1973-1979 : My Athletes of the Year

by Rich Monetti 18 days ago in culture

A Look Back at the 70s

1973-1979 : My Athletes of the Year

Yankee Stadium Photo by Eric Beato

Photo by Jim Accordino

1973 : Bobby Murcer

1973 was my first year watching sports. The second Yankee game I ever attended was versus the Royals in July. Bobby Murcer his three home run into the Bleachers, where I sat with my brother, father and grandfather. I knew the record was four in a game, and the stadium sat perched for history. But Bobby weakly ground back to the pitcher. The Yankees did win 5-1 on the heels of Mel Stottlemyre’s arm, and Bobby Murcer easily earned his place. But the fireworks weren't over yet. After the game, two drunk Royal fans who were sitting right next to us, jumped over the wall and went after Murcer. The cops dispatched the duo as easily as the 1973 Orioles did the Yankees.

1974 : Elliot Maddox

1974 Home of the Yankees

Photo by Rudi Riet

Elliot Maddox came out of nowhere in 1974 and batted .303. He replaced Bobby Murcer in centerfield and led the Yankees into first place after trailing Boston by seven games in August. A mid-September two game lead did not hold up and Baltimore came out on top again. 1975 saw Maddox injured, 1976 didn't yield much either and then he was gone. Good things were on the way for the Yankees, though.

1975 : John Mendenhall

Photo by Bari D

After the 1974 Season, the Yankees were supposed to follow up with a pennant, but the high hopes did not pan out. In basketball, The Knicks were done as a dynasty, and I wasn't really into hockey yet. The Giants were far from there either. But a 5-9 season did offer some hope, and the same goes for the ferocious defense that the Giants trotted out every Sunday. Harry Carson, Spider Lockhart, Brad Van Pelt, Jack Gregory and Brian Kelly, but at the heart of the blue, was John Mendenhall….

1976 : Chris Chambliss

Photo by Shinya Suzuki

1976 is a very tough one. Thurman Munson was the MVP, and the Yankees return to the post season solidified what we already knew. The Captain was a leader who we all wanted to be like. But Chris Chambliss, Chris Chambliss… The first baseman probably hit the second most historic home run in Yankee history and the scooter was a soaring. “He hits one deep to right center. That ball is… outta here. The Yankees win the pennant. Holy cow, Chris Chambliss on one swing…” I don't think I really have a choice.

1977 : Mickey Rivers

Photo by John Rice

1977 is another tough one. Munson, Nettles, Sparkly Lyle and I guess Reggie Jackson. But every game exploded when Mick the Quick stepped into the Batters Box - even if he hobbled to the plate. He's the only baseball player I've ever seen who could score from first on a hit and run single. At the same time, the wit was also quick. After Reggie boasted he had a 160 IQ, Mickey was ready with a classic Bronx Zoo retort. “What - out of a thousand.” So much fun and joy he gave us - especially when he came up big in the ALCS versus the Royals.

1978 : Ron Guidry

Photo by Benjamin Kabak

On October 2, 1978 Bucky Dent hit the greatest home run in Yankee history, but Ron Guidry is an easy choice. There wasn’t much reason for hope as the Yankees dug a 14 game hole whole that summer. On the other hand, every fifth day Guidry reminded us there was a chance. His slider was un-hittable and gave us the closest thing we were ever going to see to God. The high point happened on June 17 when Guidry struck out 18, and for those Met fans who think the rhythmic two strike clap began with Dwight Gooden, you’re wrong. The tradition began that night, and the frenzy going forward was thrilling. Of course, it was only fitting that Gator got his 25th win on two days rest at Fenway, and we can certainly thank Bucky for that.

1979 : John Davidson

Photo by Rich Mitchell

1979 is not Cliff Johnson. He broke Goose’s Gossage’s thumb and so much for a threepeat. Instead, I got a thrilling run to the Stanley Cup Finals on the pads of John Davidson. Hockey was slow to come to me, though. My Dad was a Ranger fan, and I occasionally watched. But it was the Islanders that actually got me started. They beat the Rangers in ’75, then overcame a 3-0 deficit against Pittsburgh and forced a game seven against Philly after falling behind 3-0 again. Still, I stayed on the sidelines, and by chance, I watched the Islanders lose an epic game seven to Toronto. I was hooked. But I stuck with my lineage, and it worked out well since the young Ranger team showed much promise. So much so that they found themselves in the conference finals against the mighty Islanders. Now, this was before cable, and I only saw the two losses on the Island. But Marv Albert on the radio was almost as good as anyone else on TV and envisioning all those saves added to JD’s aura. I actually felt bad for the Islanders second straight heartbreaking loss (and I would pay dearly for it later). Potvin Sucks, the crosstown victory soon took a back seat to the dynastic Canadians. Davidson's mastery gave the Rangers game one and a two goal advantage in game two. Unfortunately, the heady Ranger start soon went up in smoke, and 39 years hit the big 4-0. Not to worry, JD skating around with a Stanley Cup had to be around the corner. Yeah, not quite.

Rich Monetti
Rich Monetti
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