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On This Date in Sports October 27, 1999: Team of the Century

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The New York Yankees lay claim to the title, team of the decade as they sweep the Atlanta Braves to win their third World Series in four years. It is also the 25th overall World Series Championship for the Yankees, who enjoyed a late 90s resurgence. Mariano Rivera, who had a win and two saves in the series, is named MVP. For the Braves, it is their fourth Fall Classic defeat since 1991.

As the last decade of the 20th Century came to close, two forces emerged in baseball. In the National League, it was the Atlanta Braves managed by Bobby Cox, who rode three future Hall of Fame starting pitchers (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz) to dominate the National League East for more than ten years. From 1991-1993, the Braves won the Western Division three straight years. Upon moving to the East, their dominance continued as they won the division in every completed season up until 2005. This dominance would always fall short in the World Series as the Braves won just one title in 1995, losing the Fall Classic in 1991, 1992, and 1996. After winning 103 games in 1999, the Braves got a second chance to beat the Yankees in the World Series, having lost four straight games after winning the first two games in 1996 at Yankee Stadium.

For the New York Yankees, it was their third trip to the World Series in four seasons. They had won the World Series in 1996 and 1998 under manager Joe Torre and were looking for a repeat to close out the century. The Yankees had an emotionally trying season as Torre missed the first six weeks dealing with Prostate Cancer. The Yankees stem rolled their way to the Fall Classic, sweeping the Texas Rangers in the Division Series, before needing just five games to beat the Boston Red Sox, in their first-ever postseason meeting with their archrivals.

Orlando Hernandez got the start for the Yankees in Game 1, while Greg Maddux started for the Braves in the first World Series game at Turner Field. Neither team was able to score in the first three innings. Finally, in the fourth inning, Chipper Jones homered to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead. It would be the only run allowed by El Duque. The Yankees finally got to Greg Maddux in the eighth, loading the bases as Derek Jeter tied the game with a single. John Rocker came in to keep the Yankees from scoring any more but failed Paul O’Neil drove in two runs to give the Yanks a 3-1 lead. Later Rocker walked Jim Leyritz with the bases loaded to force in a fourth run, as the Yankees won 4-1, with Mariano Rivera getting the final four outs for the save.

Before Game 2, Baseball unveiled it’s All-Century Team voted on by the fans, as David Cone started for the Yankees while Kevin Millwood started for Atlanta. Cone was brilliant allowing just one hit over seven innings, Millwood was not quite up to the task as the Yankees smacking him around, scoring three runs on five hits in the first inning. The Yankees added two more runs in the third and a run in the fourth and fifth to build a 7-0 lead. The Braves would scratch out two late runs in the ninth, but went to New York down 0-2, having lost 7-2 in Game 2.

In 1996, the Braves dominated the first two games at Yankee Stadium, only to see the Yankees march through Atlanta and win the next four games. Looking to turn the tables, they had Tom Glavine on the mound against Andy Pettitte. It was not the best of days for Pettitte, who allowed five runs on ten hits over three and two-thirds innings. Down 5-1, the Yankees bullpen would allow just four hits the rest of the way as Jason Grimsley, Jeff Nelson, and Mariano Rivera. The Yankees comeback began in the fifth inning with a home run by Chad Curtis. In the seventh Tino Martinez homered to get the Yankees closer, while Chuck Knoblauch tied the game with a two-run blast in the eighth. The game remained tied until the tenth inning when Curtis took a 1-1 pitch from Mike Remlinger deep for his second home run of the game to give New York a dramatic 6-5 victory.

Roger Clemens, who joined the Yankees seeking elusive World Series ring, got the start in Game 4. He had struggled previously in the postseason and absorbed the Yankees’ only loss in the 1999 postseason as they came in the game with a 10-1 record in October. John Smoltz meanwhile started for the Braves, hoping to get the series to a fifth game. In the third inning, the Yankees struck first, scoring three runs, with Tino Martinez delivering a two-run single with the bases loaded. After Brett Boone got an RBI single in the eighth, Mariano Rivera came on to shut the door again. With Jim Leyritz homering in the eighth, the Yankees went to the ninth leading 4-1 as Keith Lockhart flew out to Chad Curtis in left to end the game and end the series with a Yankees sweep for the second straight year.