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2003 World Series - New York Yankees

Without MLB game results and general happenings to inspire my weekly write-ups, I typically look to "National Day" holidays and current events to guide me during these slow times.

Luckily, there is no shortage of transactions occurring this time of year. As it turns out today's date, January 14, was an eventful one for the two teams I follow the most which are the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees in 2002 and 2001, respectively.

The big move San Francisco made on this date in 2002 was signing Barry Bonds to a 5 year $90 million contract extension. Getting his team to the World Series that year validated San Francisco's determination to do what ever it took to ensure Bonds was in a Giants uniform while shattering hitting records up throughout the remainder of his career.

The Yankees have not make a splash on January 14 in the past 50 years however their division rivals did in 2001 when the Toronto Blue Jays traded David Wells–who was the Yankees 1998 ALCS MVP and integral part of that World Series championship–along with Matt DeWitt to the Chicago White Sox in return for Kevin Beirne, Brian Simmons, Mike Sirotka and Mike Williams.

Neither the Jays nor Sox made it to the postseason that year but the Yankees got all the way to the World Series before falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7. Maybe Wells would have made a difference but we will never know. Also, Sirotka was a key piece from Chicago's side and he never pitched in the majors again, thus creating another What If? moment.

The Yankees' absence from the Fall Classic the following year was the only one they missed since 1997 with that being the season the Florida Marlins won it all by defeating the Cleveland Indians. It's worth noting that from 1995 through 2003, the only year in which the World Series did not feature the Yankees, Indians or Marlins was in 2002.

Of course that series' cap was the subject of last week's What If? theme and for this time around, I selected the one the Yankees wore as they lost to the Marlins in their return to the World Series in 2003. I'm still in the "learn from your mistakes" phase of the New Year's Goals mindset as we are at the midway point of the first month of the year so please bear with me!

The 100th Anniversary patch really gives this cap some gravitas. It's really too bad the Yankees couldn't pull this one off.

Plus, the connection of today's date to Wells is perfect as I have a ball signed by Boomer himself to sit beside this cap!

Classic example of the sweatband and tags from 2003. This cap was one of the first few I owned that piqued my interest in noting the differences of tags across different years. 

Flat embroidery on a Red, White and Blue MLB Batterman is a top tier feature. 

I've mentioned this personal fact in previous posts but it's worth repeating that I got back into cap collecting around the time that I moved to New York City in 2010.  Coming here from the San Francisco Bay Area was easy in some ways but very difficult in others.

As any homesick Bay Area expat would do, I wore my Giants hat a lot upon arrival. But then as soon as they won the World Series in the fall of my first year here, it began to feel like I had a target on my back…or head. Some people in New York dress and act in a way to elicit attention from strangers but my desire to blend in led me to The Dark Side in my headgear choices.

If you know where to look, New York is rife with independent stores selling pre-2007 New Era caps made of 100% wool with grey undervisors–or Grey Bottoms as we used to call them– and unearthing them was a fun solo activity that kept me busy while I was still finding my way here.

The only problem was Giants hats weren't the ones I was finding so I pivoted to snapping up whatever Grey Bottoms I could find, as long as it wasn't a Boston Red Sox or Los Angeles Dodgers cap. Being a Giants fan explains the aversion to Dodgers hats and I steered clear of the Red Sox because of the "target" aspect but in this case due to their rivalry with New York.

Other than those two dealbreakers, I think my openness to other teams is what spurred my renewed interest in collecting a variety of different caps. There's also something about being new in New York that gave me the confidence to wear whatever cap I wanted to but I quickly found myself hunting Yankees Grey Bottoms as my affinity for the team and New York grew.

In early 2010, Yankees fever had returned as they were fresh off winning their 27th World Series the previous season so of course I picked up a few of the 2009 World Series caps with the Yankee Stadium "Inaugural" patch on the back. As for Grey Bottoms, those were a tougher find but the 2003 World Series cap turned up more often so I've got multiples of that one too.

New Yorkers love a winner and not surprisingly, the 2001 and 2003 World Series caps are not ones you expect to see at Yankees games but I imagine this is the case with lots of Giants fans and the 2002 World Series hat as well. That is, unless of course you have that What if? mentality!

Yankees fans with strong memories–and a tendency to point fingers–are likely to associate this cap and the 2003 World Series in general with David Wells' early exit from the first inning of Game 5 due to back pain. The Yankees were unable to match the Marlins' run production the remainder of that night and ultimately lost the game and series in the sixth game that followed. 

The criticism of Wells is light compared to the Steve Bartman Incident on October 14, 2003 which to this day draws ire from sourpuss Cubs fans as many view the event as the catalyst for their team's ensuing on-field melt down which saw them blow a late-inning lead in a potentially Pennant-clinching game against the Marlins in the NLCS.

Just like the Yankees would do the following series after their What If? game, the Cubs fell short and lost the final game of the series against the Marlins. Sadly, that loss also put the kibosh on the first Cubs-Yankees World Series since 1938. Incidentally, both of those teams were the subject of this blog's first ever What If? post November 3, 2017 which I implore you to check out!

One thing I want to make clear about my What If? perspective is that it's not rooted on the traditional counterfactual thinking that attempts to provide alternative realities. I simply appreciate that the Giants and Yankees were Pennant winners around the same time as it at least presents the possibility for both teams to have faced each other in a Fall Classic.

The fact that the Yankees won it all in 2009 and then the Giants won the very next season is all I need now that it's over ten years later to keep the hope alive for these teams to compete against each other for a championship. As San Francisco's native sons Journey once said, Don't stop believin'! 

If this cap is calling out your name and you are willing to part with a top tier hat from my Wish List that's a 7 3/8 or 7 1/2, you are in luck as this one can go on the Trading Block. Luckily, I have backups of this cap on ice! Otherwise, please don't hesitate to reach out if you want any other cap from that list and you are willing to part with any of the hats on my Wish List.