The Yankees’ 11-game winning streak is a good thing for the 2021 Yankees, for obvious reasons. But it also is the best thing that has happened in several decades to the 1985 Yankees.
Remember them? Maybe not.
At the time, there was another baseball team based in New York City that tended to hog the headlines, already by 1985 and even more so the following year.
In case you missed all that, ESPN has a four-hour documentary on the subject due out next month.
But those ’85 Yankees deserve the attention they have gotten since the current Yankees won their 11th in a row on Tuesday night in Atlanta, their longest such streak in 36 years.
As electric as the Mets were that year, both teams suffered the same fate in that pre-wild card era.
The Mets won 98 games and missed the postseason, finishing three games behind the Cardinals. The Yankees won 97 and finished two games behind the Blue Jays.
Speaking of that Toronto team, it played a central role in the most memorable day of the New York teams’ dual pennant races.
It was Sept. 12. The Mets were tied for first place and the Cardinals were in Queens for a day game. The home team won, 7-6, on Keith Hernandez’s walk-off single against his former team.
The Yankees were coming off a loss that followed that now-famous 11-game winning streak and were 2 ½ games behind the Blue Jays, who were in the Bronx for a night game.
The home team won, 7-5, behind a three-run home run into the upper deck by catcher Ron Hassey.
Hassey, in his first season with the Yankees, said afterward, "I’ve never been with a team that was so good that anything I did was this important."
(Personal aside: I was then three weeks into my current 36-year run at Newsday and attended both games as a fan, when the subway fare was 90 cents and woolly mammoths still roamed Central Park.)
Unfortunately for the Yankees, eight consecutive losses followed that big win over the Blue Jays, and they were unable to recover before the season ran out.
In 1986, the Mets won the World Series, and the Yankees saw their victory total go from 97 to 90.
Then it fell to 89 in 1987, 85 in 1988, 74 in 1989 and finally 67 in 1990, when their .414 winning percentage was their worst since 1913.
But enough negativity. Let’s get back to celebrating the 1985 team. It was a good one!
Don Mattingly was the American League MVP after hitting 35 home runs, driving in 145 runs and batting .324. Rickey Henderson finished third in the MVP voting after scoring 146 runs and stealing 80 bases.
Dave Winfield had 26 home runs and 114 RBIs. Don Baylor added 23 and 91. Ron Guidry finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting with a 22-6 record and a 3.27 ERA. Dave Righetti had 29 saves.
Phil Niekro earned his 300th career victory on the season’s final day, shutting out the Blue Jays. (Two months earlier, Tom Seaver picked up his 300th win at Yankee Stadium while pitching for the White Sox.)
Ken Griffey Sr. was on that Yankees team, four years before his son made his big-league debut.
Billy Martin was the manager, having succeeded Yogi Berra 16 games into the season. Then the Yankees fired him for the fourth time after the season.
After the Yankees were eliminated, second baseman Willie Randolph said, "I’m proud of what we did. I’m happy that the young players did so well. It tells you that we’re going to be a solid team for a long time to come."
It took the Yankees until 1996, with Randolph as their third base coach, to win another World Series.
It took until August 2021 for them to win 11 games in a row again.