Sunday, March 20, 2011

PTWSW #75: The 1978 New York Yankees

Manager: Billy Martin (1), Dick Howser (2), Bob Lemon (3)
Record: 100-63
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Owner: George Steinbrenner
GM: Cedric Tallis
Coaches: Yogi Berra, Art Fowler, Elston Howard, Dick Howser, Clyde King, Gene Michael

Future Hall of Famers: Goose Gossage, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson

All-Stars: Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Lou Piniella, .314
OBP: Willie Randolph, .381
SLG: Reggie Jackson, .477
OPS: Reggie Jackson, .834
2B: Lou Piniella, 34
3B: Mickey Rivers, 8
HR: Reggie Jackson, 27
RBI: Reggie Jackson, 97
BB: Willie Randolph, 82
SB: Willie Randolph, 36

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Ron Guidry, 25 (AL leader)
SO: Ron Guidry, 248
ERA: Ron Guidry, 1.74 (AL leader)
IP: Ron Guidry, 273.2
CG: Ron Guidry, 16
SHO: Ron Guidry, 9 (AL leader)
K/BB: Ron Guidry, 3.44
SV: Goose Gossage, 27 (AL leader)


Oldest Player: Paul Lindblad (b. August 9, 1941)

Youngest Player: Domingo Ramos (b. March 29, 1958)

First to Leave Us: Thurman Munson (d. August 2, 1979)

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Lou Piniella (debut September 4, 1964)

Last in Majors: Goose Gossage (final game August 8, 1994)

First to Play For the Franchise: Roy White (September 7, 1965)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Goose Gossage (September 22, 1989)

Pre-union Team: The 1973 Oakland A's had five: Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Jay Johnstone and Paul Lindblad. Like their ancestors from the '50s, these Yankees built championship rosters with old Athletics.

Reunion Team: The 1981 Oakland Athletics had seven: Brian Doyle, Ed Figueroa, Mike Heath, Cliff Johnson, Mickey Klutts, Jim Spencer and Fred Stanley. If Billy Martin couldn't manage the Yankees, he'd take as many of them with him as he could.


Ron Guidry, AL Cy Young
Chris Chambliss, AL First Base Gold Glove
Graig Nettles, AL Third Base Gold Glove

Season Summary

After a turbulent but successful season in 1977, the Yankees had acquired a new nickname: "The Bronx Zoo." A circus atmosphere seemed to follow the Yankees wherever they went, and even a World Series title wasn't enough to convince some people that this group wasn't on the verge of imploding. Thanks to George Steinbrenner the Yankees were still the best team money could buy, and they didn't sit idly during the offseason. They signed ace relievers Rawly Eastwick and Goose Gossage, and acquired former All-Stars in pitcher Andy Messersmith and first baseman Jim Spencer. All was not well though; Yank manager Billy Martin didn't want Eastwick or Messersmith, and their acquisitions drove a wedge even further between him and the Boss. It wasn't without good reason that Martin opposed the moves; Messersmith was coming off arm surgery, and Eastwick was superfluous with Gossage and Sparky Lyle already in the pen.

The Yankees started the defense of their title solidly enough. Though they had yet to reach first place, they were only a few games behind the standings-topping Red Sox at the end of May. Martin, in a constant power struggle with upper management, decided to use the unwanted Eastwick sparingly; the pitcher got into only eight games before he was traded to the Phillies in mid-June. Messersmith proved to be as undurable as Martin feared, as he only made it into six games before going on the disabled list at the beginning of July. Meanwhile, the Yankees had begun slumping, and by the middle of July they had a double-digit deficit in the AL East race.

On July 23 Martin publicly criticized Steinbrenner and contentious superstar Reggie Jackson, saying "The two of them deserve each other. One's a born liar, the other's convicted." The latter accusation was a reference to Steinbrenner's conviction for illegal political contributions. The next day, after his statement had been widely circulated, Martin realized he'd gone too far and tearfully resigned, citing the need for physical and mental relief. His successor was the more even-keeled Bob Lemon, who'd recently been demoted from manager to scout by the White Sox and had served on the Yankee coaching staff two years earlier.

Whether it was Lemon's calming influence or the players finally reverting to the mean, the Yankees got back into the race on Lemon's watch. Over the next month and a half the Yankees went on a 34-13 run to make it into a first-place tie with the Red Sox, and shortly thereafter they took over sole possession of the top spot. Boston wasn't done yet, though. They went 12-2 over their last 14 games to finish the schedule knotted with the Yankees, forcing a one-game tiebreaker at Fenway Park. The Red Sox held a 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh when banjo-hitting Bucky Dent stepped up to the plate with two out and two men on. To everyone's shock, the shortstop delivered a three-run homer, his fifth round-tripper of the year, to turn the momentum in New York's favor. The Yankees would win by a final score of 5-4 to capture their third straight AL East crown.

For the third time in as many years the Yankees faced the Royals in the ALCS, and for the third time in as many years the Yankees emerged victorious. The only difference this time was that New York defeated Kansas City in a mere four games rather than the maximum five. Over in the National League it was the same story: The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS for the second straight year. Once again the World Series featured that most common of matchups: Yankees vs. Dodgers. After the first two games it looked like the Dodgers were going to avenge last year's loss, as they won them both. Behind their ace Ron Guidry, the Yankees bounced back with a 5-1 victory in Game 3, and Lou Piniella's 10th-inning RBI single tied the Series in Game 4. The next two games were all Yankees, as they won by margins of ten and five runs. Two feeble-sticked middle infielders, Dent and backup second baseman Brian Doyle, got three hits apiece in both contests, and Dent was even named World Series MVP. The Bronx Zoo Yankees now had back-to-back titles, and the 1978 team became the first World Series champion ever to replace their manager mid-season.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
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