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Ordinarily, I get suspicious when people talk about destiny in sports. Logic and experience teach you that championships are the product of talent and execution, not some predetermined plan.

But there are times in this life that strain the disbelief of the most hardened cynic.

By now, everyone knows the story of Joe and Frank Torre -- how Joe, the Yankees' manager, spent the past few months trying to get to his first World Series while Frank, his older brother, lay in a Manhattan hospital bed waiting for a new heart.

Joe did get to the World Series. Then, after falling behind by two games, his Yankees began to turn the Series around. They won three in a row in Atlanta, and a lot of little things began to go their way, things that had people wondering if, in fact, there might be someone up there watching over them.

When Joe arrived back in New York on Friday morning, the telephone rang. It was a doctor the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. After 72 days of waiting, Frank was finally going to get his heart transplant.

Dr. Eric Rose, who did the surgery, called it "serendipitous". Torre's sister, Rae, referred to the circumstances as "mystical and magical." His other sister, Marguerite, a nun and Catholic school principal, told her students their prayers had finally been answered.

At any rate, on Saturday night Frank Torre watched from his hospital bed, his heart pumping with joy and pride, as his brother's team beat the Braves in Game Six, 3-2, to capture the World Series.

It all seemed like something out of a TV movie -- and though I hesitate to say so, a lot like destiny.

"I have wondered about that," Joe Torre said afterward. "But once you think that, you stop working at it. The people who made this happen were John Wetteland, Cecil (Fielder), Bernie Williams.

"Everyone had a piece of it," he said. "Every player on our 25-man roster helped us win a game this year. I'm not sure how many people can say that.

"We went through some tough times. We watched our lead shrink from 12 to three games. I remember telling one of my coaches, 'This could be the best thing that ever happens to us.' "

It helped prepare his Yanks for the long, trying postseason, in which they kept putting themselves into difficult situations and then battling their way out of them.

After the Braves won the first two games with ease, one Atlanta columnist said they could have held their own with the 1927 Yankees, generally regarded as the best team in baseball history.

It was a bit of a reach at the time. Now, it seems utterly laughable. The Braves had a talented lineup, a very good pitching staff, but there's no longer any doubt which was the better TEAM.

Once the Yanks got the Series back home, they went for the kill. They won in the same methodical fashion that had characterized so many of their victories this season.

They moved to an early lead with some timely hitting, most notably the RBI triple by Joe Girardi. They got a solid, if unremarkable, five innings from the starter, and an out apiece from a couple of middle relievers.

Then they turned it over to Mariano Rivera for two innings and, finally, Wetteland for the ninth. It was a signature Yankee triumph -- crisp, efficient and nerve-wracking right to the end.

"It was absolute anxiety," Wetteland said. "It was kind of fitting, like a lot of my innings this year."

After stitching in Frank Torre's new heart, the doctors said he could watch the game on TV Saturday. His younger, more vigorous heart -- taken from a 28-year-old Bronx man who had died of a brain hemorrhage -- was better equipped to cope with the tension of a World Series game.

It's a good thing, because the Braves did not go quietly in the ninth.

Andruw Jones struck out, but Ryan Klesko and Terry Pendleton singled to put runners at the corners. After Luis Polonia struck out on a high fastball, Marquis Grissom singled to make it 3-2.

Now it was Mark Lemke, the pesky Braves second baseman who has had so many big hits in the postseason. Don Zimmer, the Yankees' veteran bench coach, turned to Torre in the dugout.

"Don't worry about it," Zimmer said. "This one's for Frank."

Lemke ran the count to 3-2. He fouled a pitch near the Atlanta dugout. Third baseman Charlie Hayes just barely missed catching it before tumbling into the Braves' dugout. On Wetteland's next pitch, Lemke hit another foul pop-up and Hayes squeezed this one.

The celebration was on. As the Yankees joined the huge pile in front of home plate, you saw the faces of men who had waited so long for this moment: Zimmer, Wade Boggs, Fielder, and of course, Torre.

"This is a dreamland," Torre said. "Everything that's happened this last 24, 48 hours has been unbelievable. I thought about Frank at the end, but I think I ran out of tears in the Baltimore series."

Earlier in the day, Torre said he hadn't allowed himself to get emotional about his team. But it came flowing out after the clincher. The Yanks were a team to embrace. In the year of the home run, they didn't win by bludgeoning teams with the long ball. They won with solid team play and steady pitching.

They won the Series despite hitting .216 as a team, and hitting just two home runs. You could have picked a dozen MVPs.

"We're not going to rate up there as far as the power," Torre said. "We did whatever we needed to do to win. The thing I enjoyed most about this team was its selflessness. The only number these people cared about was the number of 'W's we had.

"We have," he said, "a lot of heart."

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