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A Look at the 1978 New York Yankees

The Yankees' 22nd World Championship came after a large deficit and a lot of headaches

By Clyde E. DawkinsPublished 7 months ago 5 min read
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Nowadays, there's a stigma among fans of the New York Yankees that we don't see to know a lot about hardship. We're entitled. The team's entitled. We've never known what it's like to really struggle. The team is currently in a pennant and championship drought that has now lasted 14 seasons, but the people making these comments forget that the Yankees have struggled like this before. The Bronx Bombers won back-to-back championships in 1961 and 1962, but after that came a lot of unsuccessful seasons--14 of them, to be exact. The drought ended in 1977 when the Yankees won over the Dodgers, and it looked like the Bronx Bombers were truly back.

Then 1978 happened, and boy was it rocky.

Billy Martin was the team's manager entering that season, and we all know how he and George Steinbrenner got on. I swear, that had to be the most infamous (and, at times, hilarious) love-hate relationship of all time. Not just in sports--of all time. The team was a mess; Martin was getting into it with Mr. October, the former ended up out as Yankees manager, and the team was 14 games behind barely after the All-Star Break. After Dick Howser lost his only game as manager, Bob Lemon took over, and that ended up resurrecting the Yankees. As I said, the Yankees were 14 games back of the Boston Red Sox at one point. Yet after that, the Yankees went on a huge winning tear, including crushing the Red Sox in a four game set in Fenway that would be forever known as the "Boston Massacre."

The Yankees actually went from being 14 down to 3.5 games up in just over two months. The Red Sox managed to make up for that deficit in the final days, and as a result, both teams ended the regular season with identical 99-63 records. Which brings us to this man:

The man, the myth, the legend: Bucky Dent

This man needs no introduction, but I'll give him one anyway. Russell Earl O'Dey, but we all know him by his more familiar name, Bucky Dent. On this day, 45 years ago, the Yankees and Red Sox faced off in Game 163 at Fenway Park. The pitching matchup was Mike Torrez for the Red Sox and Ron "Gator" Guidry for the Yankees, but the Yankees trailed 2-0 after six innings. Then Bucky Dent made his appearance, and with one swing, one beautiful swing, everything change. Dent's shot over the monster made it 3-2 Yankees, Mr. October himself homered, and another run was scored later to make it 5-2. Boston added two to cut their deficit to one, but the Yankees held on and won the tiebreaker--their 100th win of the season.

45 years have passed; even now, Bucky Dent's name comes with that added expletive in the middle from Red Sox fans, as that was just another memorable negative from Boston's Curse of the Bambino. The Yankees won the AL East and went on to face the AL West Champion Kansas City Royals, with the Yankees taking the series in just four games to reach the World Series. New York's opponents: the Los Angeles Dodgers--the same team who fell to the Yankees in 1977.

The Dodgers took Games One and Two at Dodger Stadium, winning by a combined score of 15-8. The Series shifted to Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, and that saw another paradigm shift. A 5-1 Yankees victory in Game Three, a 4-3 extra inning win for the Yankees in Game Four, and a 12-2 blowout win in Game Five. The Series returned to the City of Angels for Game Six, and that's where the Yankees finished it, a 7-2 win to repeat as champions. The Yankees won their 22nd World Championship in franchise history, and the aforementioned Bucky Dent was named World Series MVP. Dent hit .417 in the Series and drove in seven runs, an absolutely amazing performance.

Before I finish this, there's another Yankee I have to mention.

Another man who needs no introduction, but he will receive one. The man whose mustache is way cooler than the other side of the pillow, is Thurman Munson. His career with the Yankees began on August 8, 1969, and it was in 1976 that Munson was named captain; a season that saw the Yankees reach the World Series, only to be swept by the Big Red Machine. 1977 and 1978 marked the Yankees' second and third straight pennants, which became championships. Munson's only postseason homer in 1978 came in Game Three of the ALCS against Kansas City.

On August 2, 1979, Munson was killed in a plane crash; he was only 32 years of age. Shortly before his untimely passing, Munson had considered retirement, as he had been in the league for almost a decade. He also requested a trade to the then-named Cleveland Indians, as he wanted to be closer to his family in Ohio. It's been said in the past that Munson's passing largely affected the Yankees, who returned to the World Series in 1981, but lost to the Dodgers. It was the Yankees' only World Series appearance between 1979 and 1995, and the Yankees wouldn't win another championship until 1996, with that team consisting of a young shortstop named Derek Sanderson Jeter, who would eventually become the team's first captain since Munson.

The story of the 1978 Yankees is truly the stuff of legends. The only comeback that comes close to rivalling the '78 Yankees has to be the New York Mets in 1969. However, this comeback was one chapter in the most storied and bitter rivalries of all time, and per usual, it was the Yankees who stood standing.

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About the Creator

Clyde E. Dawkins

I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also into film and TV, especially Simpsons and Family Guy.

Feel free to follow my social media:

Twitter - Facebook - Tiktok - Instagram

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  • Alex H Mittelman 7 months ago

    Great reporting l! Good work!

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