This has been one of the most exciting baseball seasons in recent memory. All in one year, two great sluggers shattered Roger Maris' home run record - and did it with class, respecting each other and the man whose record they eclipsed; Cal Ripken, Jr. finally sat down after starting 2,632 straight games over the course of 17 seasons; a hotly contested, down-to-the-wire wildcard race in the National League ended in a one game playoff between the Cubs and Giants, with the Mets falling just short in the final days of the season.
And, of course, our Yankees won 114 games in the regular season, establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the history of the game. They didn't do it on the shoulders of a superstar, either. They dominated the league because of their extraordinary balance and teamwork - in the field, at the plate, on the mound, in the dugout, and off the field. Now, after an impressive six-game comeback victory in the AL Championship Series they've won their 35th pennant - and we hope they will beat the Padres and win their 24th World Series. But win or lose in the Series, the Yankees have already given us this enough memories this year to last a lifetime.
Let's start with the pitching staff. There's Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who escaped Castro's oppression to come to the United States. He has been a hero to all patriotic Americans of Cuban descent and an inspiration, I hope, to those still being victimized by Castro's oppression - not to mention an invaluable member of the rotation and a clutch playoff performer. Then there's David Wells, who became the first Yankee pitcher since Don Larsen to throw a perfect game, and went on to post one of the best records in the major leagues at 18-4. And David Cone, who finished the regular season with 20 wins and only 7 losses, should stand along Wells as a leading contender for the American League Cy Young award.
At the plate, Bernie Williams won the American League batting title with a .339 average - and when you add hitters like Paul O'Neill, Derek Jeter and others, that gave us one of the most formidable lineups in baseball.
But not all Yankee news was good news this year. Just before the team completed its sweep of the Texas Rangers, it absorbed a terrible blow - news that Darryl Strawberry was diagnosed with cancer. The team is showing strength, compassion and poise in dealing with Darryl's illness. I know that he has been touched by their support, as well as the support of New Yorkers all over the City. We're all hoping and praying for his swift recovery.
For the most storied team in the world of sports, it's been a season that no one could have imagined. As a whole, this team has set a powerful example for the people of the City by sticking together, helping each other out and getting the most out of every single person on the field. Believe me - I'm rooting hard for the Yankees to take it all - but whether or not they do, this has been a year worthy of celebration. This is Mayor Rudy Giuliani.