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World Series 2001
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10/22/2001 05:25 PM ET
Media Beat: A Star is born
By Robert Falkoff
MLB.com
Alfonso Soriano trots past Bret Boone after hitting the game-winning homer in Game 4.
  • Media Beat: D-Backs hailed, Braves eulogized

    This is how a star is born.

    Bottom of the ninth, score tied, pivotal game of the American League Championship Series. You bomb one over the fence at Yankee Stadium and media members from coast to coast are suddenly offering the highest praise.

    Alfonso Soriano lived the dream Sunday night with his dramatic blast that won Game 4 for the Yankees. If he stayed up waiting for the reviews like the headliner in a Broadway premiere, it's understandable. In the world of baseball today, people are talking about Alfonso with gusto.

    If ever there was a media jumpstart toward stardom, Soriano got it. With one crack of the bat, Soriano went sailing from exciting and talented rookie toward the hallowed halls of Yankee folklore.

    "Soriano was a hero like Reggie Jackson was a hero once, like Jim Leyritz was a hero with his 15th-inning homer in the rain to beat the Mariners in a forever Game 2 six years back," wrote Ian O'Connor of The Westchester (N.Y.) Journal News. "Soriano was a first-year wonder like Derek Jeter in 1996, when the shortstop hit a home run against Baltimore that landed in Jeffrey Maier's glove not long after Jeter opened his first playoff series against Texas, with some conspicuous rookie mistakes."

    Glowing stuff. And not just from the New York area media.

    "Alfonso Soriano. What other team has a future All-Star buried in the ninth spot in its lineup? That's what this kid is. He is a major force at the bottom of the batting order only because he is a Yankee," wrote Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan. "Otherwise, he would be a major force at the top of someone else's order."

    After Soriano's game-winner off Kazuhiro Sasaki, Fox Sports appropriately let the poignant pictures tell the story of the latest in a litany of magical Yankee days since 1996. A resigned smile by Bret Boone, who had made a bid to be a hero with his go-ahead homer in the eighth, spoke volumes.

    "That reaction by Bret Boone probably represents the reaction across the country," Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck said. "A smile, a shake of the head and then probably muttering 'they've done it again.'"

    If the Yankees can win one more, what happened in the eighth and ninth innings of Game 4 will surely withstand the test of time. The Mariners seemed to have the Yankees where they wanted them after Boone's homer made it 1-0 in the eighth. All year, the Mariners have thrived with Arthur Rhodes setting it up in the eighth and Sasaki closing it out in the ninth.

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    Not this time. Not against the resilient Yankees. Not with Paul McCartney (is he becoming the Yankees' answer to Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson?) leading the cheers.

    Art Thiel, columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, looked at the flip side of the story. Thiel examined not so much what Soriano did, but what Seattle's celebrated bullpen didn't do. Before Soriano became the definitive hero, it was Bernie Williams' solo blast off Rhodes in the eighth that tied the game 1-1.

    "Before they erect a statue here of a rookie second baseman, the Yankees might want to construct one of Arthur Rhodes, the man they love to see on the mound in a tight moment," Thiel wrote. "It's difficult to blame Rhodes completely for one of the most agonizing losses in Mariners history ... but when baseball historians a hundred years from now examine the archives, they will see that bad things happened when Rhodes and the Yanks got together in the little Seattle-New York rivalry of Aught-Aught and Aught-One."

    Rhodes, who struggled against the Yankees in the 2000 playoffs, might have taken the discretion-over-valor route with Williams at the plate. Thiel wrote that Rhodes shook off catcher Tom Lampkin twice before delivering the 3-2 pitch that Williams socked over the wall in right.

    "A walk to Williams to set up a lefty-lefty match against Tino Martinez would have played to the percentages in a one-swing game," Thiel wrote. "But that's something for the historians to second-guess for the next century."

    Fast-forward to the ninth, where it was Mariano Rivera and Sasaki. The Mariners went down on three pitches; the Yankees went up 3-1 in the series when Soriano took a sharp cut and wound up on the fast track to glory.

    "They teach this kind of thing in San Pedro de Macoris, the birthplace of Sammy Sosa and so many Dominicans who become Big-League whiz kids at short," O'Connor wrote. "Take your cuts. Make them count. Swing for the stars and the scouts will soon deliver you the moon ... Alfonso Soriano was always a hacker at heart, even if his arms and legs were no thicker than the handle of the bat ... The Yankees had a 3-1 series because Alfonso Soriano embraced the lessons of his Dominican youth. He swung for the stars and landed on the moon."

    Thanks to an ever-so-kind boost from the media.

    Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com.