As the New York Yankees got the 1996 season started, there were plenty of reasons to believe it would be a special one. There were some new faces, and the roster was loaded.
Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson had come to The Bronx in a trade with Seattle, and Tim Raines and Dwight Gooden were also picked up. And as the season wore on, Darryl Strawberry, Luis Sojo and a feisty third baseman by the name of Charlie Hayes joined the team.This all resulted in a club that was deep, strong and extremely talented.
It was also the year of the legendary Jeffrey Maier incident. In a playoff game against the Orioles, Derek Jeter hit an eighth inning fly ball to right field. As the Orioles´ Tony Tarasco waited for the ball to come down, Maier reached over the right field wall to help the ball into the stands. As John Lennon would say: We get by with a little help from our friends!
The Yankees went on to win the ALCS Series to earn the right take on the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. After dropping the first two games at Yankee Stadium to the Braves by a combined score of 16-1, the Yanks were in big trouble. But a Bernie Williams home run and an excellent effort by David Cone helped the Yankees bounce back to a 5-2 win in Game Three. Then, in Game Four, led by an unforgettable home run Jim Leyritz, the Yankees won 8-6 to tie the series.
In the pivotal Game Five, Andy Pettitte through a masterpiece, and then yielded to John Wetteland who shut the door on the Braves. The Yankees won 1-0, and Wetteland picked up his third save of the series. That set the stage for a big outing by Jimmy Key in Game Six, as Wetteland finished it off with save number four.
Around the diamond, the Yankees had Tino Martinez at first, Mariano Duncan at second, Derek Jeter at short, Wade Boggs at third, and Joe Girardi at catcher. Tim Raines, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill were in the outfield. Besides Pettitte, Key and Cone, the starting rotation included Dwight Gooden and Kenny Rogers. Joining Wetteland in the pen were Jeff Nelson, Bob Wickman and a young, promising set up man by the name of Mariano Rivera.
Besides the World Series Trophy, the Yankees took home a load of valuable hardware in 1996. Cecil Fielder won the Babe Ruth Award, Bernie Williams was the ALCS MVP, Wetteland was the World Series MVP, and The AL Rookie of the Year went to the one and only Derek Jeter.