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One of the Yes Network's most aired shows are their Yankee Classics.  Generally, during the regular season on off days and mornings before a game when there was none the day before, you can catch the Yankees Classics.  Then they fill up a lot of the schedule with them during the off-season.  As a Yankee fan, I think it's a great idea, although the ranking of some games as "Classics" can sometimes be questions.

Well, this is an attempt to log as many of the Yankee Classics that have been shown including some commentary and rankings on whether they really are classics or...not so much.

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Regular Season vs. Boston Red Sox
A 13 Inning Nail-Biter
Thursday, July 1, 2004
Final Score: 5-4
Yankee Classic Rating (1 low to 10 high): 10
In order for a Regular Season game to get a 10 rating, it's got to be something special. "Special" hardly begins to describe this game that seemed to have a little of everything. Dramatic hits, big home runs, unbelieveable fielding plays and clutch pitching. When you take into account that it was against the Boston Red Sox at one of the peaks in the all-time rivalry, it's hard to argue against this being an all-time Yankee Classic.

If one were to argue its "classic" status, the best place to start would be how the 2004 season ultimately ended up. This game completed a three-game sweep of Boston and there was a lot of talk about how Boston was slipping away in the pennant race. Indeed, the win gave the Yankees an 8.5 game lead in the standings and Boston was just spinning their wheels. Eventually, Boston got hot, going 18-11 after the start of September while their primary Wild Card opponent, Oakland went ice cold, going 13-18 after the start of September, essentially handing the Wild Card to Boston on a silver platter.

Then with everything that transpired in the post-season, it makes this game almost hard to watch because by now we all know who was going to get the last laugh for the 2004 season. However, that's not enough to take away from the enjoyment of watching this game, just like the 2004 post-season can never erase 86 years of baseball history. My advice: When this game is on, sit back and relax, forget the ultimate outcome of the season and instead focus on history, knowing that this game is the perfect microcosm of how Yankees-Red Sox has always been and probably will always be. 2004 was just a blip on the radar and there's only so many people in New England who are willing to sell their souls.

Highlights: There's so many to list you're better off just watching the game, but here's a few things to look out for:

Tony Clark's two-run homer and Jorge Posada's solo home run, both off starter Pedro Martinez and all the Yankee scoring in regulation.

The Red Sox scored two in the sixth to pull within one, courtesy of a Manny Ramirez home run, then added one in the seventh to tie it up.

Nothing much happened again until the bottom of the ninth when the Yankees had Matsui at third with one out and the bases loaded, but couldn't get him home. The Yankees mounted a mild threat in the 10th with A-Rod at second with two out, but failed to cash in.

But, it was A-Rod who would keep the game tied in the top of the 11th. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez (who else?) each singled to start the inning against Mariano Rivera and advanced one base each on a Bubba Crosby error in center. Torre chose to walk Jason Varitek intentionally to load the bases and face Kevin Millar. Millar hit a hard grounder right down the third base line. Alex Rodriguez fell to his knees right over the bag to field the ball, while tagging third base, and then threw a perfect strike, still from his knees, to Posada at home, waiting to tag out Kapler (pinch running for Ortiz) at home. David McCarty then flew out to left to end the inning. Usually, a great, game saving play like A-Rod's would define the game.

Usually, one escape from a bases loaded, no out jam is quite a feat. But, this was no ordinary game. In the top of the 12th, Derek Jeter came up with the play that would define this game along with the re-inforcement of what makes Jeter so special and why he truly is deserving of the Captain title.

With Tanyon Sturtze replacing Mariano Rivera to start the inning, Kevin Youkilis drew a leadoff walk (Cesar Crespo would come in to pinch run.)  Pokey Reese would follow with a sac bunt to move Crespo over to second.  Johnny Damon then singled to left field, setting the Red Sox up with runners on the corners and one out.  However, Mark Bellhorn couldn't plate the run, popping up to second base.  Trot Nixon then came to the plate.  Damon swiped second base on a defensive indifference, most likely setting up a possible two runs on a base hit.

Instead, Nixon popped up a 1-2 pitch near the stands in short left field.  Derek Jeter took off like a rocket catching the ball on a dead run just inches from the wall and hurtling into the stands head first and smacking his face into one of the poles seperating the box seats.  He bloodied his face pretty good in the process and actually forced his removal from the game, but he did save the game and made yet another career defining play in the process.

Move to the bottom of the 12th.  Miguel Cairo led off with a triple off new Boston reliever Curt Leskanic.  At this point things were looking pretty good for the Yanks.  Not quite.  Jason Giambi pinch hit for the now injured Jeter and struck out swinging.  Gary Sheffield was then hit by a pitch.  The Sox elected to intentionally walk Alex Rodriguez, thereby loading the bases and forcing Leskanic to throw strikes.

It didn't matter.  Bubba Crosby worked the count full, then grounded a ball to the drawn in shortstop who threw home to force out Cairo. However, there was no chance to turn two on the speedy Crosby.  Again it didn't matter as Leskanic struck out Bernie Williams swinging on three pitches, ending the Yankee threat.

It got even more bizarre and more grim for the top of the 13th.  With Jeter hurt and the team running low on bench players, the Yankees had to make some emergency moves.  Gary Sheffield was called on to play third base, his first appearance there since 1993 (and for good reason.)  Bernie Williams, the DH on the day, had to move to center, causing the Yankees to lose their DH and forcing the pitchers to hit.  The other move of note was Alex Rodriguez shifting over to short, his first time returning to his original position in pinstripes.

All the defensive moves proved pointless right away, as Manny Ramirez smacked a home run on a 2-2 pitch to lead off the inning, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead and taking a lot of steam out of the stadium, built up after the Jeter play.  Varitek followed with a strikeout, then as fate would have it, Kevin Millar hit a grounder to Sheffield, the most out of place player on the field.  Sheffield fielded it fine, then unleased a throw that made you wonder if he thought he was still in the outfield.  David McCarty then walked and Cesar Crespo hit into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.

In the bottom of the 13th, the Yankees looked poised to go quietly.  Jorge Posada struck out and Tony Clark followed with a nubber back to the mound.  Ruben Sierra kept hope alive with a single to center.  Miguel Cairo, a very good clutch hitter for the Yankees during the 2004 season, found himself down 1-2 when he smacked a double to deep right field, scoring Sierra and tying the game.  With Sturtze due up, the Yankees were forced to use John Flaherty, their last position player, backup catcher and .153 hitter on the season, as a pinch hitter.  Instead, he worked the count to 3-1 before lining a ball into the left field corner for the game winning hit.

After typing the recap, my fingers are tired.  Much like most Yankee fans were who stayed up for that game and much like the Yankees and Sox must have been as well.  But, it really was a classic that even got me excited again writing about it.  This is what Yankee Classics is all about.
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