Bobby Grich is a darling of the sabermetric crowd. Had Wins Above Replacement been around in the 1970s and 1980s, there might have been a greater appreciation of Grich’s value. He had six seasons with a WAR of at least 6 and three more with a WAR of at least 4. He was a very good defender with a high on-base percentage Though often viewed as a member of the Hall of Very Good, tools like Jay Jaffe’s Hall of Fame evaluation system (JAWS) rate Grich as Cooperstown worthy. By that system, he rates as the 8th-best second baseman of all-time, one spot ahead of Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg.
There is a game from the 1984 season known as “The Sandberg Game” that is the signature contest of his Hall-of-Fame career. I think I found a game that could qualify as “The Grich Game.”
It took place on July 15, 1979 against the two-time defending champion Yankees. The Angels had won a dramatic game the day before. This one would be a one-man showcase.
On a day in which the Angels 3-through-5 hitters were a combined 0-for-12, it was a good thing that Grich was batting second. The Yankees zipped out to a 4-0 lead through two innings on two-run home runs by Chris Chambliss and Jim Spencer. With Cy Young winner Ron Guidry on the mound, a win seemed like a sure thing.
Grich got the Angels a run back in the third with a single. But the Angels squandered chances to score more in the third and fifth innings, leaving two men on base. They still trailed 4-1 when Grich came up with two men on base in the seventh. Grich’s two-run double against Guidry cut the lead to 4-3. But Carney Lansford and Don Baylor both lined out, leaving the Angels a run down with six outs remaining.
Guidry stayed on for the ninth inning, perhaps because Rich Gossage pitched 3 2/3 innings and Ron Davis threw 2 1/3 the day before. (combining to allow six runs). Guidry got two of the first three hitters out, sandwiching the outs around a walk. That brought up Grich.
Mark Heisler’s game story in the Los Angeles Times details how Yankees manager Billy Martin went to the mound to talk to Guidry, telling him not to let Grich pull the ball. Guidry obliged.
And Grich obliged. He homered to right to win the game, earning a postgame curtain call five minutes after the contest ended.
Final score, Bobby Grich 5, Yankees 4.