Schilling to Clemens: 'Let's do it again next year'

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2001

PHOENIX -- Roger Clemens had one last thing to do before he left Bank One Ballpark.

So while the Arizona Diamondbacks frolicked on the field, the Rocket sought out Curt Schilling beneath the stands.

''Awesome game,'' the New York Yankees' ace told him.

''Let's do it again next year,'' Schilling answered.

And who wouldn't want to watch it?

Baseball fans can bring up Bill Mazeroski, Jack Morris or anyone else tied to the greatest World Series endings ever, yet it would be hard to top what happened in Game 7 on Sunday night.

After a week of amazing comebacks, a final twist gave the Diamondbacks a 3-2 victory.

In the bottom of the ninth inning. Against the most dominant reliever in postseason history, Mariano Rivera. Against the defending three-time champion Yankees. In November.

''It could not finish in a more dramatic fashion,'' said Luis Gonzalez, whose bat was headed to the Hall of Fame after his RBI single with one out capped a two-run rally.

An hour after the game, the Arizona players and their families were still celebrating on the field.

Mark Grace came out of the clubhouse with a bottle of champagne and sprayed fans standing behind the third-base dugout.

''Party at Mark Grace's house, everyone's invited,'' he said.

The Diamondbacks won their first title in only their fourth year of existence. They're hardly an expansion team, however.

Grace was among several Arizona old-timers to win a Series ring for the first time. Co-MVPs Randy Johnson and Schilling, along with Jay Bell, Matt Williams, Steve Finley, Gonzalez and a half-dozen other players over 30 joined the group.

''Did we just win a World Series? Somebody tell me,'' Grace said. ''After 13 years, I wasn't good enough to play first base for the Chicago Cubs, but I was good enough to play for the world champs.''

The truest rookie was Bob Brenly. He became the first manager to win a Series in his first season since Ralph Houk with the Yankees in 1961.

Yankees manager Joe Torre and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani walked into the Arizona clubhouse to offer congratulations.

The Yankees, trying to win a fifth title in six years, did their best for a city shaken by the terrorist attacks.

''I think my ballclub represented New York very well. I'm proud for their dedication, for their selflessness, and that they helped the 'NY' on the caps,'' Torre said. ''We represented more than just baseball fans. The people that needed a lift, I think we entertained them.''

In the Yankees' locker room, Giuliani tried to console George Steinbrenner.

''We can't win every year,'' the Yankees' No. 1 fan told the owner. ''They did the city proud, George.''

Steinbrenner, whose team may undergo some severe changes in the offseason, vowed to win back the Series' trophy.

''I will be a gracious loser,'' he said. ''We'll be back. Mark that down. We'll be back.''

More often than not, Game 7s are good ones. This one was great.

Schilling and the pitcher he credits with jump-starting his career, Clemens, dueled 0-0 into the sixth inning.

Arizona took the lead, the Yankees tied it. Rookie Alfonso Soriano's homer in the eighth put New York ahead and hushed the sellout crowd.

When Brenly came out to relieve Schilling, he told his gutsy pitcher, ''You're my hero.''

Before Schilling left the mound, Brenly said something else.

''We'll get that one back,'' he assured him. ''That's not going to beat us, big man.''

He was right, barely.

Schilling, who talked all week about the Yankee mystique, saw a Yankee mistake help decide it.

After Johnson set down New York in the top of the ninth, Grace's leadoff single started the comeback and Rivera's throwing error kept it going.

Tony Womack's double made it 2-all and Gonzalez blooped a broken-bat, bases-loaded single over drawn-in shortstop Derek Jeter.

Rivera had converted 23 straight save chances in the postseason. He had not blown one since 1997, before the Diamondbacks had even played a game.

''We knew this Series was going to end kind of funky,'' Grace said.

Maybe, but did anyone really believe it would finish with Rivera imitating Byung-Hyun Kim? It was Kim who served up tying, two-run homers in the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium in Games 4 and 5.

At 22, Kim will have more chances. Paul O'Neill will not.

The Yankees' outfielder is retiring at 38. He had two hits in his final game, and led New York regulars with a .333 average in the Series.

Teammates Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius might also be gone by opening day.

''The way baseball goes, people will leave this week and I may never see them again,'' O'Neill said. ''I had my fun.''

For the 38-year-old Johnson, who went 3-0 in the Series and won a record five times in this postseason, there will be more pitches to make. In 3 1/2 months, he'll be back in the desert for spring training.

''Tomorrow, we'll wake up and I'll be ready to come to the ballpark again, thinking that we still have some games to play,'' the Big Unit said. ''But the season is over.''

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