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WORLD SERIES REPORT

Yankee Celebration a Monumental One

October 18, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Babe Ruth died 55 years ago, but the legendary carouser enjoyed one more late-night drink Thursday.

As the New York Yankees poured champagne on one another to celebrate their trip to the World Series, Roger Clemens and David Wells picked up a few bottles, grabbed pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and scampered to Monument Park, beyond the outfield fence. There they had their own little party next to Ruth's plaque, tapping bottles to the lips on his bust.

"He's shining on us. He's looking down," Wells said. "Why not give him a toast, man? He's the one that got us here. From 1918 until now, the curse lives."

The Boston Red Sox last won the World Series in 1918, with Ruth. They sold him to the Yankees in 1920, and the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" has prevented Boston from winning since then. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox on Thursday, extending the curse for another year.

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Yankee closer Mariano Rivera said he expected to be available tonight, two days after pitching the final three innings, although he didn't feel too terrific Friday. He was sore, he said, and amid the excitement of victory he could not get to sleep.

"I feel like somebody beat me up," Rivera said.

With the Yankees and Florida Marlins both stretched to the limit in the league championship series, the rotations for the World Series are based on availability rather than preference. Wells, who pitched in relief Thursday, starts tonight for the Yankees. Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte will follow, but Manager Joe Torre said he would not decide in what order until today.

Brad Penny, who also pitched in relief in Game 7, but on Wednesday, starts tonight for the Marlins, followed by Mark Redman, Josh Beckett and probably Carl Pavano. Manager Jack McKeon said he would use rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis as a left-handed reliever, available to neutralize the likes of Jason Giambi, Nick Johnson and Hideki Matsui.

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The front and back pages of Friday's New York Post featured full-page photographs of Aaron Boone hitting the home run that launched the Yankees into the World Series. Inside, however, New Yorkers read about the Yankees' loss -- at least according to a Post editorial that said, "The Curse of the Bambino boomeranged this year," and, "The Fall Classic should be one helluva series -- even without the Yanks."

The Post had prepared two editorials in advance, one for a Yankee victory and one in case of defeat. After the game, which ended at 12:16 a.m., an employee accidentally ran the wrong one.

The oops were not limited to New York.

Not only did the Boston ground crew tempt fate by painting the World Series logo on the Fenway Park grass before Thursday's game, but as of Friday night, the team Web site still offered merchandise that labeled the Red Sox as American League champions, including a T-shirt for $19.95 and a cap for $24.95, as well as a Red Sox vs. Marlins World Series commemorative bat, for $49.95.

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Fox's run of impressive postseason ratings continued, as Game 7 of the Yankees-Red Sox drew a national Nielsen rating of 17.1 with a 28 share of the audience. Those numbers made it the highest-rated non-World Series game since 1993, when Game 6 of the National League championship series, won by Philadelphia over Atlanta, posted a rating/share of 17.4/28.

Thursday night's game out-rated 24 of the last 27 World Series games, dating to 1998. It was watched by an average viewing audience of 27.5 million, making it the most-watched program of the new prime-time season.

Baseball again dominated the night and prompted NBC and CBS to postpone original programming in favor of repeats.

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Staff Writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.

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