By JORDAN IKEDA
Rafu Sports Editor
Crowds cheered, church bells rang and streams of paper rained down on Broadway Friday as the New York Yankees celebrated their 27th World Series baseball championship with a parade through Lower Manhattan.
Vincent Rogner, an 18-year-old senior at a Catholic high school in Queens, skipped classes Friday with some friends to attend the parade.
“I’m a die-hard Yankees fan,” he said. “I love the intensity.”
Rogner said his favorite part of the last game of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies was when Hideki Matsui hit a home run.
Seven years ago, in his first game as a New York Yankee, Matsui hit his first MLB home run, a grand slam—a loud roaring announcement that Godzilla had found his way to American shores to cause destruction with his bat.
In what might have been his last game as a New York Yankee Wednesday night, Matsui completely ravaged the city of Philadelphia with that same bat, going a triple shy of the cycle and leaving an indelible mark on the most storied franchise in baseball with a record-tying performance that single handily lifted the Yankees to their second title of the decade.
“This is what I came over here for, to win a championship,” he said. “Winning the championship means everything to me…I can say this is the best moment of my life.”
Matsui, a three-time regular season MVP for the Yomuiri Giants and one time Japan Series MVP, became the first Japanese-born player to win the World Series MVP.
“As the first Japanese to win an MVP in the World Series, this is a great accomplishment for Matsui and will have a huge impact,” said former San Francisco Giants pitcher Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player to play in the Major Leagues, who watched at his Tokyo home.
Matsui tied the World Series record for RBI in a game (6) set by Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson in 1960. He finished the Series hitting .615 with an astronomical 2.207 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and had eight RBI and three home runs.
He punished the Phillies for pitching around the Yankees’ $252 million man, Alex Rodriguez, who led the Yankees in the playoffs with a .365 average, six homers, 18 RBIs, 15 runs and 12 walks.
Matsui had a higher average than Mr. Yankee, Derek Jeter, who batted .407, hit safely in all six games and just missed tying the record for most hits in a six-game World Series. And he proved far more valuable than the $180 million off-season acquisition of Mark Teixiera who had a miserable post-season batting .180.
In fact, we can even go back in time to some of the greatest Yankees ever to emphasize what an amazing Series Godzilla had. Matsui had more RBIs in the 2009 World Series than Babe Ruth had in any one of his 10 World Series appearances. Matsui hit more homeruns in this series than Joe Dimaggio hit in any of his 10 appearances in the fall classic. In addition, Matsui’s .615 average set a record for the highest batting average for a six game set in a World Series matchup.
And he did all of this in 13 at-bats. Because of his DH-only status this year, Matsui was consigned to be a pinch-hitter for the three games in Philly. Not that it mattered much. In those three plate appearances, he went 2-3 with a solo shot.
But more so than the number was the timeliness of his hits. In game 2, his solo homer gave the Bronx Bombers the lead for good, while his two-run homer and two-run single in game 6 powered the Yanks to a 4-1 lead and eventual victory. He basically won two of the four games for the Yanks with his bat.
Perhaps the history books, at least for this one Series, will simply drop the “zilla” from his moniker when retelling his divine work behind the plate.
And yet, with champagne still bubbling all around, Matsui, whose four-year $52 million contract expired following Mariano Rivera’s final pitch Wednesday night, fielded questions about his immediate future with the newly crowned Yankees.
“I have no idea right now,” he said with a smile through his interpreter. “I hope (to return).”
With GM Brian Cashman making no secret of wanting to get younger overall, while also acknowledging a possible need to spread the use of the DH spot around, as a 35-year-old free agent with a pair of surgically restructured knees that kept him from playing the field the entire season, Matsui’s future in pinstripes is anything but certain.
But his clutch bat and World Series MVP, coupled with perhaps his best year that saw him bat .274 with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs, as well as his rep as a clubhouse guy and model Yankee will make what was once thought to be a foregone conclusion, an extremely difficult decision.
Regardless if he remains a Yankee or not, one thing is clear in any language whether it be English, Japanese or New Yorker, Matsui will forever been immortalized in the halls of Yankees lore.
—Additional reporting by Associated Press