10/17/2003 8:54 PM ET
A matchup for the ages
Game 1: Marlins at Yankees, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
NEW YORK -- One hundred years ago, a little baseball club called the New York Yankees was just starting out and a little October tradition called the World Series was born.
In the years since, the Yankees have become synonymous with the World Series, reaching baseball's postseason pinnacle 39 times now, winning 26 of them.
If they're going to make it a 27th World Series title in their 100th anniversary season, the Yankees are going to have to get past a Florida Marlins team that exudes youth -- both as a franchise only in its 10th year and as a roster that includes more than a few precocious young players.
It's a matchup for the ages in more ways than one as the World Series celebrates its 100th birthday. This actually will be the 99th renewal of the World Series since it all began with the Boston Pilgrims beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in a best-of-nine series, 5-3.
It all gets under way Saturday night with Game 1 of the 2003 World Series, scheduled for an 8:06 p.m. ET first pitch at Yankee Stadium, site of 97 previous World Series games. Hopefully by then, rains that were drenching the field Friday night will have passed and the playing surface will be ready to go.
Left-hander David Wells, who pitched one inning during the Yankees' amazing Game 7 victory over Boston in the American League Championship Series, will make the start on short rest for the Yankees. Right-hander Brad Penny, who pitched out of the bullpen in the Marlins' victory over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series, will take the mound for the Marlins.
For the American League East champion Yankees, it's practically an annual tradition to be in the World Series -- they've been in five of the last seven, and have won 10 consecutive World Series games at home heading into Game 1.
The Marlins won it all in 1997, but this is a surprise return for the National League Wild Card winners.
It may be an October tradition for the Yankees, but shortstop Derek Jeter says it never gets old. He has been in the World Series five times in his six-year career, and he has four World Series rings to show for it.
"Whether it's your first time or your sixth time, it's always special," Jeter said.
The Yankees, coming off a draining seven games against their storied rival the Red Sox, took several hours to figure out how to set up their pitching rotation on Friday. They used three of their regular starters -- Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina for three innings and Wells for one -- in Thursday's remarkable 6-5 victory over Boston in 11 innings.
"I don't think I've ever been as excited or wanted to win a game as badly as last night," Jeter said.
The Marlins, meanwhile, had a miracle comeback of their own. They went to Wrigley Field needing to win two games to advance to the World Series, and that's exactly what they did -- first using an eight-run eighth to win Game 6, and then overcoming Cubs co-ace Kerry Wood to win Game 7.
And now here they are at Yankee Stadium, playing a role they know very well.
"We're definitely the underdogs here, the small team taking on the biggest team in all of sports," Conine said.
Yankees manager Joe Torre knows that's how the Marlins will be portrayed, but he knows his opponents well enough to know that they can't be taken lightly -- especially after the way they've gone about their business in the playoffs.
"Their confidence is sky-high," Torre said. "I think they're in it to have a lot of fun. If they're in it as the underdog, that probably makes it that much better. But being the favorite, we certainly don't feel that we can assume we have that edge and it means anything to them.
"If we felt they were intimidated, sure, I love that edge. But I don't think that's going to happen."
Torre's counterpart, Jack McKeon, has taken a bunch of younger players, mixed them with veterans such as Conine and catcher Pudge Rodriguez and concocted a World Series team built on speed on the basepaths, clutch hitting and some outstanding young starting pitching.
McKeon took over the team when it was 16-22. The Marlins went on to post a 91-71 record to claim the NL Wild Card, before eliminating the defending NL champion San Francisco Giants in the Division Series and then ending the World Series dreams of the Chicago Cubs.
McKeon is 72, smokes cigars and talks with a croaky voice of a man who's been around the block a few times -- and it turns out he was a perfect match for a young team such as the Marlins.
"I've got nine grandkids," McKeon said. "I'm kind of used to dealing with kids a lot younger than myself. I've always throughout my whole career enjoyed managing young guys. I've had great success with young guys."
But never this much success. This is the second time McKeon has been in charge of a team in the World Series, but the first time it was as GM of the San Diego Padres, who in 1984 lost to the Detroit Tigers in five games.
Since then, he managed the Padres and the Reds, but until the Marlins came calling in May for a replacement for Jeff Torborg, McKeon was essentially retired, and not necessarily by choice.
As for last year at this time?
"What was I doing?" McKeon said. "Let's see, what is this, October?"
Yes, Jack. It's October. It's the peak of October in baseball -- the World Series.
"I was probably sitting at home, watching (the media) all ask these questions of the managers and the players and kind of hoping you were there," McKeon said. "Now here, a year later, we happen to be here. I don't have to tell you, it's a tremendous thrill to be sitting here.
"But it's more of a thrill and an honor to be able to say that I am the manager of this great Marlins team. These are the best young guys I've ever had anything to do with."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By John Schlegel / MLB.com