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Legends of the Fall

Game 4: Yankees finish sweep of Padres with 3-0 victory for 24th World Series title.


SAN DIEGO — The 1998 World Series came to a swift end Wednesday night with the New York Yankees' 3-0 victory over the San Diego Padres before 65,427 in Qualcomm Stadium, an Andy Pettitte-inspired shutout that gave the Yankees a convincing four-game sweep of the Padres, their 24th world championship, and their second title in three years.

Now, the real battles can begin: 1998 Yankees vs. 1976 Cincinnati Reds; 1998 Yankees vs. 1972-74 Oakland Athletics; 1998 Yankees vs. 1954 Cleveland Indians, 1998 Yankees vs. 1927 Yankees.

Is this Yankee team the greatest in baseball history? That question will be debated for weeks, months and probably years to come, but there is no doubt who the best team of 1998 is.

Pettitte drove that point home with 7 1/3 shutout innings Wednesday night, giving up five hits and striking out four in a performance that stirred memories of his 8 1/3-inning, three-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory over Atlanta in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series.

The left-hander, who has been dealing with the stress and emotions of his father's double-bypass heart surgery last week, outdueled Padre ace Kevin Brown to help the Yankees finish their phenomenal season with a 125-50 record, their .714 winning percentage the fourth-highest all time behind the 1906 Chicago Cubs (.747), 1927 Yankees (.722) and 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (.717).

Pettitte's only real trouble came in the eighth inning when, with a 3-0 lead, he walked Quilvio Veras with one out. Tony Gwynn singled to center, and Yankee Manager Joe Torre pulled Pettitte for Jeff Nelson, who struck out Greg Vaughn with a nasty 2-2 slider. But when Nelson fell behind Ken Caminiti, 2-0, Torre yanked him in favor of closer Mariano Rivera.

Caminiti smacked Rivera's first pitch into right field for a single, and Paul O'Neill all but conceded a run, throwing to third instead of home. But Padre third-base Coach Tim Flannery held Veras, figuring the Padres needed more than one run to catch up.

Up stepped Jim Leyritz, whose three-run homer off Atlanta closer Mark Wohlers in Game 4 turned the 1996 World Series around for the Yankees, and whose four playoff homers this season led the Padres to victories over Houston in the division series and the Braves in the National League championship series.

Leyritz lined a 1-2 pitch into center field, where Bernie Williams stuttered for a moment before scooting in for a basket catch to end the inning.

The Yankees salted the victory with a controversial two-run eighth.

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