Boone moment voted Cathedral's best
Fans deem 2003 ALCS walk-off top memory at Yankee Stadium
NEW YORK -- A Red Sox-Yankees battle for the ages had crept into its 11th inning, 16 minutes past midnight and leaving the hardy fan bases of both blood rivals clinging to precious inches on the edges of their seats.
And just like that, the taut evening of drama and suspense was over. With one swing, Aaron Boone sent a knuckleball soaring over the left-field wall, setting off a raucous scene in the Bronx and leaving his indelible mark on baseball lore.
Boone's memorable Oct. 16, 2003 shot into the night off Boston's Tim Wakefield won the American League Championship Series for the Yankees, clinching the club's 39th pennant and delivering one final crushing blow to Red Sox Nation.
"It's one of those memories for me that is very foggy and hazy," Boone said recently. "There are things in your life that you can picture and remember vividly. Certainly, that is not one of them. I find out more from watching the clip and see my reaction. It was pretty neat."
Five years later, Boone's late heroics have earned another honor. Voters selected that walk-off blast as the all-time greatest moment at Yankee Stadium, in a ballot conducted this year at MLB.com.
"It was an unbelievable feeling of joy, of relief," Boone said. "It was an amazing time."
Boone had entered the game in the eighth as a pinch-runner, an inning in which the Yankees came back from a three-run deficit against Pedro Martinez. The unlikely shot narrowly edged Lou Gehrig's July 4, 1939, speech as the Stadium's top moment among MLB.com voters.
That afternoon, the dying Yankees captain -- forced into retirement due to ALS -- looked into the stands on his own appreciation day and delivered an impromptu, moving speech.
Bidding farewell to his fans, Gehrig left his mark for all time, saying, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth," and "I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."
Ranking third was a glance back at the 2001 World Series. On successive nights, the Yankees struck for two-out, two-run home runs in the ninth inning and won both Games 4 and 5 of the Fall Classic in extra frames.
Diamondbacks reliever Byung-Hyun Kim was victimized both times, by Tino Martinez in Game 4 and Scott Brosius in Game 5. Derek Jeter won Game 4 with a 10th-inning homer off Kim, and Alfonso Soriano singled home the winning run in the 12th inning of Game 5 off Albie Lopez. Arizona rebounded, however, to win Games 6 and 7 in Phoenix.
Next up was the July 1, 2004, classic against the Red Sox. In one of the most memorable plays of his career, Jeter suffered a laceration of the cheek, bruised chin and bruised right shoulder diving into the stands for a foul by Boston's Trot Nixon in the 12th inning and was forced out of the game. The Yankees went on to win, 5-4, in the 13th on a John Flaherty hit.
Fans didn't need to go far into the memory bank to select the fifth most memorable moment. It took place just on Sept. 21 of this year, as Yankee Stadium hosted its final game. Andy Pettitte was the winning pitcher, Mariano Rivera threw the last pitch and Jose Molina belted the farewell home run as the Yankees defeated the Orioles, 7-3, in a day-long affair.
The sellout crowd arrived hours early as Monument Park and the warning track were opened up, allowing visitors one final look, touch and smell at the House that Ruth Built before it closed its doors to baseball action forever.
Following that moment was one that will live on forever. On Oct. 8, 1956, Don Larsen pitched a perfect game, the only no-hitter in World Series history, in Game 5 of the Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Mickey Mantle's fourth-inning home run off Sal Maglie was all the offensive support Larsen needed. In his 97-pitch gem, Larsen went to three balls on only one batter, embracing Yogi Berra after the final out in an iconic photograph.
In the seventh top moment, Reggie Jackson put the finishing touches on the Yankees' World Series victory over the Dodgers on Oct. 18, 1977, belting three home runs on three pitches from three pitchers -- Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough.
Perfection came in the eighth moment on a mystical day in the Bronx; July 18, 1999, Yogi Berra Day. After the catcher and Larsen recreated the last pitch of the '56 perfect game, David Cone hurled a rain-delayed perfect game against the Montreal Expos, dropping to his knees in disbelief after the final out before being swarmed by catcher Joe Girardi.
The ninth most-memorable moment was, as it turns out, the first. On April 18, 1923, the grand three-decked cathedral opened for the first time, the new home of the Yankees. The first game at the Stadium attracted a crowd of 74,200, and was appropriately christened by Babe Ruth with a three-run home run in the third inning of the Yankees' 4-1 victory over the Red Sox.
Last, but certainly not least, Roger Maris set the all-time record for home runs in a single season on Oct. 1, 1961, belting his 61st roundtripper off Bostons' Tracy Stallard. Because the homer occurred in the Yankees' 162nd game, Maris was not officially credited with breaking Ruth's mark of 60 home runs in 1927, because Nos. 60 and 61 came after 154 games.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.