“After one game, one glorious game, Matsui already felt enveloped in the mystique and aura of the legendary Stadium where so much baseball history has happened. Actually, Matsui added to those feelings of invincibility by becoming the first Yankee to stroke a grand slam in his first game in the Bronx. He is now ahead of everyone from Babe Ruth to Bernie Williams in that respect.” – Tyler Kepner, New York Times, April 9, 2003
For years, Hideki Matsui was one of the symbols of a New York Yankees team that never reached the promised land.
Not any more.
In playing what could be his last game in pinstripes, Matsui made the most of his final curtain call, driving in record-tying six runs to power the Bronx Bombers to their 27th World Series title.
Much like his Yankee Stadium debut seven seasons ago, a performance that saw the Japanese slugger called “Godzilla” drive in four runs with a grand slam in a 7-3 win over the Twins, Matsui was the leading man in Wednesday’s victory, by the identical score of 7-3.
Lending even more credence to the idea that the ghosts of championships past have moved across the street, Andy Pettitte was the winning pitcher that cold April day so many years ago.
”It’s mind-boggling the things that happen here at the Stadium,” said Pettitte that day. ”It’s obviously a great moment for him. That was special.”
On a night when the pre-game chatter in the press box was about how the Yankees had to find a way to stop Chase Utley from ruining their season, it was the Phillies who never found a way to keep Matsui from ending theirs.
While it’s certainly true that Matsui never truly delivered the kind of numbers that were expected of him when the Yankees signed him, his career in pinstripes has earned a great deal of respect
from anyone who has ever come in contact with him.
Perhaps it was his first impression, which could be his last. Either way, I leave it to Tyler Kepner, who wrote so eloquently about Matsui on Opening Day, 2003.
“… Matsui unleashed his compact swing and drove it more than 400 feet. When he returned to the dugout, the fans gave Matsui a 30-second standing ovation until he appeared and lifted his helmet to them in a curtain call. Matsui called it the ”greatest moment” of his life.”
That was then. This is now.