees-D-backs rivalry at Chase Field.

Torre was one of the feature pregame speakers at the tribute for Joe Garagiola, who passed away at 90 on March 23. And that reference opened his speech. It played to mostly deaf ears.

Beforehand, Torre was asked if he minded returning to the scene of the Game 7 nightmare. The Yankees blew a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth with the great Mariano Rivera on the mound, Luis Gonzalez ending it on a dump single over the head of a pulled-in shortstop Derek Jeter.

"Nah, for the Yankees purists it was probably tough for them to swallow," Torre said. "But it was probably the most exciting World Series. I think what happened on 9/11 set it up. There's no question, it was a very emotional time. But I'll take my chances any day with Mariano."

That moment is the greatest in D-backs history and is played over and over again on the mammoth video board that hovers high above center field, including Monday night.

Not so much for the Yankees, who were on the verge of winning their fourth World Series in a row with the greatest closer in history on the mound. Rivera finished his 19-year career with an 0.70 ERA and 42 saves in the postseason. But he didn't have his mojo working that night.

Games 3-4-5 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium were all epic. The Yankees were down 2-0 coming home from Arizona and President George W. Bush went to the rubber and threw out the first pitch before Game 3.

"Game 4 and 5 in New York, of course, Game 7 here, were crazy," Torre said. "Three, obviously, was so important. [Roger] Clemens pitched a great game for us. If we didn't win that first game [at home], we were going to have trouble trying to get even. And Games 4 and 5 were like carbon copies. They were like Groundhog Day."

The Yankees came from behind to tie Games 4 and 5 in the bottom of the ninth inning on homers by Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius, respectively, both off D-backs closer Byung-Hyun Kim. Jeter won Game 4 with a homer in the bottom of the 10th just as the clock turned to midnight, ending a tumultuous month of October.

As Jeter's shot nestled into the lower right-field seats, the scoreboard appropriately dubbed the Yankees captain, "Mr. November."

The Yankees won Game 5 on a 12th-inning single by Alfonso Soriano.

Torre had a few revelations on Monday about his key decisions in that World Series.

"The standout moments were those two homers, Brosius and Tino," Torre said. "Brosius was interesting. When he came up to hit there was always the option of pinch-hitting for him, a right-handed hitter against a side-armed right-hander.

"But I remember the day before he hit a line drive foul off Kim. So I stayed with him. It was just so great to have a hitter like him batting eighth in the lineup do what he did."

When the Series returned to Arizona, the D-backs swamped the Yankees and Andy Pettitte in Game 6, setting up the climatic Game 7.

It was 1-1 heading into the top of the eighth in that one when Soriano homered to give the Yankees the lead. The shot led Torre to another fateful decision.

"The home run by Soriano kept me from making a big mistake," Torre said. "With the score tied, I'm not sure if I was going to bring Mariano in in the eighth inning. Zim [coach Don Zimmer] asked me who I was going to bring in and I said, '[Ramiro] Mendoza.'

"He said, 'You've got to bring in Mariano.' Thinking back on it, if I hadn't done that and Mariano didn't get an opportunity to pitch in that game, it would've definitely have been wrong on my part. So I didn't make that wrong decision."

Rivera struck out the side in the eighth sandwiched around a Steve Finley single. And we all know what happened in the ninth.

All these years later, nothing is going to change any of that.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.