When asked how the Yankees can overtake the Boston Red Sox in a wild-card game that could extend or end a season that has had countless ups and downs, Bucky Dent has some tongue-in-cheek advice. Thi: “Use Mickey Rivers’s bat.”
That move worked for Dent 43 years ago; Who can say it won’t be Tuesday night for the Yankees?
Like the current team, a minor game at Fenway Park determined whether Dent and the 1978 Yankees would continue their season. At the time it was not a playoff game, but rather a tiebreaker for the 163rd regular season game, which was made necessary after the Yankees erased Boston’s 14-game division stretch. There were no wild cards then, and yet the Yankees and Red Sox found themselves in a do-or-die situation on October 2.
Ultimately the Red Sox pulled the short straw. Dent’s seventh inning, two-out, three-run homer from Mike Torrez – launched with a reverse lent lumber – was at the center of Boston’s demise. The green monster-clearing blast put the Yankees 3-2 up and silenced the home crowd.
“It felt great,” Dent said, admitting that he didn’t realize the ball was gone until the umpire gave the signal. “I remember running home and I could hear Yankee fans cheering.”
The Yankees won the game 5-4. Dent’s homer inspired Red Sox manager Don Zimmer to coin an obsolete nickname for Dent, giving him a new middle name for baseball fans in New England. All these years removed, Dent still considers the obscene moniker a “badge of honour.”
But he wasn’t the only Yankee central to the downfall of his enemies. Reggie Jackson provided insurance with a homer, and a two-run six and a third inning tackle after Ron Guidry sought to start on three days’ rest. Rich “Goose” Gossage allowed two earned runs in a two- and two-thirds relief innings, but he held the line and propelled a Karl Yastrzemsky pop fly to end the game and complete Boston’s epic collapse. did.
Fast forward to 2021, and the Yankees are about to play another win-or-takes-home game at Fenway. The situation isn’t quite as it was in 1978, but Dent sees the similarities and knows what the modern Yankees are in for.
Dent recalls the seriousness of the game 163. Players tried to stay loose during batting practice, but as the game progressed, a heightened level of intensity could be felt. “It was one of the greatest games I’ve played. It’s the most pressing game I’ve ever played in my entire athletic career,” Dent said. And yet, he insisted that he felt no panic during his most famous at-bat.
“I wasn’t nervous. You have that adrenaline, and you know it’s a big moment, but you just block out all that stuff and focus on what you’re trying to do to get a base hit.” Let’s focus,” Dent said. “I didn’t really think about the negative things.”
Guidry, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 1978, reflected on the tiebreaker with similar bravery – and was certain most of his teammates would too.
“I’ve never panicked,” he said frankly. “You have to understand the characters that we had on that team.”
Now Gerrit Cole is the ace of the Yankees With a Cy Young case. He will rubber-toe opposite Nathan Iovaldi in Boston. Cole has set up mixed results against the Red Sox this year, but his performance on Tuesday will be the only one one will remember.
Guidry said the Yankees’ current No. 1 starter needs to “go out with that mindset, ‘I’m Gerrit Cole, get me if you want me. And then you let the chips fall where they might. “
“Look, you either do or you don’t,” Guidry said when asked if he thought about the bet in hand in 1978. “No. If you start thinking about it, yes, you will put pressure on yourself. But my job was to keep the game close. That’s all I tried to convince myself to do. You keep the game close.” “Someone gets a big hit, it should work. And if you don’t, you gave it your best. That’s all. Like I said, I do or don’t. There’s no in-between.”
With Dent’s Homer and Guidry’s left hand, the plan went as smoothly as the Yankees could have hoped. After defeating their fanatics, the 1978 Yankees defeated the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, with Dent being named the World Series Most Valuable Player.
“If we hadn’t won everything, maybe all these things I accomplished wouldn’t have meant that much,” Guidry said.
The postseason is a crapshoot, and this Yankees season has been a relentless roller coaster. The ride could stop in Boston on Tuesday, or it could end in a few weeks’ time with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes.
No matter how long it is, Guidry and Dent plan to move in together. And for the actual advice after? Do not let work get out of hand in enemy territory.
“You just have to be locked in,” Dent said. “You have to be in the moment of the whole game. Whenever you’re playing in a game like this, you can’t drift.
“Any mistake can cost you the game. This is how our team did its business.”