BrooklynFans Of Books: “Mission 27” On The Yankees 2009 Champs

Mission 27: A New Boss, a New Ballpark, and one Last Ring for the Yankees’ Core Four

By Mark Feinsand and Brian Hoch

Triumph Books; 292 pages; hardcover, $27.95; available today, June 4

The Yankees entered the 2009 season with sky-high expectations as they opened the new Stadium and signed three of the biggest free agents on the free-agent market, first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

Mark Feinsand, who currently is the Executive Reporter for MLB.com and covered the 2009 team for the Daily News, and Brian Hoch, who has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007, have teamed up to write a definitive tome on this championship team in the new book, Mission 27.

Feinsand and Hoch combine their passion and experience in this thorough exploration of the 2009 season with behind-the-scenes anecdotes and they offer insider perspectives on everything from offseason acquisitions to the World Series.

The Yankees won 103 games in the regular season, running away with the American League East crown, and there was one series against Boston in August that was a defining moment.

Feinsand and Hoch write, “The Yankees were in high spirits as they rolled into August carrying a three-game winning streak and a two-and-a-half-game American League East lead into their anticipated showdown with the Boston Red Sox at the Stadium. After Boston had manhandled them through their first eight meetings, the Yanks were intent upon returning the favor. Hal Steinbrenner sensed as much when he took the temperature of the clubhouse prior to first pitch, observing that his team seemed ‘focused, yet loose, which I like.’ If there was anxiety, they were doing a good job of hiding it. ‘Everyone’s on edge when you play the Red Sox,’ Girardi said. ‘You walk into the grocery store, you hear, ‘You’ve got to beat the Red Sox tonight.’You go into the mall, you can’t really go anywhere where someone’s not saying something to you. I don’t know if I’d call it extra pressure, but you were always aware when you were playing them.’

“First on the menu was John Smoltz, a 42-year-old righty chugging toward the end of his illustrious career. Playing before a crowd of 49,005, the stadium’s first sellout since Opening Day, the Yankees thumped the future Hall of Famer for eight runs and nine hits in three-and-one-third innings. (Johnny) Damon, Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada, and Teixeira homered in an eight-run fourth, supporting (Joba) Chamberlain’s winning outing in a 13-6 rout. The Yankees couldn’t do anything to get those first eight games back, but as Damon said that night, it was definitely better to be 1-8 than 0-9. ‘Obviously having A-Rod come back, our lineup was deeper,’  Damon said. ‘We underachieved for most of the first half; we just got it rolling. The team got healthy and we did very, very well.’

“They posted another victory the next evening, though it required more work. Rodriguez cracked his first homer in three weeks to give the Yankees their 10th walk-off win of the year, a two-run blast that snapped a scoreless tie and ended a 15-inning heavyweight battle that took five hours and 33 minutes to complete. ‘We always measure ourselves against the Sox, and I think vice versa,’ Rodriguez said. ‘Every game is memorable, but obviously there’s some that stick out. That one does for me because it was one of the longest games I’ve ever been involved in. To end at home with a walk-off to left-center field, I still have it crystal clear in my mind. That was a big moment for us. Those are the games that stamp who you are as a team.’..

“The victories kept flowing, as Sabathia matched Burnett with another seven-and-two-thirds scoreless innings in a 5-0 win, delivering the one-two punch that the Yankees envisioned they could be…The back-to-back shutouts over the Red Sox marked the first time that the Yankees had done that since blanking Boston in both ends of an August 27, 1963 doubleheader. Burnett, Sabathia, and friends had limited the Red Sox to eight hits over those 24 frames…

Teixeira helped make it a clean sweep of the four-game series, cracking a tie-breaking homer two pitches after a Damon blast helped the Yankees celebrate a 5-2 win. Teixeira carried his bat down the first-base line after connecting with a hooking shot off Daniel Bard, fearing it might curve foul. The blast remained fair enough to give New York a commanding six-and-a-half-game division lead. ‘We got to a point where we felt like we were never going to lose, and that when we got to the point where it’s like, ‘We’re winning the World Series,” Teixeira said. ‘We got over the hump with Boston, we’re starting to pile up the wins, we had a really nice rhythm.'”

The Yankees then steamrolled past the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels in the American League playoffs, and beating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games in the World Series.

This was the fifth and final title for the Core Four of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada. There is a look at the team dynamic at how they meshed with the new stars like Sabathia and Teixeira.

Mission 27 features a heartfelt foreword from fan favorite Nick Swisher; interviews with key players, executives, and media members including Alex Rodriguez, 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Mariano Rivera, General Manager Brian Cashman, Manager Joe Girardi, how A-Rod overcame injury and controversy to earn his only championship ring; and saying farewell to George Steinbrenner and the old Yankee Stadium, and how the 2009 season served as a transition to a new era for the franchise.

Feinsand and Hoch also look at how the Yankees see the larger picture of what they mean to New York and the community, and they write of an initiative that debuted that year, “The 2009 season marked the introduction of the Yankees’ HOPE (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) Week initiative, which sprang to life from a whiteboard in the office of Jason Zillo, the team’s director of media relations.

“Zillo received enthusiastic approval for the program after presenting it to the Steinbrenners, president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost, and general manager Brian Cashman. A schedule was constructed for five consecutive weekdays during a homestand that summer, during which players, coaches, and front-office personnel would join forces to bring attention to a different individual, family, or organization worthy of public recognition and support. ‘It was something near and dear to my heart, and I was so proud of the organization to embrace such an outside-of-the-box community concept,’ Zillo said. ‘For all of them to say, ‘Run, don’t walk, on tackling this,’ it was a neat moment in my career because you don’t know the type of feedback that you’re going to get outside of my office.’

“Each day was designed so that the honorees could share their inspirational stories with players, fans, and the media while being surprised with a day of their dreams tailored especially for them. The outreach typically took place at a location within the community, culminating with a visit to the stadium and – assuming the Yankees win – a chance to join the postgame handshake line.

“That first year the Yankees visited the apartment of a Washington Heights couple devoted to mentoring at-risk youth, held a baseball clinic for children with cerebral palsy, hosted a surprise anniversary party for a military veteran with ALS, turned their diamond into an overnight carnival for children with allergies to sunlight, and helped two young men with developmental disabilities deliver mail at a Manhattan law firm. ‘That started with the players. I know their buy-in and willingness could make it what it’s become,’ Zillo said. ‘When I addressed the team and explained it to them, to watch them walk up to the sign-up sheet and sign up for the different events was something that I won’t forget.'”

Mission 27 is a must-read for Yankees fans, and fans of baseball, as this was one of the best teams ever, and a perfect Father’s Day gift.

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