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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | TURNING POINT: GAME 1

Rookie Ledee Steps Up Like Seasoned Veteran

Yankees: Young left fielder has productive night, including a two-run double against Brown.

October 18, 1998|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees haven't received much production from their left fielders in the postseason.

Manager Joe Torre tried many players in that role, and nothing seemed to work. Rookie Ricky Ledee got the assignment Saturday night in Game 1 of the World Series because Torre figured Ledee would do the best job defensively.

Torre got more than he expected.

Not only did Ledee perform flawlessly in the field, he also played a key role offensively in the American League champions' 9-6 victory over the NL champion San Diego Padres at Yankee Stadium.

Ledee staked the Yankees to a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a two-out, two-run double against Padre ace Kevin Brown. He also singled in the fifth and walked and scored in the seventh when the Yankees broke the game open with a seven-run inning.

And Ledee, 24, also reached in the eighth on an error, completing his night. He was a show-stopper under the game's brightest lights on its biggest stage.

"That young man was big for us tonight--very big," said Yankee designated hitter Chili Davis. "He didn't mess around, he went out there and did his job to help us get this win."

THE SITUATION

Torre's outfield options have decreased in the postseason because slugger Darryl Strawberry has been sidelined while recovering from colon cancer surgery, and others have struggled.

The four players Torre used in left field in the AL championship series--including Ledee--batted .045 (one for 22) with one run batted in. That group stranded 22 runners, causing Torre headaches.

On Friday, Torre said he would start Ledee in left in Game 1 because of his defense and because he bats left-handed.

By the tone in Torre's voice Friday, one could surmise that he didn't think the move would alter the outcome of the World Series. But it just might.

WHAT HAPPENED

New York took the lead on Ledee's double against Brown. The ball landed barely inside the right-field line, scoring Davis and Tino Martinez.

The Yankees overcame a 5-2 Padre lead in the seventh on a three-run homer by Chuck Knoblauch and a grand slam by Martinez. But the Yankees credited Ledee with the game's biggest hit.

"That was the one that got us going against Brown," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "When you're facing a guy like Brown, you don't get too many opportunities.

"You better do something with the ones you get, and that's what Ricky did."

THE BOTTOM LINE

The rookie didn't play like one against the Padres.

"You hear people say that this isn't the time to have rookies out there, that there's too much pressure," said Jeter, who helped the Yankees win the 1996 World Series while being selected the AL rookie of the year.

"But the bottom line is that you have to have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself, and Ricky does."

THE LAST WORD

"I wasn't nervous after my team ran out on the field, I was just anxious to hurry up and play," said Ledee, who spent most of the season at triple-A Columbus. "Especially because this is the World Series, and it's at Yankee Stadium, with all the amazing players and accomplishments that happened here. Now, I feel part of it."

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