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20 years ago today: 2001 World Series starts

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It began with a thumping 9-1 win over the Yankees at Bank One Ballpark

A general view from field level of Bank One Ballpark during pregame introductions

On this day in 2001, the greatest series in the 109-year history of sports in Arizona got under way at the then Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. Having handily seen off the Atlanta Braves 4-1 in the NL Championship Series, the D-backs faced the New York Yankees. They had rolled over the apparently unstoppable Seattle Mariners by the same 4-1 score, despite Seattle having won 116 games in the regular season. No team in baseball history had more victories, but the Yankees prevailed. In the wake of 9/11, it seemed the Big Apple perhaps had destiny on its side. Could anything stand in their way of a fourth straight World Series, especially an upstart franchise in only its fourth season?

Out of the gate, it seemed like the visitors would play that script. With one down, Curt Schilling hit Derek Jeter with a pitch. One out later, Bernie Williams hit a double down the left-field line, and Jeter scurried all the way around from first, to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Was the procession on? But in the bottom of the first, a home-run from the most unlikely of sources tied the game back up. Craig Counsell had hit just four homers in 535 regular season trips to the plate. But he took a 2-1 pitch from Yankee starter Mike Mussina and deposited it into the right-field bleachers beside the pool (below). That tied the game at 1, and showed New York that Arizona were not simply going to follow the script.

After a scoreless second, the Diamondbacks blew things open, scoring four in the third and four more in the fourth. Luis Gonzalez gave them a 3-1 lead, blasting a homer over the visitors’ bullpen with one out in the third. Arizona then took advantage of an error by David Justice, who dropped a fly-ball at the fence in right center, tacking on two unearned runs from a Matt Williams sacrifice fly and Damian Miller double. That chased Mussina, but the New York bullpen, in the shape of future Diamondback Randy Choate, couldn’t stop Arizona. He got the first two outs, but then five consecutive D-backs reached. Four scored, three due to another Yankee error.

That made it 9-1 after four innings, and while the Diamondbacks managed only one base-runner the rest of the way, they had already done enough, and there was no way back for the Yankees. Schilling settled down, allowing only two more hits and one walk after the RBI double, pitching seven innings, in which he struck out eight. Mike Morgan and Greg Swindell each tossed a hitless frame to close out the first game. Ever starting position player for Arizona had a hit bar Tony Womack, with Gonzalez and Mark Grace each driving in a pair of runs. The Diamondbacks made an emphatic statement to open the series, and set the table for Randy Johnson to start Game 2 the following night.

Below is a full video of the game. NOTE: For Game 7 on November 4, we’ll having a watch party and “live” Gameday Thread for the game...