Oral History Flashback: The Bucky “F______g” Dent Home Run!
On October 2, 1978, a one-game playoff got underway inside Fenway Park before 32,925. It was the two teams with the best records in baseball after 162 games – winner take all for the AL East title. Ex-ankee Mike Torrez was on the mound for Boston; Ron Guidry, the best pitcher in baseball that season, was honed in for the Yankees.
STEVE RYDER: Four of us went. We expected to win that game, absolutely. The Sox had a good year, they’d come through. I was seven rows from the field on the third base side directly up from the on-deck circle.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY: It was electric that day. I had pitched Saturday and won #20 and was glad I wasn’t pitching that playoff game.
I was in the dugout. I was in the clubhouse. I was all over the place. I was more nervous watching than pitching. It was 2-0 in the seventh. They were setting up this little stage for the celebration.
STEVE RYDER: Then all of a sudden:
BILL WHITE (GAME CALL) "Deep to left! Yastrzemski will not get it -- it's a home run! A three-run home run for Bucky Dent and the Yankees now lead . . . Bucky Dent has just hit his fourth home run of the year and look at that Yankees bench out to greet him..."
"I've always loved Fenway Park," Yastrzemski said. "But that was the one moment I hated the place, the one moment the wall got back at us. I still can't believe it went in the net."
BILL LEE: Torrez threw that horseshit slider that is still sitting there in middle of the plate, and Bucky Dent hit right near the end of the bat. I couldn’t believe he hit it out, but he did.
ROGER KAHN: My memory is Dent slamming a foul ball into his foot and hobbling around and there was a delay of several minutes. During that whole delay Mike Torrez did not throw a single pitch. Normally, you just throw to keep loose. Dent got a new bat from Mickey Rivers. And the first pitch Torrez threw after the break that may have been five minutes, was that shot to leftfield. You could see Yastrzemski thinking he could play the ball and kind of crumpling when the ball went out.
LEIGH MONTVILLE: It was a ball that everyone thought was going to be caught, a nothing kind of hit.
DON ZIMMER: When Bucky hit the ball, I said, “That's an out.” And usually you know when the ball hits the bat whether it's short, against the wall, in the net or over the net. I see Yaz backing up, and when he's looking up, I still think he's going to catch it. When I see him turn around, then I know he's going to catch it off the wall. Then the ball wound up in the net.
MIKE TORREZ: I was so damn shocked; I thought maybe it was going to be off the wall. Damn, I did not think it was going to go out."
“When I hit the ball, I knew that I had hit it high enough to hit the wall,” remembered Bucky Dent. “ But there were shadows on the net behind the wall and I didn't see the ball land there. I was running from the plate because I thought I had a chance at a double. I didn't know it was a home run until the second-base umpire signaled it was a home run. It was an eerie feeling because the ballpark was dead silent."
STEVE RYDER: It was just a pop fly off Mike Torrez. It just made the netting. The crowd was just absolutely stunned, absolutely stunned.
Don Zimmer changed the Yankee shortstop's name to "Bucky F_____g Dent." Red Sox fans were even more vulgar in their language.
Yaz had two hits in that game, including a homer off Ron Guidry, but he also made the last out.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: I was covering for the Baltimore Eagle Sun in the second or third row. The old press box was down low. I was downstairs later in the stands when Gossage got Yaz to pop up because we were getting ready to go to the locker room and it looked like they were going down and that was interesting how Sox fans in those days had a sense of gloom, anticipating. Whatever happened, it wasn’t going to end well.
DICK FLAVIN: I was in a box seat right behind the Red Sox dugout. You could put your beer right on the roof. So I had a great look of Yaz coming off the field right after he popped up. He had his head down, anguish.
STEVE RYDER: I saw that popup up close. It was a fairly high one, you could say it was a homerun in a silo. It just ended the game ,and the people left in kind of a dejected attitude and demeanor. Whipped.
DON ZIMMER: Instead of going into the clubhouse, I sat in the dugout and watched their team celebrate.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY: Yaz was crying in the trainer’s room. It was not as crushing for me because when you’re 23 you think, well, we’ll do it next year. We have such a good team. But if I knew what I know now, I would have been devastated. We never really got there again after that.
WALTER MEARS: Tip O'Neill went to Rome that fall and saw the Pope. When he came back he was at some function with Yaz and told him the Holy Father had spoken of him. Yaz wanted to know what the Pope had said.
"Tip,” he said, “How the heck could Yastrzemski pop out in the last of the ninth with the tying run on third? "
After the game a Bucky Dent buddy called the Red Sox inquiring if the home-run ball was available. He was told that the net had been littered with balls from batting-practice home runs –the “Bucky Dent ball” could not be identified amidst all the others.
JOE MOONEY: I was the head grounskeeper and got blamed for taking the ball Bucky Dent hit for the home run. I never touched it. I never spoke to Bucky Dent, but later I found out that he was accusing me. I know who took that ball he hit. But I’d never say nothing. We’ll leave that to history.
It was a disappointing finish for the Red Sox of Boston but the season had been momentous. Very potent at home in 1978, winning 59 games against just 23 losses for a .720 percentage, posting one of the franchises best all time home records, the team drew two million fans for the second straight season- 2,320,643 surpassing the 1977 mark of 2,074,549. Fans and franchise looked forward to the last year of the decade at Fenway Park.
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