Yankees Top Moments Tournament: (#3) Bucky F'in Dent vs. (#4) Reggie Jackson's three-homer Game Six

A Red Sox killer or three homers in Game Six – which moment holds a bigger piece of Yankees' history?

The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament enters the third and final round of the 1960-1979 bracket. The moment with the most votes moves on to the semifinals against the winner of the Founding-1959 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."

Entry written by Andrew Mearns on November 27, 2013.

(#4) Reggie Jackson hits three home runs in 1977 World Series, Game 6

The Yankees could have ended the 1977 World Series in five games. They had the Los Angeles Dodgers on the brink of elimination, but the Dodgers were able to win Game 5 at a score of 10-4, tagging Don Gullett for six earned runs. The Yankees came into Game 6 wanting to stop the buck right there--they had no desire to head to a decisive Game 7. Reggie Jackson made sure that that would not be a reality.

Reggie Jackson was acquired that past offseason for this exact purpose. After the Yankees were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series, George Steinbrenner wanted to add one more piece to seal the deal. Jackson was signed to a five year, $2.96 million contract ($12.1 million in today's dollars) in hopes that he could help the Yankees win a World Championship.

Jackson began his historic night in the bottom of the fourth inning; the Dodgers at that point had a 3-2 lead. On the first pitch from Burt Hooten, Jackson hit an absolute bomb to right field to put the Yankees ahead 4-3. The Yankees added to their lead to make the score 5-3, and the Dodgers had to bring in reliever Elias Sosa to fan the flames. Jackson swung at only his second pitch of the night and hit a line drive right over the porch in right field to put the Yankees up definitively at 7-3. That would have been enough to win the game and enough to seal his legacy. But that just wasn't Reggie's style. Against the knuckleballer Charlie Hough in the eighth and on just Jackson's third swing all night, he hit his third home run to dead center.

Jackson had tied Babe Ruth's World Series single-game home run record, and more importantly, he had helped the Yankees win their first World Championship since 1962. The Yankees would win again in 1978, but the Bronx would never be in a frenzy like that until 1996.

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Entry written by Matt Provenzano on December 2, 2013.

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