Yankees Top Moments: (#3) Bucky F'in Dent vs. (#6) Line drive ends '62 World Series

WikiCommons and Jim McIsaac

Which was the bigger moment: a stunning cap to a pennant race, or heartstopping Game 7 finish?

The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament continues with the 1960-1979 period bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves to move on in the poll below.

(#3) Bucky F'in Dent

Preface: There aren't enough words in the galaxy to properly describe the awesomeness of this moment.

The Yankees were defending champions heading into the '78 season, seeking to win their third AL pennant in a row to boot. However, those were the days of the "Bronx Zoo," and clubhouse tension was worse than ever during the first half. Injuries plagued the team, egos collided, and by July 17th, the Yankees were 47-42, a deflating 14 1/2 games behind the first place Red Sox. They had just been swept by the rival Royals at home, and they were 18-27 since Memorial Day. The Yankees' fortunes began to change with a five-game winning streak, followed by troubled manager Billy Martin's resignation from his position on July 23rd in Chicago. Martin was replaced by Bob Lemon, a player's manager who brought some calm to the clubhouse.

From the time Lemon took over the team on July 25th, the Yankees went an outstanding 47-20, a .702 winning percentage that surged them up the AL East standings. Boston slumped, and the Yankees emphasized their return to the pennant race by humiliating the Red Sox in the "Boston Massacre," a four-game sweep at Fenway Park from September 7-10 that tied them atop the division. Eventually, the teams ended the season still tied at 99-63. A coin flip determined that they would play a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the division title.

Ron Guidry started for the Yankees on three days' rest. "Louisiana Lightning" had one of the most electric pitching seasons in the history of the game in '78, and his regular season ended that day with a staggering 1.74 ERA, 208 ERA+, 0.946 WHIP, and 9.6 rWAR. He was not quite as sharp as normal though; he surrendered a solo homer to Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski to lead off the second and a Jim Rice single in the sixth made the score 2-0, Boston. Former Yankee Mike Torrez blanked his old teammates through six innings, but ran into trouble on back-to-back one-out singles by Chris Chambliss and Roy White. Jim Spencer popped out, bringing up light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent. He was never much of a hitter, only exceeding a 90 OPS+ once over 11 full seasons of play. He had hit just four homers on the season, but after breaking his bat on a foul off his ankle to make it 0-2, Dent borrowed Mickey Rivers's bat and silenced the raucous crowd at Fenway Park:

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No one saw Dent's three-run dinger coming. Suddenly, the Yankees had a 3-2 lead via the 64% shift in WPA from Dent's fly ball over the Monster. The Yankees needed the two insurance that followed, as they narrowly survived a scare in the ninth inning caused by the afternoon sun blinding right fielder Lou Piniella. A one-out, one-on single bounced in front of Piniella, who couldn't see it and luckily stuck his glove out to cut it off. The tying run was stranded in scoring position, and Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage closed it out on Yaz's pop-up to Graig Nettles at third. After dealing perhaps the most crushing blow in the history of their long rivalry with Boston, the Yankees went on to win the '78 World Series to secure their 22nd championship.

Even though rumors claim that the Red Sox eventually broke their series of bad luck against the Yankees (unconfirmed), generations of Boston fans still revile "Bucky F'in Dent."

(#6) Line drive ends '62 World Series Game 7

I actually just recounted the thrilling finale of the '62 World Series a few weeks ago in my retrospective on the most iconic moments of each of the Yankees' 27 championships. For brevity's sake though, the SparkNotes version of the last moments of Game 7:

The Yankees and Giants went back and forth in an exciting seven-game series; no one won consecutive games and the Fall Classic managed to not be stymied by four days of rain in San Francisco prior to Game 6. Ralph Terry and Giants ace Jack Sanford faced each other in Game 7, and it turned out to be tense pitchers' duel. A double play scored the game's only run in the sixth inning, as the Yankees could only take a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning at Candlestick Park. With two outs and Matty Alou on first, Willie Mays smoked a double down the right field line that seemed sure to tie the game up. Unfortunately for the Giants, the sludge from the rain slowed the ball down and right fielder Roger Maris made a brilliant play to corral the ball and fire it to the cutoff man before Alou could be sure that he could score.

Manager Ralph Houk met Terry at the mound with the winning run in scoring position two years after Terry lost the '60 World Series to the Pirates on a Bill Mazeroski homer. Houk gave Terry the option of walking the hard-hitting Willie McCovey to face Orlando Cepeda with the bases loaded, but Terry decided to pitch to McCovey. "Stretch" lined a ball foul down the right field line on the first pitch, and he hit the second pitch just as hard toward second base. Bobby Richardson was playing slightly out of position, but by pure fortune, he happened to be right where McCovey's line drive went; otherwise, the Giants would have won the series on McCovey's single. The ball nearly took Richardson's glove off, but nonetheless, the Yankees were World Series champions. Few World Series have ever come down to such an abrupt end.

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