Yankee Hero Aaron Boone Needs Open Heart Surgery

It's pretty amazing how one moment can so dramatically change the fortunes of so many people. When Aaron Boone tore ligaments in his knee before the 2004 season, it set in motion a series of events that many would equate with the downfall of the New York Yankees.

Boone, of course, hit the home run that won Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS and sent the Yankees to the World Series, assuring him a spot on the hot corner for the 2004 season. After his knee injury, though, the Yankees went looking for a replacement and wound up dealing Alfonso Soriano to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez. Neither Rodriguez's travails nor his exploits need to be recounted here, but since that trade the Yankees have won just one playoff series while the Red Sox, vanquished in 2003, went on to win two World Series titles.

The reasons for the divergent paths go far beyond the switch from Boone to Rodriguez, but it is impossible not to look at that moment as a crucial one in the history of the franchise. Boone's home run was the last great moment for the Joe Torre Yankees, and, perhaps, the last moment when the team was willing to settle for hamburger when filet mignon was available.  

Boone never recovered his game following the knee surgery and two subsequent operations, and lost a chance to capitalize on his moment in the spotlight. He's hung around the game, although his career may have reached its end point on Wednesday when he announced that he needs open heart surgery.

“I’ve had a pretty good run, and I wouldn’t really change anything,” he said. “I’ve definitely had my share of injuries, but I’ve embraced that and it’s part of it.

None of this has anything to do with the 2009 Yankees, of course. It's just a moment to stop and remember that for all the Mantles, Ruths and Jeters that make up Yankee lore, it's often a Don Larsen, Bucky Dent or Boone that leaves you with the lasting memories. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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