We all know the story of the 1978 Yankees. Ron Guidry puts together a pitching season that has rarely been matched. Despite a 52-42 record the “exuberant” Billy Martin was replaced by the subdued Bob Lemon. Lemon sits quietly on the bench and watches his Yankees erase a 14 game deficit finishing tied with the Boston Red Sox. The 1 game playoff, played at Fenway, is won by the Yankees when Bucky Dent lofted a pop fly home run onto the Green Monster. The Yankees go on to beat the Dodgers for their 2nd Championship in a row.
This photo is significant to me for several reasons. I was driving home from college on a beautiful Fall day in Northeast Pa, listening to the game on the radio. Yes, they still played day games back then, when Bucky Dent hit his 3 run home run off Mike Torrez, I almost drove my 1968 Mercury Cougar XR7 off the road. (Yes…it was a very cool car.) I got home just in time to watch Goose Gossage almost blow the game in the 9th. When Carl Yastrzemski popped out to Craig Nettles to end the game I was as excited as I’ve ever been in my life. (There was that time I spent a weekend with Heather Locklear, but it didn’t end too well. Heather, if you’re reading this….call me.)
Reggie Jackson and Bucky Dent are smiling exuberantly for the camera. Reggie looks straight into the camera, because he’s been here before, and he’s expecting the shot. Bucky Dent is oblivious to everything around him.
Dent has the eye-black smeared on his face, and looks like a warrior prepared for battle. Dent the warrior hit just 5 home runs that season, and he only had 17 extra base hits in a season in which he played in 123 games. Dent hit just 40 home runs in his career, and is the poster child for the punch and judy hitter. His Fenway home run would have been a pop fly out in every other stadium in baseball. He was extremely lucky to have hit that fly ball, and he would probably not be remembered so fondly in Yankee fandom if not for that home run. This is not meant to be a bash on Bucky Dent, I just wanted to point out the serendipitous nature of baseball. Bucky f’n Dent will always live in the hearts of Red Sox fans, and Yankee fans. He was a warrior that day.
Yankee fans and Red Sox fans alike sometimes forget that the eventual winning run in that game was driven in on a Reggie Jackson home run in the 8th inning. Reggie, never a stranger to self promotion, has never made it a point to advertise that fact. He’s never tried to take anything away from Bucky Dent’s moment.
This photo shows a ball player that knew exactly who he was, and knew exactly where he was going. It also shows a ball player that couldn’t believe what just happened, and was giving no thought to the future. He was just living in the moment, and extremely happy to be there. I for one am extremely happy he was there as well.
Kevin G-unabashed Yankee fan