There have not been many droughts of significant length in Yankees history. From 1921, when the franchise captured its first pennant, to 1964, a span of 44 seasons, the Yankees had just one losing campaign (1925) and never went more than four years between World Series appearances. There was a
There have not been many droughts of significant length in Yankees history. From 1921, when the franchise captured its first pennant, to 1964, a span of 44 seasons, the Yankees had just one losing campaign (1925) and never went more than four years between World Series appearances. There was a dip beginning in 1965, but a change in ownership in 1973 righted the ship quickly. By 1976, the Yankees were back in the Fall Classic, their first of four trips in a six-year span.
But after losing to the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, the Yankees missed the postseason each of the next 12 years -- an eternity for Yankees fans. In 1994, it looked like the October lights would be back on at Yankee Stadium, but a strike ended the first-place Yankees' season in mid-August. So when baseball returned in '95, and the Yankees captured the first-ever American League Wild Card berth, and the doors to Yankee Stadium swung open for a postseason game for the first time in 14 years, the atmosphere was electric.
"Yankee fans let out a primal scream last night," Claire Smith wrote in The New York Times. "If the unleashed passion could have been converted into kilowatts, the Bronx would have outshone the Manhattan skyline."
Smith went on to describe how the fans' energy impacted the players, putting an extra charge into the arm of Yankees pitchers -- and perhaps a scare into the opposition.
Twenty-two years later, in 2017, Smith became the first woman to receive the National Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award. And if she had written the same column about Yankee Stadium in October, it would have rang just as true.
The Yankees' postseason run in 2017 didn't end a drought, per se, but there was something about that team that fueled a raging party-like atmosphere in the Bronx night after night. You had the young slugger in right field who went from fighting for a roster spot in spring training to fighting for the AL MVP Award. You had the shortstop who, since stepping in to fill a legend's shoes three years earlier, continued his impressive ascent as a ballplayer and a leader. You had the grizzled veteran starting pitcher, who had endured so much since winning a title here in 2009, lifting his teammates up once more. You had the Jersey guy who drove up the Turnpike to play third base after getting traded midseason and by October felt like he had played 10 seasons in pinstripes. On and on it went.
To watch this team arrive in the postseason "ahead of schedule" according to many experts and pull off one tremendous victory after another, going 6-0 at home, it brought back memories of those raucous nights beginning in 1995. Fans didn't just cheer -- they roared. They tossed cups in the air and pounded on walls. The bleacherites in left field chanted along to "Seven Nation Army" and offered a lusty eighth-inning roll call reprise.
The Yankees fed off the positive energy. Guys who normally kept their heads down during the regular season couldn't help but gesticulate after a big hit. And the opposition couldn't wait to get out of town.
"These fans are pretty loud from the very beginning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said before Game 5 of the ALCS. "I've been to both Yankee Stadiums as a player and as a manager here; it's a tough environment. These people love their Yankees. They love baseball. They love the moments. They're smart with how they try to get loud and put pressure on the players. I can sense they like their team here - the enthusiasm, the youth, the energy."
The Astros won Games 6 and 7 in Houston to capture the pennant before topping the Dodgers in seven games for their first World Series title. But while the Yankees and their fans were disappointed that there would be no more baseball in the Bronx until 2018, the joy they shared in 2017 will never be forgotten. And if 1995 is any indicator, perhaps 2017 was just the first step toward something truly magical. Here's a look back at some of the most memorable images from the Yankees' postseason run.
This photo essay appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Yankees Magazine. Get more articles like this delivered to your doorstep by purchasing a subscription to Yankees Magazine at yankees.com/publications.