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1978 American League East tie-breaker game: Wikis

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The 1978 American League East tie-breaker game was played between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts on October 2, 1978.

Both the Yankees and Red Sox finished the 1978 season tied for first place in the American League East with identical 99–63 records, necessitating an additional one-game playoff. The Red Sox were the home team by virtue of a coin toss. The playoff was counted as a regular-season game for statistical purposes.

Contents

Background

The one-game playoff marked the final chapter of a dramatic AL East race that the Boston Red Sox had once led by 10 games. The Yankees, beset by injuries in the first half, had fallen to fourth place in the division. They had fired their combustible manager Billy Martin, but trailed Boston by 14 1/2 games by mid-July. However, New York finished the season on a 39-14 run, including a four-game sweep of Boston in Fenway Park in early September. The Yankees outscored the Red Sox by a composite score of 42-9, and the series was dubbed "The Boston Massacre" by the sports press. By the end of the four games, the two teams were tied for first place. The Yankees took the AL East lead 3 days later, and did not lose it until the final Sunday of the season. Holding a 1-game lead with 7 games to play, New York finished on a 6-1 run. However, Boston was a perfect 7-0, enabling them to tie the Yankees after 162 games. After New York lost to the Cleveland Indians on October 1, the Fenway Park video screen flashed the happy news: "THANK YOU RICK WAITS, GAME TOMORROW."

Bucky Dent's home run

The playoff game is famous for Bucky Dent's unlikely 3-run home run in the top of the seventh inning. Trailing 2–0 in the seventh on the strength of a homer by Carl Yastrzemski and an RBI single by Jim Rice, the Yankees had been held to 2 hits through six innings. With one out in the 7th, Chris Chambliss and Roy White both singled, and pinch hitter Jim Spencer flew out. Dent then hit a flyball that cleared the Green Monster wall in left field to give the Yankees a 3–2 lead. Described as a "shocking blast" by the Sporting News, the home run silenced the Fenway Park crowd. For the light-hitting Dent, it was just his fifth home run of the 1978 season. It sealed Dent's reputation among Yankee fans, while inspiring the permanent nickname "Bucky Fucking Dent" in Massachusetts.[1]

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Later in the game

Torrez was taken out of the game, but Boston reliever Mike Stanley allowed successive doubles by Mickey Rivers and Thurman Munson. In the eighth inning, a home run by Reggie Jackson made the score 5–2. The Red Sox cut New York's lead to just one run in the bottom of the eighth against closer Rich Gossage, on RBI singles by Fred Lynn and Yastrzemski. But the Yankees would hold off the Red Sox, thanks in part to a head's-up defensive play by right fielder Lou Piniella with one out in the bottom of the ninth. With a Boston baserunner on first, Piniella was blinded by the late afternoon sun and could not see an high flyball hit by Jerry Remy, but he assumed a nonchalant stance and pretended to field the play normally. When the baseball bounced in front of him, Piniella was able to spear it. Crucially, his ploy had allowed the baserunner (Rick Burleson) to only advance to second base, instead of third. When 1978 MVP Jim Rice followed with a deep fly to the outfield, Burleson could only move up to third base instead of scoring the tying run.

Batting with two out and two men on, Carl Yastrzemski, who'd driven in 2 of Boston's 4 runs, made the game's final out. New York had held on to win, 5–4. Ron Guidry improved his record to 25-3, while Mike Torrez took the loss. Torrez had been a starter on the 1977 World Champion Yankees, before signing with Boston as a free agent.

Line score

October 2, 1978 – Fenway Park, Boston Massachusetts
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 1 0 5 8 0
Boston Red Sox 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 4 11 0

WP: Ron Guidry (25-3)  LP: Mike Torrez (16-13)  SV: Rich Gossage (27)  
HRs:  NYYBucky Dent, Reggie Jackson  BOSCarl Yastrzemski

[2] [3]

Starting lineups

New York Yankees

  1. Mickey Rivers (CF)
  2. Thurman Munson (C)
  3. Lou Piniella (RF)
  4. Reggie Jackson (DH)
  5. Graig Nettles (3B)
  6. Chris Chambliss (1B)
  7. Roy White (LF)
  8. Brian Doyle (2B)
  9. Bucky Dent (SS)

Boston Red Sox

  1. Rick Burleson (SS)
  2. Jerry Remy (2B)
  3. Jim Rice (RF)
  4. Carl Yastrzemski (LF)
  5. Carlton Fisk (C)
  6. Fred Lynn (CF)
  7. Butch Hobson (DH)
  8. George Scott (1B)
  9. Jack Brohamer (3B)

[4]

Aftermath

For the third straight year, the Yankees went on to face the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. The Yankees won the best-of-five series for their third consecutive pennant. New York defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series to win their second championship in a row, and 22nd overall.

Quotes

Deep to left! Yastrzemski will not get it, it's a home run! A three-run home run by Bucky Dent, and the Yankees now lead it by a score of 3-2!
Bill White, Yankees television announcer, calling Bucky Dent's 7th-inning home run.
Torrez in trouble, got a big out on the pinch-hitter Spencer. Mike is set. Here's the pitch...There's a drive toward left! And Yastrzemski will...watch it go into the screen! And the Yankees lead, 3-2!
Jim Woods, Red Sox radio announcer, calling Dent's home run.
I didn't know I had hit a homer until I saw the umpire at first signaling "home run" with his hand. I couldn't believe it... I dreamed someday I would hit a home run to win something.
Bucky Dent, describing his go-ahead home run.
It was an insurance run, so I hit it to the Prudential building.
Reggie Jackson, describing his own 8th-inning home run.

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