Red Sox/Yankees: Bucky Dent's Home Run October 2,
Here they go again - the team from the Bronx and the one that plays in
the Fens. Two special series in May 2003 - with the arch rivals doing it
one more time. Head to head, for bragging rights and the top of the heap
in the AL East.
The mother of all such moments will always remain what happened on October
2, 1978 "When I hit the ball," Bucky Dent recalled, "I knew that I had hit
it high enough to hit the wall. But there were shadows on the net behind
the wall and I didn't see the ball land there. I didn't know I had hit a
homer until I saw the umpire at first signaling home run with his hand. I
couldn't believe it."
Neither could the Red Sox. Don Zimmer, then Boston's skipper, changed the
Yankee shortstop's name to "Bucky F_____g Dent." Red Sox fans had even
more salty phrases.
Dent's home run was the headline grabber in that one-game playoff game
between the historic rivals at Fenway Park before 32,925. The Yankees were
down to the Sox in the AL East by 14 games on July 19. After Billy Martin
was fired as manager, Bob Lemon led the team to a 52-21 record. Losing 14
of 17 in September, the Sox made a late-season run winning their last
eight games, catching the Yankees on the last day of the season.
New York's 24 game winner Ron Guidry gave up two runs to Boston through
six - a home run to Carl Yastrzemski and a Jim Rice RBI single. Mike
Torrez, a former Yankee, was the Boston pitcher.
Chris Chambliss singled. Roy White singled. That's how the top of the
seventh began for the Yankees. All was just foreshadowing for Earl Russell
Dent out of Savannah, Georgia. A fine defensive shortstop but not much of
an offensive threat, he had hit but .243 for the season. For the last 20
games he had batted a puny .140. But the Yankees were out of infield
replacements. Regular second baseman Willie Randolph was injured. Fred
Stanley, the only other available mid-infielder, was slotted to come in
and replace Brian Doyle, who had been hit for earlier in the inning.
Dent stepped in. Just hoping to make contact, the 5'-9" Yankee peered out
at Torrez, the 6'-5" Red Sox pitcher. The two were locked in, locked up.
Dent fouled the second pitch off his foot. The count was one and one.
There was a brief delay as the Yankees trainer tended to Dent. Mickey
Rivers, the on-deck-batter, pointed out that there was a crack in the
handsome infielder's bat. Dent borrowed a bat from Rivers.
All set, Dent swung at the next pitch; the ball cleared the infield
heading out to the left field wall. The wind and destiny moved the ball
higher to its date with the Green Monster.
"Deep to left!" Bill White, Yankees broadcaster shouted, "Yastrzemski will
not get it!" Yaz backed up. He had been in this position before. But he
knew it was hopeless. The ball sailed into the 23-foot net above the Green
Monster, the 37-foot wall in left field. Three run home run!
White, Chambliss and the entire Yankee bench were there waiting at home
plate. It was all Bucky Dent that October day.
"I was so damn shocked," Torrez said. "I thought maybe it was going to be
off the wall. Damn, I did not think it was going to go out."
Not many remember that the Red Sox still had a chance in the bottom of the
ninth. But Goose Gossage got Carl Yastrzemski to pop out with 2 on and 2
out. Not many remember that the victory in that game was earned by Ron
Guidry, moving his record to 25-3.
"I had a dream as a kid," the player who was born Russell Earl O'Dey said.
"I dreamed some day I would hit a home run to win something."
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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