The 2001 World Series featured the New York Yankees, who were seeking to become only the second team in Major League history to win four straight World Series titles – joining the 1936-1939 and 1949-1953 Yankees, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were the youngest expansion team in history, four years old, to appear in their first World Series. The 2001 World Series was played with heavy hearts as the start of the championship began only seven weeks after the devastating September 11 attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C. and Flight 93 over Western Pennsylvania. Because of the September 11th attacks, the Major League Baseball season’s conclusion was pushed from September 30 to October 7th, which in turn pushed the World Series into November. This was the first World Series to end in the month of November. The regular season offered numerous milestones highlighted by the Seattle Mariners record tying 116-win season, tying the 1906 Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds breaking Mark McGwire’s three-year old record of 62 home runs as he finished the season with 73. The Yankees owned the American League over the past few years as they won three straight World Series (1996, 1998-2000) and four in the last five years and collected five of the last six AL pennants. New York finished the 2001 season among the league leaders, but Seattle virtually captured every major statistical category during their record-tying year. The Yankees still fielded a powerful lineup that produced five hitters with 20 or more home runs and featured first baseman Tino Martinez (.280 BA, 34 HR, 113 RBI), centerfielder Bernie Williams (.307 BA, 26 HR, 94 RBI), catcher Jorge Posada (.277 BA, 22 HR, 95 RBI), right fielder Paul O’Neill (.267 BA, 21 HR, 70 RBI) and probably future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter (.268 BA, 21 HR, 74 RBI). Seven-time and reigning Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens (20-3, 3.51 ERA, 213 Ks) led the Yankees rotation that also fielded All-Stars Mike Mussina (17-11, 3.15 ERA, 214 Ks) and Andy Pettitte (15-10, 3.99 ERA, 163 Ks) as well as the greatest closer in the history of the game, Mariano Rivera, who led the American League with 50 saves. The Yankees easily won the AL East crown by 13-1/2 games over the Boston Red Sox. They then beat the powerful Oakland A’s 3-2 in the ALDS before ending the Mariners dream season with a 4-1 win in the ALCS.
The fledgling franchise Arizona Diamondbacks, when compared to the long Yankees history were enjoying its fourth year in the Major Leagues and their third straight wining season. The D’Backs failed to lead the National League in any major offensive category, finishing third in runs (818), hits (1,494) and RBI (776) and fourth in batting average (.267) and home runs (20), but did field the best team in the NL with a .985 fielding percentage. Though they finished second to the Atlanta Braves stellar starting rotation for team ERA (3.87), Arizona had two of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues in 2001 with Randy Johnson (21-6, 249 ERA, 372 Ks) and Curt Schilling (22-6, 2.98 ERA, 293 Ks) finishing 1-2 in the National League Cy Young races. They also had veteran pitching from Robert Ellis (6-5), Miguel Batista (11-8) and Brian Anderson (4-9) while Byung-Hyun Kim closing out games with 19 saves. Left fielder Luis Gonzalez, who scored career-highs in runs scored (128), RBI (142), walks (100) and home runs (57) while batting .325 led the Arizona offense with help from first baseman Mark Grace (.298 BA, 15 HR, 78 RBI) third baseman Matt Williams (.275 BA, 16 HR, 65 RBI), centerfielder Steve Finley (.275 BA, 14 HR, 73 RBI) and hired gun and right fielder Reggie Sanders (.263 BA, 33 HR, 90 RBI). The Diamondbacks won the National League West Division by two games over the San Francisco Giants, then beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 in the hard-fought NLDS and then took down the Atlanta Braves 4-1 in the NLCS to reach their first World Series.
In Game 1, the first ever played in the state of Arizona, each team sent their #2 man to the hill, though #2 is used very loosely, as veterans Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina squared off. Each starter gave up a run in the first with Bernie Williams scoring an RBI single off Schilling and Mussina giving up a solo home run to Craig Counsell. Schilling would not allow another run, while Mussina got shelled for five runs on six hits in Arizona’s 9-1 rout of the Yanks. Game 2 featured Arizona’s ace Randy Johnson against postseason pitcher-extraordinaire, Andy Pettitte, who holds the all-time record for most postseason victories (19). However, it was all Johnson this day as the Big Unit allowed only three hits while striking out 11 in his complete game shutout of Pettitte and the Bronx Bombers. Pettitte struck out eight, but still fell to the D’Backs 4-0. Matt Williams provided the Arizona offense with a three-run homer in the seventh. As the Series shifter to New York, the Yankees sent ace Roger Clemens to the mound against Brian Anderson. With New York City still attempting to recover from the open wounds caused by the attacks of September 11th, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch. With morale in Yankee Stadium low, Bush threw a strike to home plate from the pitchers’ mound, as opposed in front of the mound which was customary, and the stadium erupted in a frenzy with the chant "U.S.A. – U.S.A." raining down. He was the first sitting American President since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to throw out the first pitch. Jorge Posada began the scoring with a solo home run in the second. Clemens allowed only one run on three hits over seven innings and Scott Brosius knocked an RBI single in the sixth to give New York the 2-1 edge. Rivera entered for a two-inning save.
Unfortunately for Arizona, the Yankees took Games 4 and 5 in front of their home crowd at the expense of closer Byung-Hyun Kim, who posted back-to-back blown saves. Starters Schilling and Orlando Hernandez pitched well in Game 4, each allowing only one run while Schilling struck out nine and "El Duque" five. Mariano Rivera took the 4-3 win. Game 5 was again the Yankees as Sterling Hitchcock came out of the bullpen to take the win as the Yankees went up 3-2 in the Series. Game 5 was a pitching duel as Batista pitched 7-2/3 of scoreless ball while Mussina offered two solo home runs in the fifth and no more through right innings. New York tied the game on a two-run home run from Scott Brosius and then won 3-2 in the 12th with an RBI single from Alfonso Soriano. Returning to Arizona, Game 6 turned out to be an absolute blowout as the Diamondbacks collected a record number of hits with 22 as they pounded the Yankees 15-2, the largest margin of victory. Randy Johnson earned his second win over Andy Pettitte. Game 7 was set to be one of the great matchups in World Series history as workhorses Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling squared off to end the Series. As expected the scoring was at a minimum as Clemens and Schilling each pitched gems striking out ten and nine, respectively. Clemens scattered seven hits into the seventh and Schilling pitched into the eighth before being pulled for Batista and then Johnson. New York took a 2-1 lead into the ninth, when Arizona scored with a Tony Womack RBI double to tie the game and then with the bases loaded Gonzalez popped a bloop single to left to score Jay Bell. The Diamondbacks won the game 3-2 with Randy Johnson taking the victory to become the first pitcher to win three games in a single World Series since Detroit Tigers Mickey Lolich in 1969. The was the first World Series win for the Arizona Diamondbacks and was considered one of the greatest in history. Johnson and Schilling were named World Series Co-MVPs with four wins and 45 strikeouts between then while posting 1.04 and 1.69 ERAs respectively.