The nine years had to seem like an eternity, especially in Steinbrenner years. Since the Yankees had last won the World Series in 2000, the hated Red Sox had celebrated two championships and even the annoying Rays had played for one.
But moments before midnight Wednesday, order was restored.
Closer Mariano Rivera got Shane Victorino to ground out to second for the 27th out of the 7-3 Game 6 victory over the Phillies, and the Yankees began celebrating their 27th championship. Players raced to the mound as new Yankee Stadium erupted with We Are the Champions blaring, followed by New York, New York, then took a victory lap before the championship trophy was presented.
"It's back where it belongs,'' captain Derek Jeter said.
The celebration extended to Tampa, where principal owner George Steinbrenner, whose ailing health was implicit motivation throughout the season, was at home watching with tears in his eyes.
"I talked to him and he was very happy, very relaxed; you know he doesn't get as excited maybe as he used to,'' son Hank Steinbrenner said amid the wet-and-wild clubhouse celebration. "But this one was big for him. Probably more emotional than the others. It was nine years for the Yankees and nine years for him, and that's a very long time.
"For anyone else that might not seem like a long time, but around here it is.''
Commissioner Bud Selig saluted Steinbrenner, 79, during the presentation, as did Yankees manager Joe Girardi and several players.
"Dad, I know you're at home watching with mom, this one is for you,'' son Hal Steinbrenner said. "I think it means everything to him. It's been a while. It's been nine years. I did talk to him today. He was very excited, a little bit nervous like we all were.''
DH Hideki Matsui was named the MVP after driving in a Series record-tying six runs Wednesday and, despite starting only three of the six games, hitting .615 for the Series with three homers and eight RBIs.
The championship was validation for the $206 million-plus the Steinbrenners invested in trying to win. For how general manager Brian Cashman spent it, bringing in top-shelf free agents such as CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett. And for how Girardi, criticized and questioned after the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 years in his 2008 debut season, managed them, from the distraction of Alex Rodriguez's spring training steroids controversy to the pressure of going into the postseason with a major-league-best 103 wins and the favorites label.
"This team, they never stopped fighting,'' said Girardi, who wore the No. 27 to symbolize the quest for the next title.
Jeter talked about how special the championship was. Rodriguez said, "We're gonna party.''
And it wasn't a bad way to christen their new $1.5 billion ballpark.
"This is what the Steinbrenner family has strived for year after year after year and has tried to deliver to the city of New York,'' Girardi said. "George Steinbrenner and his family are champions. To be able to deliver this to the Boss, the stadium he created and the atmosphere he has created around here, is very gratifying for all of us.''
The Phillies, who celebrated as the Rays watched last year, experienced that empty feeling this year, falling short in their bid to become the first back-to-back champions since the 1998-99-2000 Yankees, and the first National League repeaters since the 1975-76 Reds.
"They have a real good team. They definitely deserved to win. They did things right when they had to. We just didn't play as good as we can,'' manager Charlie Manuel said.
"This just makes us more determined to come back again next year. … I'll tell you something, we will be back. As McArthur said, I guess, we will be back. … Our goal is to come back and play again. And hopefully we play the Yankees again.''
Old pro Andy Pettitte provided another signature moment, becoming the 10th pitcher to win two World Series clinchers and the first starter to win all three clinchers in the same postseason, extending his postseason record victory total to 18.
"This is what I came back for,'' Pettitte said. "I wanted to come back here and play in this ballpark in front of these fans.''
Pettitte worked into the sixth, prevailing over Pedro Martinez, who lasted only four innings, which was only slightly longer than the length of his day-before interview session.
The Yankees took a 2-0 lead on Matsui's two-run homer off Martinez into the second deck in the second and extended the lead to 4-1 the next inning. Manuel had lefty J.A. Happ warming but let Martinez face Matsui again with the bases loaded, and it turned out nearly as bad as Matsui laced a single to center that scored two. Manuel went to Happ the next time Matsui was up, but it didn't matter as he lashed a two-run double to make it 7-1.
The Phillies were within four and threatening in the seventh when Damaso Marte got the key out, striking out Chase Utley on a check-swing appeal. Rivera got the final five, including the last one that set off the celebration.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.