Year In Review : 2001 American League
Off the field...
For the second time in the nation's history, a president's son followed in his father's footsteps as George W. Bush (Jr.) was sworn in as the United State's 43rd leader.
On September 11 the world changed forever as two hijacked airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center's twin towers and a third airplane hit the Pentagon in Washington DC. A fourth plane was brought down before reaching its intended target by a heroic group of passengers in a field in western Pennsylvania. In the end, over 3,300 innocent people were killed and the United States along with a collalition of over sixty countries declared war on terrorism.
The New York Yankees weren't the only baseball team from the Bronx that played well in 2001, only to come up short in the end. The Little League team from the South Bronx stole the show at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, but was later disqualified after it was discovered that star pitcher Danny Almonte was actually a fifteen year-old ringer.
In the American League...
Baltimore Orioles icon "Iron Man" Cal Ripken re-enacted the final scene from "The Natural" with a dramatic home run blast in the third inning off of Chan Ho Park during his final All-Star Game appearance.
Despite losing three of their greatest players (Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez) the resilient Seattle Mariners set the record for most wins in a season for an American League club, bettering the mark of one-hundred fourteen set by the already legendary 1998 Yankees. Japanese sensation Ichiro Suzuki sweetens the deal by winning Rookie of the Year as well as the Most Valuable Player.
The New York Yankees' Mike Mussina comes within one batter of perfection, but Carl Everett's two-out, ninth-inning single spoiled the Moose's bid for a perfect game. In the end, the right-handed veteran finished with a one-hitter and the Yankees swept the Boston Red Sox at Fenway.
In the National League...
A new era of baseball in Pittsburgh began with the opening of PNC Park resembling the classic stadiums of old. The park served as the fifth home for the Buccos replacing Three Rivers Stadium, which had replaced the sacred grounds at Forbes Field. Unfortunately, Pirate legend Willie Stargell died the evening before its Opening Day casting a dark shadow over the debut festivities.
Barry Bonds of the Giants broke St. Louis Cardinals' slugger Mark McGwire's single-season home run record. Before an ecstatic throng at San Francisco's Pac Bell Park, the Hall-of-Fame-bound outfielder took Chan Ho Park deep for No. 71. He would later go on to reset the record at seventy-three.
In one of the most exciting editions of the World Series, the adolescent Arizona Diamondbacks beat the 3x defending champion New York Yankees after Luis Gonzalez lined a Series-winning single off closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of Game 7.
Around the league...
Major League Baseball rose to the occasion as part of the post 9/11 healing process. After taking center stage with patriotic tributes throughout the remainder of the regular season, the national pastime returned to the Big Apple to host the World Series. With the city's emotions running high and the American flag pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center flying overhead, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch symbolizing the unwavering strength of America.
The 1-2 pitching combination of Arizona Diamondbacks Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson results in the first World Series Co-Most Valuable Players.
The 2001 season ended bittersweet as fans say goodbye to two future hall-of-famers in Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres and Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles.
The Baseball Hall of Fame congratulated its newest inductees including Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Hilton Smith and Bill Mazeroski (who finally opened the door for defensive players).