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The 1996 World Series matched the defending champion Atlanta Braves against the New York Yankees, with the Yankees winning in six games to capture their first championship since 1978, and their 23rd overall. Game 5 was the final game to be played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. In that game Andy Pettitte shut out John Smoltz as the Yankees won, 1-0. The final out at the stadium was made when Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill robbed Luis Polonia of a potential game-tying extra base hit.

BackgroundEdit

The 1996 World Series marked the beginning of the New York Yankees' dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Despite the rich playoff history of the Yankees, the defending champion Atlanta Braves entered the Series as heavy favorites.

The Yankees had reached the Fall Classic after a controversial ALCS victory over the Baltimore Orioles, while the Braves had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

The Braves used the dominant pitching of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, as well as timely hitting, to defeat the Indians the year before, and looked to reuse that recipe against the upstart Yankees. In 1996, John Smoltz returned to form, winning 24 games and a Cy Young Award, providing another serious pitching threat for Atlanta. New York brought a lineup mixed with veterans, like Paul O'Neill, and young stars, like rookie Derek Jeter. The Yankees bullpen was also vastly superior to the Atlanta bullpen, which would prove to be the deciding factor in the Series.

After victory in 1996, New York would go on to win the Series three of the next four years. The Braves, while winning their division every season from 1991 through 2005, have not won a World Series game since Game 2 of this series.

Game 1Edit

October 20, 1996 at Yankee Stadium in New York, New York

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Atlanta 026 013 000 12130
New York 000 010 000 141
W: John Smoltz (1-0)   L: Andy Pettitte (0-1)  
HR: ATLAndruw Jones 2 (2), Fred McGriff (1)

The Braves, who had won the last three games of the NLCS by a combined score of 32-1, continued their roll early in the Fall Classic. Nineteen-year old rookie center fielder Andruw Jones became the youngest player to homer in a World Series game in the second inning. He went deep to left again off of Brian Boehringer in the third inning to provide the fireworks in a six-run inning for the Braves. A Fred McGriff home run off the foul pole in the fifth left Atlanta ahead 9-0. Jones had his third hit and scored in Atlanta's three-run sixth. Braves starter John Smoltz would pitch six easy innings before turning it over to the bullpen in Atlanta's 12-1 rout.

Game 2Edit

October 21, 1996 at Yankee Stadium in New York, New York

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Atlanta 101 011 000 4100
New York 000 000 000 071
W: Greg Maddux (1-0)   L: Jimmy Key (0-1)  

After showcasing their big bats in Game 1, the Braves used the dominant pitching of Greg Maddux to win Game 2. Fred McGriff, who went 2 for 3 with a sacrifice fly, had single RBIs in the first, third, and fifth innings, while Marquis Grissom added a run-scoring single in the sixth. This was more than enough for Maddux, who pitched a gem, scattering six hits in eight innings. Mark Wohlers pitched the ninth to combine with Maddux on the 4-0 shutout. With the series going to Atlanta, the Braves appeared on the brink of a championship repeat.

Game 3Edit

October 22, 1996 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York 100 100 030 581
Atlanta 000 001 010 261
W: David Cone (1-0)   L: Tom Glavine (0-1)  S: John Wetteland (1)
HR: NYYBernie Williams (1)

The Yankees needed a solid performance from David Cone and got one, with him pitching six innings and only giving up one run. With New York clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth, Bernie Williams, who had two RBIs in the game, launched a two-run homer off Braves reliever Greg McMichael, which put the game out of reach. After the Braves got a run off of Yankees rookie Mariano Rivera, closer John Wetteland had two strikeouts in a perfect ninth.

Game 4Edit

October 23, 1996 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
New York 000 003 0302 8120
Atlanta 041 010 0000 692
W: Graeme Lloyd (1-0)   L: Steve Avery (0-1)  S: John Wetteland (2)
HR: NYYJim Leyritz (1)  ATLFred McGriff (2)

Game 4 would prove to be the decisive game of the 1996 World Series. Fred McGriff had a home run and Marquis Grissom hit a two-run double to deep center as the Braves stormed out to a 6-0 lead by the fifth inning. New York starter Kenny Rogers lasted only two innings, while Braves starter Denny Neagle was in control. However, he suddenly ran into trouble in the sixth inning, which began when an otherwise catchable pop-fly hit by Derek Jeter was not caught when right field umpire Tim Welke got in the way of Braves right fielder Jermaine Dye. Neagle then allowed three runs, with two of them coming off a Cecil Fielder single which was aided by an error on right fielder Dye. Neagle was knocked out of the game, leaving the 6-3 Atlanta lead in the hands of their bullpen. Mike Bielecki came in with nobody out to strike out the side in three straight. The Braves could not score on the New York bullpen and in the eighth, manager Bobby Cox decided to put closer Mark Wohlers in the game an inning early. Wohlers allowed two hits, then reserve catcher Jim Leyritz connected for a stunning game-tying home run. In the tenth, Steve Avery walked in the go-ahead run, then Braves first baseman Ryan Klesko lost a routine pop-up in the lights, leading to another Yankee run. John Wetteland shut the Braves down in the bottom of the inning as the Yankees, who had comeback from a 6-0 hole, won 8-6 and firmly shifted the momentum of the series.

The Leyritz home run is viewed a watershed event in Yankees and Braves history. For the Yankees, it launched their late-90's dynasty and is seen as the passing of the torch of baseball's most dominant team from Atlanta to New York. For the Braves, it represents a curse that has led to years of playoff struggle. Wohlers, who gave up the blast, never quite recovered from the play. He inexplicably lost his accuracy throughout 1997 and 1998, never again showing the dominance he had before the Leyritz home run.

Game 5Edit

October 24, 1996 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York 000 100 000 141
Atlanta 000 000 000 051
W: Andy Pettitte (1-1)   L: John Smoltz (1-1)  S: John Wetteland (3)

With the series tied at two apiece, John Smoltz and Andy Pettitte faced off in a pitcher's duel in the final game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and gave up a total of zero earned runs. After an error by centerfielder Marquis Grissom allowed Charlie Hayes to reach opening the fourth inning, Cecil Fielder doubled in the unearned run. Pettitte, who was torched in Game 1, was dominant for New York, pitching 8 1/3 shutout innings. He allowed a leadoff double to Chipper Jones in the ninth, but John Wetteland came on and closed out the Braves, preserving the 1-0 win. Smoltz was the hard-luck loser, pitching eight innings, giving up only four hits and one unearned run. The Yankees had swept the Braves in Atlanta, and now returned to the Bronx with a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6Edit

October 26, 1996 at Yankee Stadium in New York, New York

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Atlanta 000 100 001 280
New York 003 000 00x 381
W: Jimmy Key (1-1)   L: Greg Maddux (1-1)  S: John Wetteland (4)

The Yankees, seeking to clinch their first world championship since 1978, tagged Atlanta ace Greg Maddux for three runs off four hits in the third inning. The Braves loaded the bases on Jimmy Key in the fourth, but could only get one run. Key pitched into the sixth, only giving up the single run, before turning the game over to the Yankee bullpen. Maddux, meanwhile, kept the game close, pitching 7 2/3 innings with three runs allowed. In the ninth, John Wetteland gave up a run, making it 3-2, but got the save when Mark Lemke popped out to third baseman Charlie Hayes with the tying run on second. The Yankees were champions once again, with Wetteland notching saves in all four of New York's victories, earning him the Series MVP.

Quotes of the SeriesEdit

They [the Braves after taking 2-0 lead in the Series] said they could beat the '27 Yankees. But they forgot about the '96 Yankees.

—Yankees catcher Joe Girardi after winning World Series (from Baseball Weekly).

Jones hits this one to left field, wa-a-ay back, the kid has hit another one!

Vin Scully calling Andruw Jones' second home run of Game 1.

They have surmounted every challenge, they have climbed every mountain...

John Sterling, WABC radio, after the Yankees won

Another chance to the left side, Hayes waits.........The Yankees are champions of baseball!

Joe Buck, FOX

In the air to left field. Back, at the track, at the wall we are tied!

Joe Buck, calling Jim Leyritz's game-tying, three-run home run in Game 4

They're dancing in the streets in New York right now.

Tim McCarver, after the Yankees' Jim Leyritz hit the game-tying, three-run home run in Game 4

We play today, we win today "das" it.

—Yankee second baseman Mariano Duncan, before Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees fan: Hey Ted, how ya liking it? Ted Turner: I'm not.

Ted Turner, being taunted by a Yankees fan in Game 6.

And the Yankees have taken the Braves' championship away.

Skip Caray

TriviaEdit

  • Game 1 and Game 2 were originally scheduled for Saturday October 19 and Sunday October 20 respectively. Rain on October 19, however, washed out Game 1. The scheduled was moved up one day, with Game 1 and Game 2 rescheduled for October 20 and October 21. The Monday travel day was eliminated. This was the last rain out in a World Series game until Game 4 of the 2006 World Series.
  • In Game 1, on October 20, 1996, Andruw Jones became the youngest player, 19, in World Series history to hit a home run, surpassing Yankee great Mickey Mantle on Mantle's birthday.
  • Also on October 20, Andruw Jones became only the second player in World Series history (after Gene Tenace in 1972), and youngest ever, to hit a home run his first two times up in a Series.
  • This was the first World Series to be televised by the Fox Broadcasting Company.
  • Play-by-play man Joe Buck became the second youngest person (at the age of 27) to broadcast a World Series. Vin Scully, who this year called the World Series over CBS Radio Sports, is still the youngest at 25, when he called the 1953 World Series.
  • The Braves beating the Yankees in the first two games by a combined score of 16-1 was the biggest run differential in World Series history.
  • The Yankees were the first team to recover from a 0-2 games deficit since the 1986 Mets.
  • Over the course of the 1996 World Series, the Braves hit .315 during the first six innings and .176 afterward.
  • Atlanta had more hits, runs, homers, and a lower team ERA during the course of the series, but still lost. (Much like the Yankees 1960 performance against Pittsburgh).
  • After Game 2, Joe Torre and his first base coach José Cardenal met with the furious Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, at that post-game meeting. Torre guaranteed three victories in Atlanta and then bringing the series back to Yankee Stadium to clinch at home. Obviously, poor Steinbrenner thought Torre was nuts saying "If you guys can't beat the Braves at home you surely can't beat them down in Atlanta." The Yankees ended it up winning next four games to win the series and stunning "The Boss" and especially the Braves.
  • When the Yankees came back from a 6-0 deficit to win Game 4 by the score of 8-6 in 10 innings, it was the second biggest comeback in World Series history. The 1929 Philadelphia Athletics scored 10 runs in the seventh inning to defeat the Chicago Cubs 10-8 in Game 4.
  • However it did match the record set by the Brooklyn Dodgers (now Los Angeles Dodgers) set in the second game of the 1956 against the Yankees. They won the game 13-8 after going down 6-0 in the third inning. Ironically they won the game against the same Don Larsen who pitched a perfect game three games later.
  • The Yankees became the third team to win a World Series after dropping Games 1 and 2 at home, following the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the 1986 New York Mets.
  • This was the second ever postseason series in which the first five games were won by the road team, following the 1906 World Series.
  • This was the beginning of the Joe Torre Era, the Yankees began a dynasty throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, winning three more World Series (1998, 1999, 2000) and falling just short of another world title in 2001.
  • It took Yankee manager Joe Torre 4,272 games to get to the World Series as a player or manager, the biggest drought for any player or manager in the history of Major League Baseball.
  • When the Braves lost Game 5, they joined the 1905 Philadelphia Athletics, the 1921 New York Yankees and the 1986 New York Mets as the only teams to lose a 1-0 World Series game on an unearned run.
  • Prior to Game 6, Yankees manager Joe Torre's brother Frank underwent heart transplant surgery.
  • During game 6 at Yankee Stadium a fan behind home plate held up a sign that said "John 3:16" Tim McCarver made mention of this sign, saying that the fan was a true Yankees fan because he knew Tommy John's career ERA. John's Career ERA is actually 3.34, not 3.16.
  • Bobby Cox was ejected in the 5th inning of Game 6 after an argument that began when Marquis Grissom was called out by umpire Terry Tata after attempting to take second on a passed ball. Replays clearly showed Grissom to have been safe, and the missed call possibly cost the Braves a run as Chipper Jones doubled one batter later.
  • This World Series Championship ended a ten-year baseball championship drought for New York City; the previous team to win the series were the 1986 New York Mets. Between that time the New York Rangers won a Stanley Cup (in 1994) and the New York Giants won 2 Super Bowls (in 1987 and 1991). However, the Yankees and New York City were still reeling from lost opportunities that resulted from the baseball strike of two years before and the fallout from it, as they had the best record in the American League that year and was looking to the postseason, a possible World Series appearance and possibly, a win. The strike worsened the drought and had brought misery, outrage, anger, and indescribable grief to the Yankees and their fans because their star player then, Don Mattingly, never played in the post-season and had his best chance at a World Series title ended by the strike.
  • Yankee third baseman Wade Boggs won his first and only World Series ring in his fifth season with the New York Yankees, after ten years with the rival Boston Red Sox.
  • On an episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza, an employee of the Yankees, destroys the team's 1996 World Series trophy by dragging it behind his car. This is one of many stunts performed by George in an effort to make Yankees owner George Steinbrenner fire him so he can take a job offer from the New York Mets. However, the plan backfires, as Steinbrenner fires Mr. Wilhelm instead, making Wilhelm free to go to the Mets. Also in a Seinfeld episode that year, George is hitting home runs over the center field wall at Yankee Stadium and teaching Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams how to properly hit home runs. Jeter replies "We won the World Series" and George says, "Yeah (sarcastically) in 6 games!"
  • In the another Seinfeld episode a Japenese telivison company can not believe that with guys like George and Wilhelm in there employ the Yankees won a World Series.
  • First World Series to feature the series logo on the hats.
  • Atlanta became the first city to host the World Series and the Olympics in the same year.

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