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Yankees Top Moments: (#2) Chambliss homer wins ALCS vs. (#3) Bucky F'in Dent

Which big homer of the late '70s was most memorable? It's a nigh-impossible decision between a pennant winner and a Red Sox killer.

Jim McIsaac

The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament enters the second round of the 1960-1979 bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves to move on in the poll below.

(#2) Chambliss Homer Wins ALCS

The year was 1976. Wild Cherry's "Play that Funky Music" dominated the airwaves, Marathon Man had people asking, "Is it safe?", and for the first time in a decade, the Yankees were back. From 1921 through 1964, the Yankees won 29 American League Pennants and 20 World Series Championships. After losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1964 World Series, the Yankees endured a decade without October baseball, more than doubling any other playoff drought in the previous 50 years.

After spending a couple years playing home games in Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium underwent renovations, the Yankees returned to their home park in 1976. Thurman Munson, newly minted team captain and that year's American League MVP, along with Catfish Hunter, Sparky Lyle, Willie Randolph, Graig Nettles, and Chris Chambliss, helped the Yankees to 97 wins and a double-digit lead in the standings over the second place Orioles.

Chambliss was a key piece to the pennant, but hardly the star of that Yankees team. The All-Star first baseman hit a solid .293 with 17 homers during the regular season, and he saved his best for the five-game series against the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series. Over five games, Chambliss hit .524 with eight RBI, including a key home run in Game 3 that helped the Yankees to a 5-3 win and 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. Kansas City came back to win Game 4, and Game 5 was a back and forth affair that saw Kansas City take and give back the lead twice before the Yankees gave up three runs in the eighth on a George Brett homer, causing the game to be knotted at six heading to the bottom of the ninth.

The Yankees needed one run in the ninth to win the game and the series, earning their first World Series appearance in more than a decade. With Mark Littell pitching, Chambliss hit the first pitch he saw and ended the Yankees' AL pennant drought. The only trouble Chambliss encountered came from fans mobbing him as he rounded the bases. Although the Yankees did not win the World Series until the following year, Chambliss' shot has earned its spot in Yankee lore.

Entry written by Craig Edwards on November 26, 2013.

(#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.