It was (and still is) the latest in the calendar year a Major League Baseball game has ever been played, and it was worth the wait.
On Nov. 4, 2001, the Diamondbacks and Yankees met at what was then called Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix for Game 7 of the World Series. Even before first pitch, it was already sure to go down as one of the all-time great championship series. Arizona had outscored New York 13-1 combined in Games 1 and 2 to take a 2-0 lead. The Yankees bounced back with three one-run wins in New York — two of them on walk-offs, including Derek Jeter’s "Mr. November" home run — to go up 3-2. In Game 6, Randy Johnson pitched seven strong innings and got plenty of run support in a 15-2 win to set up the finale.
Game 7 featured an all-timer pitching matchup of Roger Clemens for the Yankees against the Diamondbacks’ Curt Schilling. For five and a half innings, the teams traded zeroes. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Arizona pushed a run across on a Danny Bautista RBI double to go up 1-0. The Yankees responded immediately. A Tino Martinez single off Schilling in the seventh plated Jeter to tie the game. Alfonso Soriano then started the eighth with a home run off Schilling to put New York up 2-1.
It went to the ninth that way, and it looked as bleak as can be for the Diamondbacks. Superstar closer Mariano Rivera had come in for the eighth inning and struck out the side — though Steve Finley managed a single off him in between. But Arizona wasn’t licked.
Mark Grace led off the last gasp with a slap single to center. Catcher Damian Miller then tried to sacrifice pinch runner David Dellucci over to second, but Rivera threw wide to Jeter at second in an attempt to nab Dellucci. With two on and nobody out, pinch hitter Jay Bell tried to bunt the runners over to second and third but failed as the Yankees got a force out at third base. Tony Womack then slapped a double down the right-field line on a 2-2 pitch to tie the game. Rivera then hit Craig Counsell with a pitch to bring up Luis Gonzalez with the bases loaded. On an 0-1 pitch, Gonzalez created one of baseball’s all-time highlights:
He fought off a pitch on his hands to send a soft liner over a drawn-in Yankees infield and plate the winning run. The Diamondbacks won 3-2 — the fourth one-run game of the series.
It was the first and still only World Series title for the Diamondbacks franchise. They were just in their fourth season of existence at the time.
The reason this game took place so late, of course, was because the entire season had been delayed a week due to the horrible events of Sept. 11. In the years since, baseball’s calendar has crept into November a few times. The final game of the 2009 World Series between the Phillies and Yankees also happened on Nov. 4.
The game was a mega-attraction, drawing an average of 39 million viewers for FOX. No baseball telecast eclipsed that number until this year’s massive Game 7 between the Cubs and Indians cracked 40 million.