And why not. The Braves could line up aces better than a card player in a crooked game of poker, and as it was playing out, the Braves won the first two games of the series in New York, showing complete dominance over the Yankees along the way. Most baseball pundits were ready to give the Yankees last rites and to hand the Braves another title.
This particular Yankees team didn't have a successful post-season pedigree to rely on, either, having lost in the division series to the Seattle Mariners in a gut wrenching five games. Before that, New York hadn't won a Title since 1978 and hadn't even been in the playoffs in over a decade. During that span of time, the most memorable NY baseball moments didn't even belong to the Yankees.
"Behind the bag. It gets through Buckner. Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!", exclaimed revered announcer Vin Scully as New York inexplicably won game six of the 1986 World Series (and would go on to win game 7 to win the Title).
Game 3 was in Atlanta and the Yankees took advantage of an early lead, solid pitching from starter David Cone, and a home run from CF Bernie Williams to win the game 5-2. The next night, this victory seemed like it would be a mere footnote as the Braves took a 6-0 lead in the early innings of game 4. The Yankees, however, chipped away at the lead and with the score 6-3, pinch hitter Jim Leyritz hit what appeared from the view of the TV camera a routine fly ball that just kept going. With 2 runners on base, the ball finally hit the back of the left field wall tying the score at 6. New York would go on to score 2 runs in the 10th inning and won the game 8-6, knotting the series at two.
Game 5 marked the last game to be played at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium and featured a picther's duel between the Yankees Andy Pettitte and the Braves John Smoltz. The Yankees scored a run in the 4th inning on a misplayed fly ball by CF Marquis Grissom and Petttitte's mound work assisted by some dazzling defense, particularly Yankee LF Darryl Strawberry allowed the Yankees to maintain a slim 1-0 lead. Strawberry extended high in the air like a condor to rob SS Jeff Blauser of an extra-base hit and end a threat of a Braves late-inning rally. With the score still 1-0 in the 9th inning, Atlanta rallied to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Pinch hitter Luis Polonia hit a line drive to right center field which was caught by RF Paul O'Neill to end the game. The key to the play was bench coach Jose Cardenal signaling O'Neill to move a couple steps to his right which allowed the gimpy-legged RF just enough reach to make the final play and give the Yankees a 3-2 series lead.
Game 6 was back in the Bronx and C Joe Girardi sent the home crowd into Pinstriped pandemonium with an RBI triple which sailed over CF Marquis Grissom's head and gave the Yankees an early lead. Facing stater Greg Maddux, SS Derek Jeter sent the crowd into a further frenzy with an RBI single which made the score 2-0. After yielding another run that inning, Maddux settled into a groove and helped keep the Yankees off the scoreboard the rest of the game. With the score 3-1 in the 9th, the Braves rallied to score a run and bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After a long two-out AB, 2B Mark Lemke finally hit a foul ball along the 3B line which was caught by Charlie Hayes to end the game and as Fox announcer Joe Buck aptly put it, make the Yankees "the champions of baseball".
The post-series celebration included several memorable moments, including Yankee closer John Wetteland accepting the World Series MVP award and Wade Boggs, long time member of the Boston Red Sox, riding a horse along with a policeman along the warning track in the outfield. Boggs was excruciatingly one pitch away from winning the World Series in 1986 with the Red Sox a decade prior.
I have the 1996 World Series on DVD, but the indelible memories from those games are ingrained in memory and will be for many years to come.