Thursday, April 26, 2012

1978 World Series: Yankee shift

The Teams 
American League: New York Yankees (100-63) - 32nd World Series (won 21 previous times)
National League: Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) - Seventh World Series (won in 1959, 1963, 1965)

What Happened
One year after the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series, the same two teams were back again to face off in 1978. Though the Yankees had gotten the better of them the previous season, the Dodgers seemed to have more things working in their favor the second time around. Aside from having home-field advantage this time, the Dodgers also came in facing a tired Yankees team - New York had come from 8.5 games back on August 20 to tie the Red Sox, then had won the one-game playoff, then had to endure a tough playoff series with the Royals.

The Dodgers seized on their advantage. They hit three home runs in the first four innings to win Game 1 in a laugher, then took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of Game 2. The Yankees got two runners on base in the ninth, but Dodgers pitcher Bob Welch - normally a (very good) starter who was forced to the bullpen for the playoffs because the Dodger starters were too good - retired Yankee stars Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson to end the game and put the Dodgers up 2-0.

From there, the series went to the Bronx, and the momentum of. the series shifted in favor of the Yankees. But it didn't have to be that way. The Dodgers had plenty of chances to stem the momentum that the Yankees were building. Trailing 2-1 in Game 3, the Dodgers twice loaded the bases, only to have both chances snuffed out on a ground out to Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles. A three-run home run by Reggie Smith gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning of Game 4, but the Dodgers only got two hits the rest of the way and let the Yankees tie the game and eventually win it in the 10th.

By then, things were getting out of control. The Yankees unloaded for 12 runs in Game 5, then took a 3-0 lead back in Dodger Stadium in Game 6 before a Reggie Jackson home run clinched the series.

Defining Game
The way the early games of the series played out, it became clear pretty early that the winner of Game 4 was going to win the series. The Dodgers' Tommy John and the Yankees' Ed Figueroa kept the game scoreless through four before Smith's two-out home run gave the Dodgers the lead. The Yankees got two back in the sixth - scoring one on a single by Jackson and another on an error on what should have been an inning-ending double play. Munson's 8th inning double tied the game, and the teams did nothing until the 10th. With two outs sandwiched around a walk, Jackson singled for the Yankees to send Roy White to second representing the game-winning run. Lou Piniella drove White home with a single, and the Yankees had their momentum-shifting win.

Bucky Dent was named MVP, which is a little weird since this is the first time he's being mentioned in this writeup. It could have easily been Jackson, but maybe the voters figured that since Jackson wasn't as good as the previous year's series, he shouldn't win a second straight MVP. Or maybe it was leftover karma after Dent's playoff-clinching home run. 

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

New York 5 354 (10)127
Los Angeles 11 41 3 2 2

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

68. 1978 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
69. 2006 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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