Monday, June 28, 2010

1977 World Series

Fourteen years passed before the Yankees and Dodgers met again. Baseball underwent some significant changes in that time. After years of pitching dominance, Major League Baseball lowered the mound to a regulation 10 inches after the 1968 season. Both leagues added two new teams for the '69 season, causing both leagues to split into two six team divisions, with the winners meeting in a League Championship Series prior to the World Series. The AL added two more teams in 1977, by which point the AL was in its fifth year of using the designated hitter, and multi-use, cookie-cutter, Astroturf parks had become home to about a third of baseball's clubs.


Despite all the changes, there was an air of familiarity as the World Series dawned in October. The Dodgers, who had made three World Series appearances since their last meeting with the Yankees, put an end to the Big Red Machine's reign of terror over the National League, outpacing Cincinnati by ten games for the NL West flag then dispensing with Philadelphia in the NLCS.

The Yankees meanwhile were making their second consecutive appearance in the Fall Classic. After faltering through the late sixties and early seventies they returned to the World Series in '76 only to be swept by the mighty Reds. The Yankees went through a soap opera season in '77, winning a three team battle with Boston and Baltimore for the division crown, and fighting a three headed battle amongst their owner, manager, and star slugger on the tabloid backpages throughout the summer. Despite the turmoil, they not only won the division, but knocked Kansas City out of the ALCS for the second consecutive year.

While none of the players had been around long enough to remember past Yankee-Dodger tilts, there were folks in each dugout who had plenty of memories. The Yankees were managed by the combustible Billy Martin, a veteran of four Subway Series against Brooklyn in the fifties. His coaching staff featured Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, who between them faced the Dodgers in ten World Series.

Meanwhile the Dodgers coaching staff featured Junior Gilliam, a veteran of four World Series against the Yankees. Dodgers rookie manager Tommy Lasorda had ties to both organizations. Lasorda succeeded the legendary Walter Alston with four games remaining in the 1976 season. Alston had been the Dodger manager since 1954, dating back to their days in Brooklyn. Three times his clubs faced the Yankees in the Fall Classic, and twice they had emerged victorious. Lasorda made eight appearances as a middling pitcher on those '54 and '55 teams. After washing out with the Athletics in 1956, Lasorda was traded to the Yankees and assigned to their top affiliate in Denver. The next year he was traded back to the Dodgers, spent three more years in their system, then began a career as a scout, minor league manager, coach, and eventually their skipper.

The Series began at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday October 11th. For the Dodgers, longtime ace Don Sutton was on the mound. The Yankees sent lefty Don Gullett to oppose him. Just 26 years old, Gullett was the Yankees' second biggest free agent signing the previous off-season. He broke in with the Reds as a 19 year old in 1970 and was a member of their back-to-back World Series winners in '75 and '76. Arm troubles had prevented Gullett from pitching a full season since 1974, and limited him to just 22 starts in his first season with the Yanks.

Gullett spotted the Dodgers to a 2-0 lead in the first, walking leadoff man Davey Lopes, allowing a triple to Bill Russell, and surrendering a sacrifice fly to Ron Cey. The Yankees got one back in the bottom half, as an RBI single from Chris Chambliss scored Thurman Munson. Gullett settled down from there, shutting the Dodgers out through the eighth. The Yankees tied in the sixth on a solo shot from Willie Randolph, and took the lead in the eighth, when Munson doubled Randolph home.

Given the lead, Martin elected to stick with Gullett rather than summon relief ace and eventual AL Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle. Lyle was coming off an outstanding season, tossing 137 innings of relief to a 2.17 ERA, saving 26 games and winning 13 more. Dusty Baker singled to start the frame, and after Manny Mota flew out, Steve Yeager walked. With the tying run in scoring position Lyle came on, and allowed a game tying single to Lee Lacy. The teams traded zeros into the twelfth, with Lyle retiring eleven in a row after the game tying hit. Randolph led off the bottom of the inning with a double. The Dodgers walked Munson to face light hitting defensive replacement Paul Blair, and the former longtime Oriole delivered a game winning base hit.

Game Two matched Burt Hooton against Catfish Hunter. Hunter fronted the A's rotation as they won three straight titles earlier in the decade, then signed with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the '75 season. Though only 31, Hunter had logged more than 3,000 Major League innings, and they had begun to take their toll upon his arm. He was limited to just 22 starts in '77, but he was a certified big game pitcher and his championship pedigree was considered to be a major influence in putting the Yankees over the top. Hunter couldn't recapture his past magic in Game Two though, lasting only two and a third surrendering five runs on homers to Ron Cey, Steve Yeager, and Reggie Smith. Hooton allowed just six base runners over nine innings, and the Dodgers evened things up with a 6-1 victory.

Two days later in L.A., veteran starters Tommy John and Mike Torrez got the ball for the Dodgers and Yankees respectively. This time, it was the Yankees jumping out to an early lead, riding back-to-back-to-back RBI hits from Munson, Reggie Jackson, and Lou Piniella to a 3-0 lead. The Dodgers drew even in the third on a three run homer from Baker. The following inning, a Mickey Rivers groundout pushed Graig Nettles across with the go-ahead run, and an RBI single from Chambliss the following inning made it 5-3. Torrez shut the Dodgers down the rest of the way, and the Yankees jumped up two games to one.

The Yankees sent Ron Guidry to the mound for Game Four. After appearing briefly in '75 and '76, Guidry established himself as a valuable starter in 1977, his five shutouts portending things to come. Once again, the Yankees gave their starter an early 3-0 lead, as RBIs from Piniella, Nettles, and Bucky Dent chased Dodgers started Doug Rau in the second. Guidry gave two back in the third on a homer by Davey Lopes, but it was all the scoring the Dodgers would do. Reggie Jackson added a home run in the sixth, and Guidry surrendered four hits, three walks, and struck out seven in tossing the Yankees second straight complete game.

With their back against the wall, the Dodgers went back to Sutton in Game Five. A first inning RBI single from Bill Russell gave them an early lead, then they pounded Gullett, Ken Clay, and Dick Tidrow nine more across the middle three frames. The Yankees had a late rally, scoring two in the seventh and two more in the eighth on solo shots from Munson and Jackson, but it wasn't enough, as they fell 10-4.

As the teams returned to New York for Game Six, Reggie Jackson was winding down a tumultuous first season in pinstripes. The prize of the first free agent class the previous winter, George Steinbrenner was hellbent on making a splash by adding Jackson's potent bat and flair for the dramatic to the heart of the Yankee order. Martin preferred Orioles second baseman Bobby Grich, with designs on using him to fill the Yankees gaping hole at shortstop. Per usual, Steinbrenner got his way. The three clashed repeatedly over the course of the season: over Jackson's spot in the batting order, over whether he'd be the right fielder or the designated hitter, over everything. When Martin felt Jackson loafed it fielding a ball during a summer game at Fenway Park, he replaced him mid-inning. The two nearly came to blows in the dugout. Jackson's social awkwardness and desire for attention made him a bit of a misfit in a clubhouse full of gruff personalities, and his spring training interview with Sport magazine, in which he claimed he was "the straw that stirred the drink" and took a swipe at respected team captain Thurman Munson, alienated him from nearly the entire roster.

Despite all that, Jackson entered Game Six doing what he did best: shining on the big stage. His legend began as an A, with a monstrous home run off a Tiger Stadium roof transformer in the 1971 All-Star Game. That fall, in post-season play for the first time, Jackson knocked two more homers in a losing effort in the ALCS. A leg injury suffered in the ALCS the following year kept Jackson out of the '72 Series, but he returned with homers in the '73 Series against the Mets, the '74 Series against the Dodgers, and the '75 ALCS against the Red Sox.

When Jackson stepped into the batters with one on and no one out in the fourth inning of Game Six, he had already homered twice over the Series' first five games. With a chance to clinch, the Yankees were trailing 3-2, a Chris Chambliss home run not enough to overcome Steve Garvey's two run triple and Reggie Smith's solo shot. As he so often did though, Jackson game through when it mattered most. He took Hooton's first offering and launched it into the right field stands.

Jackson came up the following inning. The Yankees were now leading 5-3. Willie Randolph was on first with two outs and Elias Sosa had replaced Hooton on the mound. Jackson took Sosa' first offering and deposited into the right field seats to make it 7-3 Yankees. Three innings later, Jackson led off against Dodger fireman Charlie Hough. Jackson jumped on the knuckleballer's first pitch, blasting into the black bleacher seats in dead center field. In doing so, Jackson joined Babe Ruth as the only men to hit three homers in a World Series game. Torrez gave one back in the ninth to make it 8-4, but when he squeezed a pop bunt of the bat off Lee Lacy for the game's final out, the Yankees had their first championship in fifteen years.

1963 World Series

As I said at the conclusion of our post about it, the end of the 1956 World Series marked the end of the Golden Age of New York City baseball. Over a ten year span from 1947 through 1956, the only World Series not to feature at least one New York team was 1948. There were seven Subway Series, six between the Yankees and Dodgers, one between the Yankees and Giants. The Yankees won seven championships, the Dodgers and Giants one each.

Taking it back to 1936, New York was represented in 16 of 21 World Series, the three clubs combining for twenty six total appearances, including seven Subway Series between the Yankees and Dodgers and three more between the Yankees and Giants. New York City was home to the World Series champion fifteen times in those twenty one years.

The Yankees returned to the World Series in 1957, but after years of finishing second to the Dodgers, Milwaukee finally captured the NL pennant. The Dodgers slipped to third, the Giants to sixth. And as Jay detailed in Friday night's preview, there was a movement afoot with Gotham's two NL clubs. On August 19th, Giants owner Horace Stoneham announced his team would move to San Francisco for the 1958 season. On October 8th, one year to the day after Larsen's perfect game, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley - who was instrumental in convincing Stoneham to choose San Francisco over Minneapolis, announced that the Dodgers would move to Los Angeles for 1958. Unlike Giants fans, the Brooklyn faithful didn't even get a chance to say goodbye.

Following the '56 season, the Dodgers did the unthinkable, trading Jackie Robinson to the hated Giants. He retired rather than report. On January 28, 1958, just a month shy of reporting to spring training, Roy Campanella was paralyzed following a car accident on Long Island. The Dodgers moved west without two of the cornerstones of their Brooklyn dynasty.

By the time the Yankees and Dodgers met again in the 1963 World Series, it had been more than three years since Ebbets Field had been reduced to a pile of rubble. The principle members of the Brooklyn dynasty had moved on. Don Newcombe was shipped to the Reds midway through the Dodgers' first LA season. Pee Wee Reese too moved west with the Dodgers, spent one season as a part time player, was released at the end of the year, and retired. Carl Erskine was finished midway through 1959. Thirty eight years old and his skills in steep decline, Carl Furillo was released a month into the 1960 season; a month later Clem Labine was traded to Detroit. Gil Hodges and Roger Craig were taken by the Mets in the expansion draft after the 1961 season, starting a Metropolitan fascination with the Brooklyn club that continues to this day. Duke Snider followed them back to New York just prior to the start of the '63 season.

The last remaining tie to the Brooklyn pennant winners was 1955 World Series hero Johnny Podres. Thirty one years old by the start of the 1963 Fall Classic, the southpaw was the Dodgers number three starter. The two men in front of him in the rotation were dominant workhorses who had cut their teeth as teenagers in Brooklyn. Sandy Koufax made his debut with the 1955 Dodgers and was joined by Don Drysdale the following spring. Koufax didn't see the field in neither the '55 nor the '56 Series; Drysdale pitched two mop up innings at the end of Game Four in '56. The two were still developing as the club moved west, but by 1963 they were the most dominant duo in baseball, combining for 44 wins in 82 starts, covering 626.1 innings pitched, 37 complete games, 14 shutouts, striking out 557 batters, and allowing just one baserunner per inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankee dynasty had continued in the intervening years. After dropping the '57 Series to Milwaukee, they won a rematch in 1958. The club slumped to a third place finish the following year, missing yet another World Series encounter with the Dodgers, who in just their second season in L.A. equaled the number of championships they won in 74 years in Brooklyn. In 1960 the Yankees returned to the Fall Classic, losing Game Seven in heart breaking fashion on a walkoff homer by Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski. The loss spurred the club to end their twelve year relationship with seventy year old manager Casey Stengel.

Stengel was replaced by Ralph Houk. Dubbed "The Major" following his decorated Army career during World War II, Houk was one of several anonymous back ups to Yogi Berra before the emergence of Elston Howard, appearing in just 91 games over an eight year career from 1947 through 1954. Houk doubled as a coach during the final two years of his career, then spent the next three years managing the organization's top farm club at Denver. He returned to the Major League staff for the final three years of Stengel's career, and as the Yankees entered the 1963 World Series, they were aiming for their third championship in as many seasons under Houk.


Though not quite as much as the Dodgers, the Yankees had undergone a number of changes since the clubs had last met seven years earlier. The axis of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford remained, but Berra was now 38 years old, serving as a player-coach in his final season, and had seen action in just 64 games. Mantle meanwhile, was limited to just 65 games, courtesy of broken foot suffered when his spikes became entangled in Baltimore's chain link outfield fence on June 5th. It was just the latest in a string of leg injuries that was starting to sap Mantle of his once top flight speed.

Roger Maris was in his fourth season as a Yankee, and while he had slipped somewhat from the form the saw him capture the MVP award in both of his first two seasons, he was still an outstanding all around player. Yet he too saw action in less than a hundred games as injuries cost him extended stretches of both June and July.

In their collective absence, Elston Howard picked up the slack in a big way. After spending the first five years of his career as a valuable utility player, Howard finally replaced Berra as the primary catcher in 1960. He had been an All-Star for seven years running, and with Mantle out of the lineup for much of the summer, Howard became the big bat in the heart of the Yankee order. He batted .287/.342/.528, with a career high 28 home runs. He won the first of his two Gold Gloves and became the first African-American to win the AL MVP award, the fourth consecutive year and eight time in ten years the award went to a Yankee.

Elsewhere on the roster, the Yankees had a new infield. Clete Boyer, Tony Kubek, and Bobby Richardson were in their fourth season as the Yankee third baseman, shortstop, ans second baseman respectively, forming a slick defensive, if offensively below average, infield. Meanwhile, longtime first baseman Moose Skowron was across the field in the Dodger dugout, having been traded the previous off-season with the emergence of Joe Pepitone. In the outfield, left fielder Tom Tresh enjoyed a great sophomore season, and filled in admirably in center field in Mantle's absence. Behind Ford, the pitching staff featured 1962 World Series hero Ralph Terry and youngsters Jim Bouton and Al Downing.

The Yankees entered the Series with a record five and a half games better than the Dodgers, but that wouldn't much matter by the time the games begun. The Series began on Wednesday October 2nd, at Yankee Stadium, with a heavyweight match up between lefties Ford and Koufax. The Dodgers got at Ford early, with former teammate Skowron opening the scoring with an RBI single in the second. He later came around to score on a three run homer from John Roseboro. Moose added another RBI an inning later, and Ford was gone after five innings and as many runs. The Yankees had no answers for Koufax. As he had been against NL competition all year, Koufax was dominant, tossing a complete game and allowing just nine baserunners against fifteen strikeouts. The only Yankee offense came on an eighth inning two run homer from Tresh, as the Dodgers took the opener 5-2.

Instead of Drysdale, Dodger manager Walter Alston gave the ball to the veteran Johnny Podres in Game Two. Aside from his being a veteran of three previous Fall Classics, Podres was a lefty, and pre-renovation Yankee Stadium was extremely favorable to southpaws. Houk was of the same mind, skipping over Ralph Terry and starting lefty Al Downing. While he's best remembered for serving up Hank Aaron's 715th home run, Downing was an effective starter for the Yankees for seven seasons, and 1963 was probably his finest. Once again the Dodgers struck early, with a two run double from Willie Davis in the first inning. Skowron burned his former teammates again in the fourth, launching a solo homer to right. L.A. added a fourth run of Terry in the eighth. Meanwhile, Podres recaptured some of his 1955 magic, carrying a 4-0 lead into the ninth. He allowed a one out double to Hector Lopez, and was lifted for Ron Perranoski. The Dodger fireman allowed Lopez to score, but got the final two outs to give the Dodgers a two game lead.

Two days later the Series resumed in Los Angeles. This time Drysdale got the nod. He had a nasty reputation for being an intimidator on the mound, standing 6'5" and leading the NL in hit batsmen for four straight years while living by the philosophy "you hit one of mine, I hit two of yours". He was opposed by the Yankees' own bulldog, Jim Bouton. For the third consecutive game the Dodgers took an early lead. Tommy Davis drove in Junior Gilliam with two outs in the first. It was all the offense Drysdale needed. He dominated the Yankee offense, allowing just three singles, a hit batsmen, and a walk. He and Bouton matched zeros from the first inning on, but Drysdale sent Bouton home a hard luck loser and the Yankees were in a 3-0 hole.

With their backs against the wall, the Yankees sent Whitey Ford to the hill for Game Four, and he once again had the unenviable task of opposing Koufax. Ford fared far better than in Game One, managing to keep the Dodgers off the board in the early innings for the first time all Series. Still, the Dodgers managed to draw first blood, on a solo homer from future Yankee coach Frank Howard in the fifth inning. The Yankees meanwhile were still flummoxed by Koufax. He was perfect through three and third and had allowed just two baserunners entering the seventh. With one out, Mantle hit his fifteenth career World Series homer, tying him with Babe Ruth for the most all time. More importantly, it tied the score, but it was to be short-lived. In the bottom of the inning, an error by Joe Pepitone allowed leadoff batter Junior Gilliam to go all the way to third. Willie Davis followed with a sacrifice fly, putting the Dodgers back on top. The Yankees put the potential tying run on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but Koufax snuffed out the rallies and gave the Dodgers their second title in five years.


It wasn't apparent at the time, but the Yankee dynasty was crumbling. Game Four marked Houk's final game as Yankee manager, for the time being at least. Houk moved up to the general manager's chair, replacing the retiring Roy Hamey. Yogi Berra, now retired as a player, succeeded Houk as the Yankee manager. He had a successful 1964, leading the Yankees to another pennant, but lost a heartbreaking seven game World Series to the Cardinals. Berra's fate had been decided before the final out was made though. The club felt he was too close to his former teammates to be an effective leader and he was replaced by Johnny Keane, the Cardinals manager who had just defeated him in the Series. While the Dodgers captured another title in '65, Keane lasted just a year and a month as Yankee manager, replaced by Houk twenty games into the 1966 season.

By that point, the franchise was in disarray. Age or injuries, or both, had taken their toll on Mantle, Ford, Maris, Howard, Tresh, and Tony Kubek. The late dynasty years had produced some promising youngsters, like Tresh, Pepitone, Downing, and Bouton, with others like Mel Stottlemyre, Bobby Murcer, and Roy White following behind them. But some never reached their potential, others got injured, and none were enough to adequately replace the aging, but Hall of Fame caliber, core of the team. The bottom came in '66, as the club finished last for the first time since 1912, their .440 winning percentage standing as the fourth poorest mark in club history to that point. They improved by just two wins in '67, rising from tenth to ninth, and spent the majority of the next several years hovering within a few games of .500.

The turnaround would come eventually, as the club's fortunes began improving under George Steinbrenner's ownership in the mid-seventies. By the time the Yankees rose to the top of the American League again, they would find a familiar foe waiting for them in October.

Game 75 Recap

[WE data via FanGraphs]

When Joba Chamberlain gave up an RBI double to Rafael Furcal with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees looked to be dead to rights. It cut the Yanks' chances of winning from about three percent to one percent. When Mark Teixeira struck out looking on a 97mph fastball from Jonathan Bronxton leading off the ninth inning, it hacked the Bombers' odds of pulling it out by a third once again from 1.2% all the way down to 0.4%.

There wasn't much reason to be hopeful, either. Andy Pettitte had a bad start (by his high standards this year) despite not getting hit all that hard. The Dodgers laid down three consecutive bunts in the third inning and none resulted in outs - Andy made throwing errors on two of them and the third was a single. He gave up two more on a sac fly and a homer in the fourth, putting the Yanks in a 5-0 hole. The offense had been stagnant up until that point, the only two runs they scored coming on a home run by Alex Rodriguez, but unfortunately he was up after Teixeira and you can't hit a grand slam with the bases empty.

A-Rod did his job of not using up an out, poked a single through left field and advanced on defensive indifference before Robinson Cano drove him in with a double. Jorge Posada singled, moving Cano to third, and advanced on indifference as Curtis Granderson was in the process of working a tough 8 pitch walk from Broxton to load the bases. All of a sudden the Yanks had the go-ahead run at the plate and still only one out.

Recent call-up Chad Huffman (who came in for an injured Brett Gardner) let two 96mph heaters pass, one for a ball and one for a strike, but smacked the third one into right field, driving in Posada and Cano. Colin Curtis, who was also in Scranton not too long ago, battled through a 10 pitch at bat against Broxton and grounded a ball to first. James Loney fielded it and instead of trying to start an inning-ending double play at second or throw home to save the run, he attempted to get the force at first and then throw home. However, Granderson beat the ball to the plate and the score was tied at six runs apiece.

The Dodgers intentionally walked Derek Jeter and retired Frankie Cervelli, but the Yankees had made a divine comeback and gave themselves a chance to steal the series on their way out of the City of Angels.

It wouldn't take long. Riding the momentum of the moment, Girardi went to Mariano Rivera and he took down the side in order in the bottom of the ninth. Robinson Cano rewarded the aggressive move by launching a two run homer in the 10th off of George Sherrill (who Torre brought in specifically for him) to give the Yanks the lead. James Loney led off the bottom half of the inning with a single but Rivera struck out Russell Martin (who got ejected after throwing a tantrum over a pitch that was obviously a strike) and Reed Johnson (who was 3-4 on the night at that point) before inducing a game inning grounder from Jamey Carroll.

Without looking up the specifics, it's feels like it's been a long time since the Yankees have had a miraculous late comeback like this one [Update: Larry says it's the biggest 9th inning rally since April 2007]. It would have been sweet regardless, but the fact that it nailed down a series victory and came against some old friends makes it a little bit sweeter. The team has the day off today as they head back home and rest up before a three game set against the Mariners.