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Season's greetings for Yanks, fans They were jumping to conclusions in Game 2


NEW YORK -- The swarm of tired, delirious men in white pinstriped uniforms crowded around home plate after 15 unforgettable innings yesterday morning, jumping around like preschoolers, jawing like radio talk-show hosts and celebrating Jim Leyritz's arrival as if they had just won the lottery. Or something more significant.

After Leyritz's two-run homer off Tim Belcher cleared the right-center-field fence at Yankee Stadium, causing Seattle outfielder Jay Buhner to hang his head and causing a few police officers to scurry after the souvenir, the New York Yankees rumbled out of the dugout to welcome the teammate who had propelled them to a 7-5 victory over the Mariners and a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five division series.

The Yankees embraced Leyritz and pranced around like rugby players in a scrum. Seconds later, after the Yankees had escaped in to the clubhouse, most of the 57,126 who stayed for the 312-minute marathon turned the stadium into Carnegie Hall by singing along with Frank Sinatra as his voice climaxed the event with, "New York, New York."

"You need boosts like this to get you through," said Pat Kelly, who walked before Leyritz's blast. "You go out and shellac a team 8-0, it's just a ho-hum type thing. But this pumps you up. Did you see that pileup behind home plate? That's something more than a victory. That's something that's everlasting. Not just for the next game in Seattle, but forever."

Forever. Even while the attention shifted to Jack McDowell opposing Randy Johnson in Game 3 tonight at the Kingdome, the Yankees realized they would remember Game 2 forever.

"After a while," said Don Mattingly, "you just said, 'Oh, man, what a game.' "

There were six homers, 470 pitches, 27 hits and hundreds of people who called in sick to work yesterday. There was one losing pitcher in Belcher, who was so perturbed after the loss that he wrestled a camera away from a cameraman and tossed it to the ground while hollering profanities.

The Yankees came back from 1-0, 2-1, 4-3 and 5-4 deficits.

The game was tied until the 12th inning when Ken Griffey rapped John Wetteland's 3-1 fastball for his third homer in the series and a 5-4 lead.

But the Yanks were not out of it. With two out and two on, Sierra crushed a ball to left off Belcher that caromed off the wall and back toward Alex Diaz. One run scored, but the relay home caught Bernie Williams and kept the game going.

"We were on the top step of the dugout, halfway home to greet Bernie," said Yankees pitcher David Cone. "I think 25 guys turned around and looked at the crowd in disbelief. To have to go back in the dugout and see the looks on the fans' faces. Jaws dropped, mouths wide-open. It was good and bad, but it was good."

That set the stage for Leyritz, who said of his trip around the bases three innings later, "I just wanted to make sure I touched every base because I felt like I was floating."

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