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Yankees celebrate ALCS win before series
Updated: 2003-10-18 09:48

They were still celebrating the great victory early Friday morning when Roger Clemens looked for David Wells and Mel Stottlemyre.

"Hey, we've got one more thing to do," Clemens told Wells.

The pitchers and the coach then made the long walk across the field to Monument Park, behind the left-field fence, and brought a bottle of bubbly out to the Babe Ruth monument that's been a fixture in Yankee Stadium since 1949.

According to Wells, they wanted "to have a touch with the Babe."

"He's shining on us. He's looking down," Wells said when he returned to the ballpark later in the day. "Why not give him a toast, man? He's the one that got us here. From 1918 until now — the curse lives!"

Some of the Yankees went out for dinner and talked to each other until nearly dawn, sharing memories of Thursday night's 6-5, 11-inning win over Boston in Game 7 of the AL championship series.

While much of Friday was devoted to going over scouting reports ahead of the World Series opener against Florida on Saturday night, the Yankees couldn't help but look back at Thursday's win.

New York trailed 4-0 and became only the second team to overcome a four-run deficit in the final game of a postseason series pushed to the limit. The other was when Pittsburgh fell behind 4-0 before beating Washington 7-6 in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series.

Aaron Boone, who finished off Boston with the first extra-inning homer ever to end a seventh game, was jarred awake Friday when manager Joe Torre gave him an early morning telephone call.

"I know you're tired, but so am I," Torre said, telling Boone his presence was needed at a pep rally in front of City Hall.

While he had slumped since the Yankees acquired him from Cincinnati on July 31, Boone became the latest pinstriped darling when he homered off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th.

"Thank you for making last night probably the greatest moment in my life," Boone told the crowd of about 400.

"After this," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "Aaron's going to go behind City Hall and teach me how to hit a knuckleball."

Many of the Yankees regarded Friday as a defining moment. Seven of the players on the 25-man LCS roster weren't even with the organization on opening day.

"It felt the most like a ballclub last night, to me, than we have all year along," said Jason Giambi, whose pair of solo homers started the comeback against Pedro Martinez. "We're had such a revolving door here trying to find the right pieces of the puzzle to come in here and make a difference. The way the team reacted these whole seven games, and especially last night, I think we're peaking at the right time."

All season long, Derek Jeter had said this year's Yankees couldn't be compared to the ones that won World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Only Jeter, Jeff Nelson, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams earned all four rings.

Thursday night's victory, which ended an epic season of competition between the Yankees and Red Sox, may turn out to be the moment when this group of Yankees jelled.

"We definitely have been through things," Jeter said. "We bounced back — we've been down, come back. This group has been through a lot. ... There's no situation that can come up in this World Series that we haven't been through now."

Rivera pitched three innings for the first time since Sept. 6, 1996, holding Boston at bay until Boone's homer, only the fifth to end a postseason series. Rivera was so excited, he ran to the mound and hugged it after the game and thanked God.

Rivera, a spiritual man, said he had been talking to God throughout the game.

"He came through," Rivera said.

The MVP of the ALCS with two saves and the final win, Rivera stayed up all night, too excited to sleep. The most-often asked question Friday was whether he would be available for the World Series opener after his 48-pitch outing.

Rivera said he felt "beat up."

"I feel like that because I haven't slept," he said. "Once I get my rest, I'll be OK."

Torre was thinking about adding reliever Chris Hammond to the roster in place of outfielder David Dellucci or Erick Almonte, partly because the team wasn't sure how long it would take Rivera to recover.

New York regards Rivera as its greatest asset.

"He's the biggest weapon I think any team's had in postseason," Jeter said. "He's done things that no one else has been able to do."

Owner George Steinbrenner basked in the win, which gave the team its 39th AL pennant. Before the series against Boston, he had proclaimed: "Victory is essential." There were no such urgings Friday to win a 27th Series title.

"The New York Yankees played like true champions — they were battlers with class," he said in a statement. "They never gave up and showed a spirit that reflects the spirit of all New Yorkers."

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