Why new Yankees manager Aaron Boone is trying to forget that 2003 ALCS home run

NEW YORK -- Given how things played out, it can be easy to forget new Yankees manager Aaron Boone played so poorly in the 2003 AL Championship Series that he was benched for Game 7. He went 2 for 16 in Games 1-6, prompting manager Joe Torre to go with Enrique Wilson at third base in Game 7.

Wilson started the game at third but was replaced by pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra with the winning run on second base and two outs in the eighth inning. Sierra was intentionally walked and Boone, who was going to have to come in to play third base anyway, pinch-ran. Three innings later, Boone sent the Yankees to the World Series.

The Yankees introduced Boone as their new manager with a press conference at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, and remarkably it took 20 minutes before someone asked him about the home run. To this day fans stop him in the street to talk about the iconic blast.

"Not a week goes by that I'm not reminded of how big the New York Yankees are or how big their reach are," Boone said Wednesday. "I've had hundreds of stories told to me too about where people were or what side of the ledger they were on."

The Yankees did not hire Boone to be their manager because of the home run, at least not directly. The homer certainly afforded Boone a level of celebrity he otherwise wouldn't have achieved given his playing career, which might have led to his job at ESPN, allowing him to stay relevant long enough to get an interview with the Yankees.

But no, the home run was not the reason he was hired. In fact, Boone has tried to distance himself from the home run over the years. Why? Because of what happened next.

"I appreciate it now. For a long time, I kind of distanced myself from it because we lost the World Series," Boone added. "You know, as you meet athletes all the time, some of the things that stick with you the most and remember the most are not getting it done."

That 2003 postseason, during which he went 9 for 53 (.170) with two home runs in 17 games, was the only time Boone reached the playoffs as a player. Boone's father Bob won a championship (1980 Phillies) and his grandfather Ray (1948 Indians) won a title as well. Aaron is still looking for his first, and what happened after his memorable home run is what motivates him as a manager.

"I'll never forget the Marlins celebrating [the 2003 World Series] on the Yankee Stadium field," he said. "That's something that's ingrained in my head, and I think one of the things that motivates me now in this job is to go chase that ultimate prize."  

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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