A recently-acquired right fielder from Cincinnati named Paul O'Neill had lined a home run into the right field seats to tie the game. Extra innings it went when newly-acquired third baseman Wade Boggs hit one into the upper deck in right field for a walk-off home run. The crowd, on their feet half the night like a starving throng finally getting the chance to eat after all those years of frustration, was in a frenzy. The stadium sound systems blared the song "We're Not Gonna Take it Anymore!" The fans didn't want to go home. It was a party-like atmosphere.
Bernie Williams was their young center fielder then and, thanks to the work of GM Gene Michael and manager Buck Showalter, as well as the exile of George Steinbrenner the previous two years, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte were being nurtured in the minor leagues, a twinkle in the eye of the championship teams to follow.
The raucous crowds and homegrown talent/astute acquisitions are what is missing from the just-disgraced 2012 version of the Yankees. The team was swept in four games by the Tigers. The team that never led in that series for a single inning.
Hard as it is for a fan base that overpays on tickets, concessions and parking, the Yankees need to blow this team up and start over. They don't need to make their fans wait 18 years between championships like what happened from 1978 until 1996, but the organization needs to reboot, develop young talent, and trade some of their veterans (picking up parts of contracts if they must) to get younger, more versatile players. Because this team that just got swept looks very, very old.
As for the fans, the Yankee base has become as complacent as those Atlanta Braves teams that won 12 straight division titles but only won one championship. Yankee fans, like those Braves' fans, have been spoiled. Anything less than a World Championship is considered a failure. Kind of heartless.
I spent some time in Pittsburgh each of the last two summers while writing and promoting A Pirate For Life with Steve Blass. They were selling PNC Park out nightly while the team could only sniff a pennant race. It was a carnaval-like atmosphere every night there while it lasted.
I remember that feeling in the Bronx. The mid-nineties through 2000 were like that. Yankee Stadium rocked. And so did the Yankees.