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World Series 2001
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10/24/2001 03:19 PM ET
Media Beat: One for the thumb would be one for the fans
By Adam McCalvy
MLB.com
''I don't think any player is complete" without a trip to the World Series says Randy Johnson.
Here's your trivial fact of the day: The franchise now known as the New York Yankees has been playing baseball games longer than Arizona has been a state.

Fully 12 years longer. What is now the Yankees organization was founded in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles, then became the Manhattan-based New York Highlanders before finally adopting the nickname "Yankees" in April of 1913. The Grand Canyon State entered the Union just 14 months earlier, in February of 1912.

Since then, the Yankees have won 38 Pennants and 26 World Championships, and are the most successful pro sports franchise in history. But this season -- given what happened in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 -- is obviously different, and the Mayor's favorite team is representing the heart and soul of America's defining city.

Their 2001 World Series combatants, the Arizona Diamondbacks, have a slew of veteran players but the team has been around for just four years and has won a single Pennant -- this season's.

It's a grey-haired David vs. a wounded Goliath beginning at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix Saturday night. The Diamondbacks are playing for legitimacy; the Yankees are playing for redemption.

And everyone is talking.

"For the Yankees, winning championships has become a fait accompli," wrote the New York Post's Brian Lewis. "With four World Series rings in the past five seasons, they'll need to move on to their thumbs if they beat Arizona this year. But to a man they say a title this year would mean the most, would be the most cherished, because it would be as much for their fans as for themselves.

"In the six weeks since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 brought down the Twin Towers -- but not the city's spirit -- the Yankees have felt a responsibility to help lift New York's morale. Nobody laid that responsibility at their feet or placed it on their shoulders; they took it upon themselves."

But if the Yankees are to complete that mission, and to capture their fifth title in six years, they'll have to beat a Diamondbacks team brushed aside as "a fairly unimpressive opponent," by New York Daily News correspondent T.J. Quinn, with the duly noted exception of co-aces Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.

And although the D-Backs lack experience as a young franchise, their players are anything but. Arizona Daily Star reporter Jack Magruder pointed out that Johnson, Mark Grace, Greg Swindell, Mike Morgan, Jay Bell, Bobby Witt, Luis Gonzalez, Reggie Sanders and Greg Colbrunn are all over 30 years old and have played a combined 130 Major League seasons -- all without a World Series appearance.

The average age of those nine players is 36, and they average 14 1/2 years in the big leagues.

"Going to the World Series was a dream of mine," Johnson, 38, told Magruder. "I don't think any player is complete" without going to the Series. "That's what everybody strives for. You can't feel like you've done it all until you've finally been there."

Many of Arizona's players have been at it a long time but have come up short. Magruder reported that only Craig Counsell, Schilling, Matt Williams, Steve Finley and Brian Anderson have played in a World Series, and that only Counsell has been on a winner, with Florida in 1997.

Speaking of winners, here again are those damn Yankees. Nineteen of the 25 players on New York's roster have World Series experience. Only likely Game 1 starter Mike Mussina, Todd Greene, Jay Witasick, Alfonso Soriano, Randy Velarde and Enrique Wilson have never played in the Fall Classic.

New York Times columnist Murray Chass: "The dictionary at hand defines mystique as an aura of heightened value arising from attitudes and beliefs that impute special power to something. Using that definition, one could conclude that there is a Yankee mystique. The Yankees, after all, have an aura of success about them, they have a positive attitude about what they are capable of doing, and they believe they will win. The combination just might enhance the power they take on the field with them."

Mystique or not, many observers say this playoff run was decidedly different.

Times columnist William C. Rhoden: "There is something more substantial about this Yankee pennant. There was a confluence of humanity involving athletes, fans and news media. Almost everyone suffered losses, losing family members or friends or friends of friends in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Everyone has felt the emotional drain of pushing forward."

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Rhoden, quoting New York shortstop Derek Jeter: "'You listen to some people say baseball doesn't mean anything to the city,' Jeter said. 'Baseball's not going to heal the world, it's not going to heal the city. But if it gives some people something to cheer for, to look forward to, that's what we're here for. Now everyone is looking forward to the World Series.'"

That search ends at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, when Game 1 is scheduled to begin on FOX.

RATINGS CONTINUE UPWARD TREND: FOX broadcasts of the League Championship Series -- the AL matchup between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners and the NL series pitting the Diamondbacks versus the Atlanta Braves -- recorded modest ratings increases, continuing the trend that has existed all season.

The LCS series recorded a 7.0 average household rating, Nielsen Media Research reported Tuesday. That average marked a one percent increase over the 2000 LCS broadcast average -- a 6.9 household rating -- achieved by FOX and NBC.

The increase was recorded despite two fewer broadcasts in primetime this year versus 2000 (six in 2001 versus eight in 2000).

The increase in LCS ratings for 2001 continues Major League Baseball's overall ratings growth for its major properties this season versus 2000. In addition to the 2001 LCS increase, the 2001 All-Star Game posted an 11.0 rating, an eight percent increase, and the Division Series recorded an overall average rating of a 5.3, a six percent increase.

Additionally, for the 2001 regular season, Major League Baseball garnered local ratings increases on regional sports networks for more than half of the 30 clubs. For the 24 teams carried by FOX Sports Net regional cable channels, local ratings recorded an overall average rating of 3.3, a ten percent increase versus 2000.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com.