NEW YORK — They paraded around the warning track high-fiving fans, a New York Yankees victory lap nine years in the making.
Just wait until Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and the other first-timers hit the Canyon of Heroes.
“I can’t think of a better place to be than playing baseball in New York,” Mark Teixeira said. “This is the top.”
Matsui tied a World Series record with six RBIs, Andy Pettitte won on short rest and New York beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 on Wednesday night, finally seizing that elusive 27th championship — the most in all of sports.
Nearly a decade after their dynasty ended in the Arizona desert, the Yankees are baseball’s best again.
“It feels better than I remember it, man,” captain Derek Jeter said. “It’s been a long time.”
Matsui, the Series MVP, powered a quick rout of old foe Pedro Martinez. And when Mariano Rivera got the final out, it was ecstasy in the Bronx for George Steinbrenner’s go-for-broke bunch.
What a way for manager Joe Girardi and Co. to christen their $1.5 billion ballpark: One season, one World Series crown — the team’s first since taking three straight from 1998-2000.
“The Yankees won. The world is right again,” team president Randy Levine said.
The season certainly ended a lot better than it started — with a steroids scandal involving A-Rod, followed by hip surgery that kept him out until May.
“My teammates and coaches and organization stood right next to me. And now we stand together as world champs,” said Rodriguez, who admitted using steroids from 2001-03 while with Texas. “We’re going to enjoy it, and we’re going to party!”
For Chase Utley and the Phillies, it was a frustrating end to another scintillating season. Philadelphia fell two wins short of becoming the first NL team to repeat as World Series champions since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.
Utley tied Reggie Jackson’s record with five home runs in a Series. But Ryan Howard’s sixth-inning shot came too late to wipe away an untimely slump that included 13 strikeouts, also a Series mark.
Meanwhile, Phillies pitchers rarely managed to slow Matsui and the Yankees’ machine.
“I told them that I loved the way they played. We’re fighters and never quit,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We want to keep what we got as far as attitude and chemistry.”
For Girardi, a three-time Yankees champion as a player, it was the fulfillment of a mission. When he succeeded Joe Torre in October 2007, Girardi chose uniform No. 27, putting his quest on his back for all to see. His tenure didn’t start out so well, with New York missing the playoffs in its final season at old Yankee Stadium following 13 consecutive appearances.
“To be able to deliver this to the Boss, the stadium that he created and the atmosphere he has created around here is very gratifying for all of us,” Girardi said.
This championship came eight years to the day that the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona on Luis Gonzalez’s broken-bat single off Rivera.
Steinbrenner spent billions trying to win another title. At long last, his team did.
Fittingly, it was dedicated to the 79-year-old owner, who has been in declining health and didn’t make the trip from his home in Tampa, Fla.
Still, his presence was felt.
“Boss, this is for you,” the giant video screen in center field flashed during postgame ceremonies while his son, Hal, the team’s managing general partner, accepted the championship trophy.
For the Four Amigos, it was ring No. 5.
Jorge Posada, Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera came up together through the minors and were cornerstones for those four titles in five years starting in 1996.
Now, all on the other side of age 35, they have another success to celebrate Friday. And surely they remember the familiar parade route up Broadway.
“It’s an honor for me to win a championship with those guys. They are Yankee legends,” Teixeira said.
Hey there, Babe and Yogi, Mr. October and Joltin’ Joe — you’ve got company. Teixeira, CC Sabathia and a new generation of Yankees have procured their place in pinstriped lore.
“We made it look easy, but it wasn’t easy,” Jeter said.
The Yankees bolted from the dugout even before second baseman Robinson Cano scooped up Shane Victorino’s grounder and threw to first for the final out. Moments later, Joba Chamberlain and Nick Swisher led a lap around the warning track, carrying flags that read “2009 World Series champions.”
Players saluted fans, then sprayed bubbly behind the mound — the same sort of celebration Philadelphia enjoyed last year after beating Tampa Bay.
“We think we can be back here again and again. We have a great squad,” Phillies closer Brad Lidge said.
While nine years between titles is hardly a drought for most teams, it was almost an eternity in Yankeeland.
New York’s eight seasons without a championship was the third-longest stretch for the Yankees since their first title, following gaps of 17 (1979-95) and 14 (1963-76) years.
The 37-year-old Pettitte, working on three days’ rest, extended major league records with his 18th postseason win and sixth to end a series. He also became the first pitcher to start and win the clincher in all three postseason rounds.
Jackson’s three homers in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers made the Yankees champs in ’77. On this November night, Matsui, playing perhaps his final game in pinstripes, delivered a sublime performance that made Mr. October proud.
“It’s awesome,” Matsui said through a translator. “Unbelievable. I’m surprised myself.”