Yankees’ win is monumental
They open lead on Rays in key series
NEW YORK — For a night, the Yankees’ pennant push was secondary.
“There’s not too many monuments here,’’ captain Derek Jeter said. “That’s what you remember the most. I mean, the game’s important, but it was a special night out there.’’
Jeter and his teammates helped honor George Steinbrenner with a monumental win.
After the Yankees unveiled a huge monument to their late owner, Jeter singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth inning. Curtis Granderson followed with his second home run of the night, a three-run drive that helped New York to an 8-6 victory last night over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in a key AL East matchup.
Winning the opener of a four-game series that started its final homestand, New York (91-59) opened a 1 1/2-game lead over the Rays (89-60) and cut Tampa Bay’s advantage in the season series — the first tiebreaker for the division title — to 8-7. New York lowered its magic number for clinching a playoff berth to five.
“His No. 1 priority was for us to win,’’ Jeter said. “We’re happy we were able to do that.’’
Steinbrenner, the team’s owner from 1973 until his death July 13 at age 80, joined Miller Huggins (unveiled in 1932), Lou Gehrig (1941), Babe Ruth (1949), Mickey Mantle (1996), and Joe DiMaggio (1999) as the only individuals with monuments behind the center-field fence at new Yankee Stadium. Steinbrenner’s 7-by-5-foot 760-pound monument of bronze atop a granite base is behind the quintet of 2-by-3-foot monuments honoring the pinstriped famous five. The other monument, to the victims and rescue workers of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is on the left-field side of the area.
Jeter likely will be honored there one day, too. With two runs, he tied Mantle for third on the Yankees list at 1,677, trailing only Ruth (1,959) and Gehrig (1,888).
Former manager Joe Torre came to Steinbrenner’s $1.6 billion new Yankee Stadium for the first time, as did former captain Don Mattingly, and Torre reconciled with general manager Brian Cashman.
Steinbrenner’s daughters had tears in their eyes and his widow Joan unveiled the monument after being accompanied from home plate in a golf cart by baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
“Do I think George should be in the Hall of Fame? Of course I do,’’ Selig said. “He changed the sport in a lot of ways.’’
The entire team, led by Alex Rodriguez and manager Joe Girardi, walked from the dugout and up steps in center field, with Torre and Mattingly among those trailing in business attire.
They were joined by Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson, Steinbrenner’s two sons and two daughters.