My Top Three Part 2: Playoff Games

Welcome to another edition of my “top three” series, which started last week when I detailed my three most cherished regular season games (LINK TO LAST WEEK’S POST). Today, I’m going to talk about the same thing with Yankee playoff games this time around. As Yankee fans, we have a lot of playoff games to choose from. You already know this and I don’t need to go into too much detail, but we’re lucky to root for a franchise that doesn’t raise banners for Wild Card games.Like last time, I’ll go in chronological order. 

2009 is my absolute favorite Yankee season ever, so let’s start there, specifically with Game 4 of the World Series. Sure, AJ Burnett’s clutch performance probably makes Game 2 more exciting. And who doesn’t love a clincher like Game 6? But Game 4 offered me such a unique experience that I’ll never forget. Back then, in the first year of Yankee Stadium III, the team tried to cater to fans a little bit more–or so it seemed. And because of that, I was able to “go” to Game 4, even though it was in Philadelphia. The Yankees opened the stadium to fans and for a cheap fee–I think it was $8 and parking was free!–you could get in and watch the game on the big screen in centerfield. A friend and I went, more or less on a whim, and it was a blast, not only because of the game, but because of the unique atmosphere.

Maybe it’s just because they only seated fans in the lower bowl–minus the Legends seats–but the crowd felt just as loud and into things as if the game were playing out for real in front of us rather than on a screen. It was like watching the game at a local bar, but with thousands of people, a comfortable seat, and the ability to talk to those around you.

As expected, the crowd got even louder as the Yankees mounted their comeback and go-ahead in the top of the ninth inning. One thing I’ll likely never forget is the collective “NO NO N–YES!” feeling that just about everyone in the stadium had when Johnny Damon stole second and third in one shot. 

The other thing I won’t forget is walking back to my car with throngs of fans outside, screaming our heads off with excitement while residents in the apartments shouted down the same feelings from high up, waving Yankee flags, banners, towels, jerseys, shirts, whatever out of their windows. My refrain, which many passing by picked up (I swear!), was, “TEN DOWN, ONE TO GO!” A few nights later in the Bronx, it was over and the Yankees were back on top. World Champions for the 27th time. 

I’ve only actually attended one real playoff game, and it was a good one: Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS. Earlier that day, I was day subbing in my hometown back in Connecticut, covering for a gym teacher at my high school. Around lunch time, my wife (then girlfriend) texted me saying, “We should go to the game tonight.” At work, she found tickets and bought them, and I was off to my first playoff game. 

Despite the excitement of that, the feeling I remember for most of the game was frustration. Hiroki Kuroda was pitching his ass off for the Yankees–he only threw two bad pitches all night, which, unfortunately, went for homers–and the offense just couldn’t push anything across. And when Joe Girardi pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez, my immediate reaction was that it was a bad idea. Of course, Raul Ibanez proved me wrong and tied the game with a home run.

I never experienced a playoff game at Yankee Stadium II and I know people like to compare the new one to it negatively in terms of atmosphere. However, after that Ibanez homer, the upper deck of YSIII was rocking. I could feel the feet of thousands across the hard ground, shaking the section to its core. And three innings later, the process was repeated when RAUJ did it again and sent us all home happy. If I never go to another playoff game again, it would be okay, considering the result of this one I did get to go to. 

The 2017 Yankees were an absolutely fantastic ride. Even at my most optimistic, I didn’t expect them to do more than to compete for the second wild card spot. Then, led by Aaron Judge (the should’ve been MVP even before the Astros cheating thing) and Gary Sanchez, they won the first wild card in convincing fashion, beating out the Twins by six games. And all that almost came to a screeching halt when Luis Severino couldn’t get out of the first inning and put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole during the AL Wild Card Game

And then Didi Gregorius came to the plate and the momentum didn’t stop from there. His three run homer to tie the game and swing things back the Yankees’ way is on the short list of ‘most pumped up I’ve ever been during a baseball game’ moments. If it weren’t for the sleeping baby upstairs, I would’ve screamed my head off. Instead, I just silently punched the air about a dozen or six times and knew, from that moment, that the Yankees were winning that game. 

The 2017 run ended in frustration and, given the circumstances, probably shouldn’t have. But that first game of their run was so spectacular that it offers at least a little comfort. The game itself seemed a microcosm of the Yankees and Twins’ many playoff matchups in this century. No matter what, the Twins just can’t seem to get over that hump from the Bronx. 

What are your top 3 playoff games and why? Head to the comments and let’s remember some playoff games. 

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5 Comments

  1. TCF16

    Oof, it’s almost impossible but I’ll try. Top 10 would be a little more manageable.

    1. 1995 ALDS Game 2. The Mattingly home run, Leyritz winning it in the 15th in the drizzling rain. The Stadium was swaying it was so loud. Hold on to the roof, indeed.

    2. 2009, World Series Game 6. As Hideki’s RBI total grew and the innings went by, the feeling was incredible. Everything you live for as a baseball fan was about to come true.

    3. 2001, World Series, Game. Mr. November.

    Honorable mention:
    -1997 ALDS, Game 1. Back to back to back and a belly to belly to belly
    -1998 World Series, Game 1, Tino’s grand slam and Chuck’s 3 run home run.
    -1999 ALCS, Game 1, Bernie’s walk off against the Red Sox
    -2009 ALCS, Game (1 or 2), It was so freaking cold I can’t remember which game it was!

    Least Favorite:
    2004 ALCS Games 6 and 7
    2006 ALDS Game 2 – after 3 hours, the game was finally “called for rain” even though it never rained.

    • Samuel Spitzberg

      I was at that 95 game. It was like nothing I’ve experienced. I was at game 1 of the 2000 series against the Mets and the 95 game was better.

      • TCF16

        Agreed. I was at Game 1 of the 2000 WS as well, also incredible. But 1995, after such a long stretch of being bad, and Donnie Baseball finally making it to the playoffs, the place was thrilling.

  2. MikeD

    I won’t go through my top three, but I will say my most memorable was the first postseason game I attended as a young teen. Sat out in the bleachers and loved every inning. October 20, 1981, game one of the World Series against the Dodgers. While the series ended up as a bummer, the opening games in NY were great. Guidry was strong, Nettles made another great play at 3B to continue his postseason torture of the Dodgers in the field, and Bob Watson lined an opposite field HR off Jerry Reuss to give the Yankees a quick lead on the way to a 5-3 victory.

    It wasn’t the most exciting playoff game I’ve attended, or watched on TV, but it was the most memorable because it was the first for me. Game one of a World Series, a win, in the Bronx, in October Country. Few things better.

  3. vc_11

    So, I’ll be a little different here. I’ll probably be the only person to choose a Yankee *LOSS* on this post but here we go:
    Game 4, 2019 ALCS vs. Houston – Yes, this was basically the night our season ended, but it is memorable for me because it was the first postseason game I’ve ever gone to. I never thought I would have the chance to go to a Yankees postseason game, but friends of my dad got ahold of tickets and we all went. Unfortunately, my dad couldn’t go because, if you remember, Game 4 got rained out and pushed back a day and Dad had something on the schedule he couldn’t get out of. In the long run, it’s good that he didn’t see the ultimate outcome, but for me, I really appreciated the atmosphere and the aura of the stadium, from the two hours before first pitch, eating pizza with the guys on River Ave., hearing the place go nuts when they turned down the lights right before the game started, to the highlight of the night: the Stadium going ABSOLUTELY BERSERK when Sanchez hit the home run to left-center about fifteen rows in front of us. The beer showers were real and I’m glad I got to experience the stadium rock in October.
    Game 5, 2001 World Series vs. Arizona – That postseason was an emotional roller coaster. As a 13-year-old kid living in New Jersey in the aftermath of 9/11, through all the comebacks of that postseason (down 2-0 to Oakland, the flip play, Jeter falling into the stands, facing the two-headed monster of Schilling and Johnson, and the comebacks in Games 4 and 5), I remember feeling truly worn out. So much so that I went to bed around the 8th inning of Game 5. It wasn’t cynicism about the Yankees losing, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Then, about a half-hour after I had gone to bed, I was awoken to the sound of my mom screaming, “THEY DID IT AGAIN!”
    Backstory: this was the same woman who had made me go to bed at my regular bedtime every night during the World Series the year before and here, 12 months later, she was waking me up with excitement. That was the night that I think my mom got officially hooked on the Yankees and she hasn’t looked back since.
    Game 4, 1996 World Series vs. Atlanta – Many Yankee fans might say this game, but it was the first game that I have memories from. They consisted of two things: 1) me leaving the TV as a forlorn 8-year-old as the Braves took a 6-0 lead, and 2) my dad telling me as I went up the steps, “Don’t worry, the Yankees are going to win this game 8-6!” What can I say, my dad’s a prophet!

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