From 1949 through 1953, the New York Yankees won five World Series titles in a row, eclipsing their own mark of four straight championships, set from 1936-39.

The next spring, 1954, Topps issued a classic set, the first in their stable to feature two player images — one large head shot and one smaller action figurine style shot. It would become a familiar tableau over the next several seasons, and the 1954 issue of course featured several heroes from among the reigning champs — White Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, and Series hero Billy Martin.

The glaring omission, of course, was Mickey Mantle, a Bowman exclusive at the time. It was the first time Topps missed out on The Mick, and maybe the whiff messed up New York’s mojo.

I mean …

Over the next five decades, the Yanks would return to the Fall Classic fourteen times, including their sorta surprise victory in 1996. As great as the Yankees were during that long run, though, the best they could muster in terms of streaks were two separate two-year runs — 1961-62 and 1977-78.

After a one-year hiatus from late October ball, though, the Bombers crushed the field during a dominating 1998 run which saw them post a 114-48 regular season record and a postseason romp over the Rangers, Indians, and Padres en route to another title.

Same story in 1999 … even though they were less dominant during the summer, New York actually lost one fewer October game than in 1998 as they claimed their third crown in four seasons.

That left the Bronx faithful feeling pretty good about their team, and like all was right with the world — the Yanks were winning, just like the Yanks were supposed to do.

But … would 2000 be the year they finally won a third consecutive World Series again?

Well, New York still had their Core Four, and any team with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera, along with centerfielder Bernie Williams, had a good shot to do great things.

And they had a resurgent Roger Clemens, fan favorite Paul O’Neill, and strong peripheral contributors like reliever Jeff Nelson and starter Orlando Hernandez in pinstripes, as well.

But somehow, as June turned hot and the game raced toward the July All-Star break, the Yankees found themselves looking up … and behind.

After a 13-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers on June 28, the Yanks stood three games behind the A.L. East-leading Toronto Blue Jays and just a half game ahead of their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox. If they weren’t careful, they would squander their streak.

So …

General manager Brian Cashman decided to be more than careful — he decided to be bold.

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The next day, Cashman swung Zach Day, Ricky Ledee, and Jake Westbrook to the Cleveland Indians for slugging — but aging — outfielder David Justice.

It was a lot of talent to give up for a guy who hadn’t played in 150 games since 1993, and only once in that span (1998) had appeared in as many as 140.

But the Yankees didn’t need Justice for 150 games, or even 140.

They needed his bat for half a season … and Justice was happy to oblige.

In 78 games with New York the rest of that summer, Justice lined up in the outfield 60 times and suited up as a DH in 18 games. The results?

.305/.391/.585, 20 home runs, 60 RBI, 43 runs scored

Impressive numbers, but even more importantly, the Yanks went 49-35 the rest of the way, taking over first place on July 7 and never relinquishing their hold on the division.

Their AL Division Series matchup with the Oakland A’s was a hard-fought battle that the Yankees eventually won, three games to two.

And that set up an ALCS showdown with the Seattle Mariners.

With the Yanks up three games to two, the Mariners had the lead in seventh inning of Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, but Jose Vizcaino and Derek Jeter scored singles off Jose Paniagua in the bottom of the frame to bring up Justice with one out.

And the “young” man from Kentucky by way of Atlanta and Cleveland made good, taking Paniagua deep and giving the Yankees a 6-4 lead.

They never looked back.

It was enough propel the Yanks back to the World Series, where they fairly crushed the crosstown Mets, four games to one. And it was enough to garner ALCS MVP honors for David Justice.

And that same month, October of 2000, Fleer issued an Update to their fun new set, the one that would help usher in a whole new era of retro-card love — Fleer Tradition.

Just like their base set of the issue, the 2000 Fleer Fleer Tradition Update cards looked tantalizingly familiar … mouth-wateringly nostalgic … suspiciously, um, Topps-y.

Like, 1954 Topps-y.

And who do you think lined up at card #U107 in the 150-card set, wearing his newly minted Yankees pinstripe?

Yeah, it was David Justice.

The guy who helped the Bombers get off their three-peat snide.


Wow! Wax of the Day

You bet your sweet bippy you can still find 2000 Fleer Tradition Update cards, unopened, on eBay. Why … just take a look at this lot!

That’s eight sealed boxes, in case you’re counting. Check out the full listing right here (affiliate link).

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