The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty

The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty

3.7 21
by Buster Olney
     
 

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For six extraordinary years around the turn of the millennium, the Yankees were baseball's unstoppable force, with players such as Paul O'Neill, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera. But for the players and the coaches, baseball Yankees-style was also an almost unbearable pressure cooker of anxiety, expectation, and infighting. With owner George Steinbrenner at the

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Overview

For six extraordinary years around the turn of the millennium, the Yankees were baseball's unstoppable force, with players such as Paul O'Neill, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera. But for the players and the coaches, baseball Yankees-style was also an almost unbearable pressure cooker of anxiety, expectation, and infighting. With owner George Steinbrenner at the controls, the Yankees money machine spun out of control.

In this new edition of The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, Buster Olney tracks the Yankees through these exciting and tumultuous seasons, updating his insightful portrait with a new introduction that walks readers through Steinbrenner's departure from power, Joe Torre's departure from the team, the continued failure of the Yankees to succeed in the postseason, and the rise of Hank Steinbrenner. With an insider's familiarity with the game, Olney reveals what may have been an inevitable fall that last night of the Yankee dynasty, and its powerful aftermath.

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Editorial Reviews

Kevin Baker
Olney is a skilled and lucid writer. He is adept at revealing all the minute elements of chance and strategy that constitute any single baseball game and that make the game such a constantly surprising, frustrating, even excruciating obsession. We learn why so few batters can hit Rivera's cut fastball even when they know it is coming and how it was that a throwback strip of dirt between the pitcher's mound and the plate in the Diamondbacks' home park, and a freak, passing thunderstorm rolling in over the mesas, played critical roles in deciding the outcome of the seventh game. Olney keeps the tension of the game crackling, and his descriptions are often wonderfully vivid: the Yankees manager, Joe Torre, inserting Darryl Strawberry as a pinch-hitter, ''used him like a dagger''; ''a halogen thought'' fills a pitcher's head; another pitcher, after a fielding drill, picks up balls ''like a child gathering Easter eggs.''
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Nothing succeeds like success. But human nature being what it is, some people get a thrill when the successful fail. Is it a matter of rooting for the underdog or bringing the haughty and powerful down a peg? Olney, who covers the Yankees for the New York Times, addresses the question in this sympathetic assessment as he selects their seventh-game loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series as the turning point in the team's decline. Recounting the details of the contest, he flashes back to reveal how individuals contributed to the Yankees' accomplishments in recent years. Of course, the one person who demands success, and for whom even victory doesn't seem to be enough, is owner George Steinbrenner. Much of the ill will generated by the legions of Yankee-haters can be traced to Steinbrenner, with his bullying and deep pockets. Olney's work puts the team under a microscope, as if the daily exasperations, disappointments and even boredom suffice to explain why their fortunes reversed. Olney gives a good account: success is hard work that, like prayers, sometimes does not yield the hoped-for result. Agent, Chris Calhoun. (Sept.) Forecast: Both Yankees fans and Yankee haters will find this one interesting. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Love them or hate them, you have to agree that for the last 80-odd years, the New York Yankees have been major league baseball's signature team. And while names such as Jeter and Pettite might not resonate quite as loudly as DiMaggio and Dickey, few can debate that, with four world championships, the 1996-2001 version of the team ranks as one of the finest. Olney, who covered the Yankees for the New York Times for much of that period, offers an inning-by-inning account of the game that he contends marked the end of their dynasty Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. As Yankee players, coaches, and executives all make their appearances, we learn of their contributions to the team and who they are as people; ultimately, we begin to care about them far beyond their performance in this one crucial game. An excellent work of sports writing, this is recommended for all public library baseball collections. Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A well-mulled, highly atmospheric, and richly versed story of the Bronx Bombers' great 1996-2001 ride. When you win four World Series out of five, the word "dynasty" understandably begins to take shape. The Yankees were in position to take a fifth in 2001, in the funky, gray days that marked the aftermath of 9/11, but it was to be the end of that dynasty. ESPN sportswriter Olney, whose dispatches for the New York Times were a pleasure to read in the years leading up to the contest with the Arizona Diamondbacks, pivots this around the climactic seventh game in 2001, rolling away from it time and again as a batter might from an inside fastball, but returning to face its consequences. Much had gone into the making of the Yankees by this point, and Olney tracks the arc of the team's great levitation: the truly superb players and the strategic rebuilding of the franchise with high on-base percentage hitters and pitchers with gas and chutzpah. As he moves through the innings of the seventh game, Olney provides crisp profiles of players, from Chuck Knoblauch's dwindles to the ever-sad Darryl Strawberry, Paul O'Neill's pressure cooker to Derek Jeter's self-effacing conviviality and good humor (which will come as a surprise to people tired of his ubiquitous face). George Steinbrenner's odious personality is given a wicked knife job for how he treated those who worked for him, for the uneven playing ground he inflicted on the game, and for the price it took on his players. Joe Torre, by contrast, is rightly credited for his "social genius" in tending to "the minds of his players." In that, he is much like Olney, choosing the right words, keeping pace, moving from frame to frame without jarring thecontinuities. Both subtle and opinionated, a densely layered portrait of the Yankees late-20th-century dynasty and the enduring impact of that commercial and competitive juggernaut. (16-page b&w insert, not seen)Agent: Chris Calhoun/Sterling Lord Literistic

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061748165
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
614,589
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty New Edition
The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness Chapter One

Mariano Rivera sometimes paused to stand behind the crowd of teammates watching The Jerry Springer Show in the Yankees' clubhouse. As they laughed loudly and exhorted the on-screen combatants, Rivera remained silent, shaking his head. To him, the remedy for the many misbehaving teenagers on the program was clear: rigid discipline. Establish rules, and if the children don't adhere, then physical punishment—a paddling that would hurt and be remembered—must always follow. Growing up in Panama, he had been weaned on discipline. His father worked as a fisherman, collecting sardines to be processed for animal feed, a job that took him away from home a week at a time, and if little Mariano fell into trouble he would dwell in dread until his father returned, knowing that his mother would report his worst offenses. If he broke a window with a ball, he knew he would be spanked. There was no getting around this: mistakes are made, and consequences follow. His father insisted that Mariano be accountable for his behavior and show respect for others, and years later Mariano expected the same from his own children.

Rivera, the Yankees' closer, thought players should act properly, as well; he despised pitchers who were disrespectful to opponents—glaring insolently at hitters and stomping and swaggering around the mound like angry Neanderthals, pumping a fist to celebrate the smallest successes. You should act as though you've won before, Rivera believed; you should act as though you expect to win again. Some pitchers grew mustaches andbeards and groomed them in arcane ways to make themselves look threatening, but this made Rivera more certain they were actually very much afraid. During a Yankees game in Toronto in 1999, Blue Jays closer Billy Koch stalked in from the bullpen, a spaghetti strand of beard descending from his lower lip to his chin, and after throwing his first fastball for a strike, he lingered at the apron of the mound to stare at the batter. Rivera watched from his own bullpen and seethed. What a tough guy, he smirked to himself. What a joke. Show some respect for the game. Show some respect for yourself.

There was inflexible structure to everything Rivera did. Some of the other Yankees adhered only grudgingly to the team's policy against long hair and beards, and a few holdouts always took the field with day-old facial growth. But Rivera shaved before every game and had his thinning hair cut close to his scalp, like stitches on a baseball. He wore his uniform precisely to code, with the cuffs of his uniform pants raised to the proper height above his heels, and he followed the same disciplined regimen before, during, and after games. When Rivera emerged from the Yankees' bullpen to pitch, he held his glove in his right hand and jogged steadily to the mound, running on the balls of his feet, his head always tilted downward—the coolest entrance of any closer, teammate Roger Clemens thought, because it was so understated. Rivera never looked angry or arrogant or intense. He had the demeanor of a customs agent, serious and polite. All eyes were on him whenever he stepped out of the bullpen, though, because Rivera was the most successful relief pitcher in postseason history. The Yankees had won four World Series in five years from 1996 to 2000, resurrecting the dormant franchise, and many opposing players thought Rivera was the linchpin of the team's success.

Other closers had blown leads in the World Series—Atlanta's Mark Wohlers in 1996, Cleveland's Jose Mesa in 1997, Trevor Hoffman of the Padres in 1998, the Mets' Armando Benitez in 2000. Rivera, on the other hand, had been flawless: the Yankees had won the last 16 games he had pitched in the World Series, a streak that began in 1996. Take Rivera away from the Yankees and give them any other closer, Indians slugger Jim Thome said, and they probably would have won one or two championships, instead of four. As the Yankees prepared to play Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks, it was 1,490 days since Rivera had last blown a lead in the postseason.

In 1997, the year in which he replaced John Wetteland as the Yankees' closer, Rivera allowed a home run to Indians catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. with the Yankees needing just a handful of outs to eliminate the Indians in the Division Series. The Indians had gone on to win that game and the series, and questions naturally followed about whether Rivera would rebound psychologically after a pivotal defeat; baseball history was littered with relievers who'd been wrecked by one terrible moment. Rivera assured everyone he was OK, that he hadn't really given much thought to the loss. This was a white lie.

Rivera had mulled over Alomar's home run and had decided—belying the facade of respect that masked his competitiveness—that Alomar was fortunate he had been on the mound that day. Alomar, a right-handed hitter, had hit a fastball for the home run, high and away, driving it over the right field wall. Any other pitcher, Rivera concluded, would have thrown the ball with less velocity, and instead of hitting a home run, Alomar probably would have mustered only a long fly ball. In other words, Rivera believed he was the reason Alomar hit a home run—that he controlled the situation, even in defeat. I made the home run, he decided, his extraordinary confidence not only intact through the failure, but steeled by it.

Rivera almost never talked in team meetings. But as the Yankees gathered in the visitors' clubhouse of Arizona's Bank One Ballpark on November 4, 2001, preparing for the decisive Game 7 of the World Series, he made up his mind to speak at the end of the meeting, after the others finished.

He expected he would throw the last pitch again that night; so did the rest of the Yankees' veterans . . .

The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty New Edition
The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness
. Copyright © by Buster Olney. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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