This Pennant Race has me OUT OF BREATH!


To prevent myself from blathering on and on I am including an excerpt from todays New York Times. This time of year is so difficult and so exhilarating if you are interested in baseball more for the human stories than for the numbers. Sigh!


September 26, 2005
With Next Stage Uncertain, Williams Takes Bow

At the plate, the important contributions were made by Gary Sheffield, who hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, and Robinson Cano, who hit a two-run shot in the seventh, to help the Yankees in their come-from-behind 8-4 victory yesterday over the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

("Bernie Williams!" the fans chanted. "Bernie Williams!")

On the mound, the star of the afternoon was pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, a rookie like Cano, who worked seven innings, only one of them bad, to improve to 8-4.

("Thank you, Bernie!" the fans chanted. "Thank you, Bernie!")

And on paper, the important numbers showed that the Yankees' victory - their 12th in their past 14 games - matched Boston's victory at Baltimore to keep the Yankees tied with the Red Sox for first place in the American League East with one week remaining in the regular season as the ancient rivals battle for the divisional pennant and the wild-card playoff berth.

("One more year!" the fans chanted to Williams. "One more year!")

But when it was over - with the team packed for its seven-game trip to Baltimore and Boston, the rookies dressed as cheerleaders as part of their initiation and the music of "Last Dance" playing on the clubhouse stereo - the biggest gathering in the happy room was not around Sheffield, Cano or Wang.

It was around Williams, who went only 1 for 4 with an infield hit. In 15 seasons, Williams has established himself as the third-best center fielder in more than a century of Yankees history, behind only Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

Batting .251 at age 37, his skills fading, Williams may be near the end of his career, or at least the Yankees phase of it. He has no contract for next season.

Because yesterday's game was the last home game of the regular season, and playoff participation is not a certainty for the Yankees, the crowd of 55,136 turned fan appreciation day into an unofficial Bernie Williams appreciation day.

Along with the chanting was a sign hung from the mezzanine directed at George Steinbrenner: "Boss: Bring Bernie Back." The fans cheered Williams's every move, and the cheering intensified before the bottom of the eighth inning, when the scoreboard showed a video of Williams highlights.

Alex Rodriguez, leading off, stayed out of the batters box long enough for teammates to coax Williams from the dugout for a wave to the fans. "He didn't want to go out and take a little bow," Manager Joe Torre said. "He looked at me to see if it was O.K. I gave him a little nod."

Over the previous 10 seasons, Williams had helped the Yankees make the playoffs every year, four of them ending in World Series championships. With 2,213 hits in a career of excellence and elegance, he is one behind DiMaggio, who is fourth in team history behind Lou Gehrig (2,721), Babe Ruth (2,518) and Mantle (2,415).

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