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World Series 2001
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10/28/2001 12:34 AM ET
Yanks are mere mortals
By Troy E. Renck
MLB.com
Left Field PHOENIX -- Nearly 450 feet from home plate on the concourse above the center-field fence, a man with a purple-painted bald head swaggered to his car with dignity.

A few feet away, two young girls wore white T-shirts spelling out Diamondbacks in glitter that looked like a third-grader's art class project gone terribly awry -- and exactly nobody giggled under their breath.

Down the aisle, a big dude with bloodshot eyes hid his neck with teal and green beads. He was swelling with pride.

All of these snapshots can be traced to one single development. On a beautiful fall night in the desert, the Arizona Diamondbacks exposed the New York Yankees as mortal.

With Curt Schilling throwing Pez on the mound and the lineup reverberating with thunder, Arizona flogged the Yankees 9-1 in Game 1 of the World Series.

Goodbye dynasty. Hello die-nasty.

Too drastic? Too mean? Why?

If the score had been flip-flopped, the East Coast media would have barbecued the Diamondbacks and poured margaritas in their open wounds. They would have portrayed Arizona as the most embarrassing new kids on the block since, well, the New Kids on The Block.

There would have been upbeat photographs of Schilling with his hands in his face and Luis Gonzalez howling in frustration. ESPN would have led its highlights with shortstop Derek Jeter ripping off a rattle and beating the Diamondbacks between their beady little eyes.

That's what was predicted. The Diamondbacks, if you believed the press, only showed up at the BOB because a forfeit would have messed up the TV ratings. Any attempt at victory was futile. Bart Simpson had a better chance of getting into Harvard than Arizona did of winning the hardware.

Or at least that was the buzz.

"The media paints a picture of how the matchup is going to go," said Schilling, who continued padding his reputation as a legend of the Fall by winning his fourth consecutive game in this postseason. "Usually, it's way off, if not completely wrong."

On Saturday night, Arizona flipped the script. The itsy, bitsy Diamondbacks took their cute little pacifiers out of their fangs and sunk venom into the fabled pinstripes.

It's not that the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees. They absolutely embarrassed them. This was a game the same way that Tyson-McNeeley was a fight. Growing up in Colorado, I grew accustomed to watching a certain orange-clad team shrivel in the spotlight.

After the last embarrassing Super Bowl debacle, one paper's headline screamed: They still shoot horses, don't they?

Darn it if the Damn Yankees didn't look similarly overwhelmed. The glossy postseason media guide referred to them as the American League Champions. But they looked like the AFC representative, nothing more than a mobile in the Diamondbacks' classroom.

"We don't buy into the hype, even though (the Yankees) are talked about a lot," said Arizona rookie manager Bob Brenly, whose magic carpet ride appears to have no end in sight. "You have to go out on the field and play the game. The history of that great franchise doesn't enter into it."

Ah yes, the history. The Yankees know more about rings than an operator. They use pennants for wallpaper, title trophies as paperweights, banners for stocking stuffers. Their characters are so charming, they show up on "Seinfeld" and the cover of "GQ."

All of this true, of course. You can look it up.

But is it possible that this team, this year, isn't that great? So the Yankees beat the Oakland A's and the Seattle Mariners. So what? Oakland was young and vulnerable and Seattle, if you really dig deep, was built more for the more the long season than a seven-game series.

Is it really a yoga stretch to believe that the Diamondbacks just might be better?

They certainly were on this night. The Kings were supposed to take their first steps toward a fourth consecutive coronation. Instead, they looked like the homecoming opponent for the Snakes.

David Justice, playing in place of Paul O'Neill because of previous success against Schilling, mangled a fly ball in right field. Scott Brosius, normally sure-handed, was devoured by a groundball.

Mike Mussina looked as out of place as that Moose roaming the streets in "Northern Exposure." How bad was it? Enrique Wilson, known only to friends and relatives, pinch hit for Randy Choate in the fifth inning.

Said Yankees Manager Joe Torre, understandably unflappable after only his team's second loss in their last 18 World Series games, "A lot of my moves worked -- just for the other team."

One scene summarized the turn of events. Outside of a men's bathroom, a T-Rex-sized Diamondbacks fan emerged from the crowd and announced to onlookers, "All you New Yorkers look like you could use a hug."

The Yankees had officially inspired sympathy. Yep, this could be a very different series.

Troy E. Renck is a reporter for MLB.com.