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Jim Leyritz and the Great World Series Comeback: OCTOBER 23, 1996

by Harvey Frommer

The game was played before 51,881.on a Wednesday night at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Yanks versus Braves who had a 2-1 lead in the World Series.

Through five innings it looked as if the home team was headed for another victory. Their fans, tomahawk chopping in earnest, were pumped up over Atlanta's six run lead. Denny Neagle was shutting down New York.

But in the sixth the Yanks scored three times. Enter Jim Leyritz, Number 13, as a defensive replacement for Joe Girardi. The muscular Leyritz had spent much of the game in the weight room.

To preserve the lead, Braves skipper Bobby Cox started the eighth inning with closer Mark Wohlers, who could hit 100 MPH on the radar gun. With two on, Leyritz stepped into the box. He worked the count to 2-2, fouling off two blistering fastballs. Then Wohlers hung the slider. Then deep to left, fly ball disappearing over the wall. Leyritz hung three runs on the scoreboard. The Yankees hadn't won the game and tied the Series with one swing, but it sure seemed that way.

''I'm not thinking home run right there,'' Leyritz said. ''I'm thinking I've got an opportunity to drive in one run if I get a base hit." "I lost it," Wohlers said. "I blew it."

The game moved to the tenth, tied, 6 up. Southpaw Steve Avery, the replacement for Mark Wohlers, got the first two batters. Then Tim Raines walked. Jeter got an infield single. Bernie Williams was intentionally walked to get at Yankee rookie Andy Fox. Joe Torre, inserted his last pinch hitter, Wade Boggs, who walked. A run was forced in. The Yanks had their first lead. Then another run was tacked on.

It took seven pitchers, five pinch hitters, a reserve catcher, a pinch runner - - the whole Yankee bench not including pitchers for the victory to be achieved, but the Yankees won the game, finally, 8-6.

For journeyman Jim Leyritz who triggered what happened, that home run was his greatest moment in baseball. "Because it was in the World Series," he said, "It helped us get the momentum back and go on to win the World Series. And it really made my mark as far as being a Yankee."

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