Scenes From the 1978 A.L. East Playoff

When Bucky Dent hit his home run to give the Yankees the permanent lead in the 1978 A.L. East playoff game against the Red Sox, Allen Abel of the Toronto Globe and Mail wrote: “For 27 years, the image of that chaotic, desperate afternoon of drama has been cited as the limit of baseball – and sporting – excitement. But now, move over Bobby Thomson. Make room for Bucky Dent. Because his three-run homer came in the seventh and not the ninth inning of yesterday’s heart-stopping, palm-wetting, bladder-constricting playoff game at Fenway Park, the name of the Yankee shortstop may not shine quite as brightly in the tales told by men who are young today, when they grow old.

“They may tell instead of the game’s poignant ending, when Carl Yastrzemski fouled out – the game’s lowest indignity – with the winning run on base. . . . It didn’t even matter who you rooted for, or bet on. For one brilliant, memorable afternoon, the game was all that mattered. This game will matter for a long, long time.”

The Washington Post had a perspective unique to the halls of power found in the nation’s capital: “At Marshall’s West End, a smug Yankee rooter explained the large amount of Red Sox rooters: ‘It’s smart to be a Boston fan in Washington. When you have a job in the government, it doesn’t hurt to have a Harvard connection. To root for the Red Sox, it hints that you might have a Harvard connection instead of Alabama Normal School or whatever.’ ”

“A last minute entry pushing through the door at Marshall’s studied the intense faces pressing against the screen and said, ‘This place looks too hostile, a lot of pinched faces; they look like Boston fans.’

“There were Red Sox on first and third, two outs and the last of the ninth when ‘Yaz’ showed up again at bat. And they were cheering hard in back at the class reunion. Yaz hit a pop fly to third, ending the year, as the fans removed his Red Sox cap saying, ‘It was bad for the Sox, 60 years came down to a half as inning.’ Harry Frazee did it. He sold Babe Ruth to finance ‘No, No, Nanette’ and it’s been downhill since then.’ ”

The Post’s Thomas Boswell wrote:

The trees of New England are tinged with reds and oranges. They might as well be tears. The only tears in New York are tears of relief.

 

The world champion New York Yankees beat the born-to-sorrow Boston Red Sox, 5-4, yesterday in an American League East playoff game as rich and multicolored as the seasonlong battle that preceded it. . . .

 

After singles by Chris Chambliss and Roy White, the Boston starter, Mike Torrez, faced Dent with two out in the seventh. “Mike looked great,” said [Rick] Burleson. All we needed to do was get Dent out, and we were into the eight inning with a two-run lead. I thought we’d win for sure.”

 

When Dent fouled the second pitch off his foot, and hopped out of the batters box in pain, the little short-stop hardly looked like a candidate for hen. As Dent was administered a pain-killing spray, on-deck hitter Mickey Rivers who had earlier forgotten his sunglasses and missed an outfield fly, suddenly became uncharacteristically observant. He saw a crack in Dent’s bat.

 

“He got me another model of the same style bat,” said Dent. “I was looking for a certain pitch – a slider up, and I got it. I never saw it after I hit it.”

An exchange in the Yankees’ clubhouse afterward: “It’s the biggest hit I ever had in my life,” crowed Dent. “It was like a fairy tale.”

“Yeah, what a blast,” said Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, reaching for Dent’s hand in the madhouse locker room.

“You,” said the jubilant Dent, pointing his finger at Steinbrenner, “would have shipped me out if I’d hit into a double play.”

“Oh,” Steinbrenner replied with a grin, “maybe not.”

And, Lou Piniella on his sunfield play on a Jerry Remy lined single in the ninth inning, keeping the Red Sox from scoring at least one run: “I never saw it. I just said, ‘Don’t panic. Don’t wave your damn arms and let the runner know you’ve lost it.’

“I never saw it until the ball hit about eight feet in front of me. It was just pure luck that I could get my glove on the ball and catch it before it went past me. If it had gone to the wall, those two scooters would still be running around the bases.”

Published in: on April 19, 2009 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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