It’s not often, at least since the MLB playoff expansion of 1995, that the teams with the two best records in baseball survive to meet in the World Series. The 1999 World Series not only gave baseball fans such a showdown, but the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves were angling to become the team of the 1990s.
The Yankees had won two of the previous three Fall Classics. The Braves were in their fifth Series of the decade and aiming for their second title. It was all set up to a great World Series Showdown…only it didn’t turn out quite that way.
New York won 98 games and was led by Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, each driving in and scoring 100 runs. A balanced pitching staff was the second-best in the American League and had Mariano Rivera at the back end, with 45 saves and 1.83 ERA. New York rolled through the American League playoffs, going 7-1 in dispatching the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.
Atlanta went 103-59 with their now-traditional dominant pitching. The Braves had their usual Big Three of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz and supplemented that with the emergence of 18-game winner Kevin Millwood. Offensively, third baseman Chipper Jones batted .319, hit 45 home runs and won the National League MVP award. Atlanta took out the Houston Astros and the New York Mets to make the World Series.
Game 1 was in Atlanta and the Braves led 1-0 after seven on the strength of a Jones home run. In the eighth a walk, single and an error led to RBI singles from Jeter and Paul O’Neill and New York slipped by Maddux 4-1.
One night later the small-ball Yankee attack continued. They peppered Millwood with five singles in a three-run first and coasted to a 7-2 win. The Showdown Series was slipping away from Atlanta as the series shifted north.
Atlanta appeared ready to revive their hopes behind Glavine in Game 3. They led 4-1 early, and in spite of solo home runs from New York’s Chad Curtis and Tino Martinez, had a 5-3 lead in the eighth. Then Chuck Knoblauch hit a tying two-run homer in the eighth. Curtis went deep for the second time to lead off the tenth and the 6-5 win made the Series all over but the shouting.
New York got three early runs in Game 4 and Roger Clemens turned in a strong outing. Atlanta got Jones to the plate as the tying run in the eighth, but Rivera was summoned and he nailed down the championship in a 4-1 win.
It was Rivera’s second save, to go with his Game 3 win and he was named Series MVP. The Yankees were a dynasty, with three crowns in four years, as they turned a highly anticipated 1999 World Series Showdown into a sweep.
New York’s championship was the second leg of a three-peat they would complete one year later. Atlanta has not been back to the World Series since.