Tag Archives: New York Yankees

The night Reggie Jackson won an epic Yankees-Red Sox game

Before Reggie Jackson was Mr. October, he was Mr. September.

I’m referring to a classic game between the Yankees and Red Sox from September 14, 1977. The Yankees had a 2 1/2 game lead over Boston and a 3-game lead over Baltimore in the division race, with 17 left to play (the Red Sox had 18, the Orioles had 19).

It was the middle game of a three-game series, the Yankees having won the night before. The younger generation doesn’t remember this game, but for fans a little older than I am, I imagine it’s an instant classic.

For the first eight and a half innings, the game was dominated by great defensive plays, of which Jackson had two including one that might have been a home run robbery, and missed opportunities, of which the Red Sox had many. The Red Sox were 0-for-5 with a man on third base in this game against Ed Figueroa, with the outs coming from Carl Yastrzemski (twice), Butch Hobson, Carlton Fisk, and Fred Lynn. The most frustrating of those was Lynn’s bases-loaded no-outs double play in the fifth inning.

The score stayed even until the bottom of the ninth when Thurman Munson singled. The next at-bat was a second-guessers delight on a couple of fronts. On the Boston side, many wondered why Don Zimmer stuck with Reggie Cleveland instead of going to top reliever Bill Campbell to pitch to Reggie Jackson. On the Yankees side, Jackson being asked to bunt, not once but twice, was a puzzle. He hadn’t bunted in a regular season game since the 1972 season.

The bunt sign came off by the time the count was 3-2 and Jackson followed with a 430-foot walk-off home run. It was the kind of moment the Yankees paid big money for when they signed him.

“We’re going to win the pennant,” said Yankees manager Billy Martin to the media afterwards. “I never doubted that. This is the kind of team that rises to the big occasion.”

None was better at that than Jackson, from whom the postgame comments (recorded by Michael Farber of the Bergen Record) were priceless.

“It’s like a fairy tale,” Jackson said. “It’s exciting. You feel everybody loving you. Everyone appreciating you … The more talent someone has, the more someone gets involved and the more he needs to be appreciated … Steinbrenner gave me a lot of bread. I went for the money. I went to New York and tonight was a situation in which I almost had to do something. In the on-deck circle, I prayed to God to let me hit one out and that I would tell everyone you did it. I hit it right on the screws, right on the joy spot.”

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A walk-off binds Babe Ruth and the 1919 White Sox

Babe Ruth hit 12 walk-off home runs. I like the first one the best.

It came in the final home date of the season for the 1919 Red Sox, who failed to defend their World Series title. They were playing the White Sox, the team that was about to dethrone them as AL champs (and the team that would later deliberately lose the World Series to the Reds). The White Sox needed only one win in these two games to clinch the pennant.

But while there would be a celebration in Fenway Park that day, it would not be one for the visiting team.

The Red Sox took an early 3-0 lead in a game that Ruth started on the mound. He couldn’t hold it. He moved to left field with the score 3-3 in the sixth inning. The score stood that way until the home ninth when Ruth faced Lefty Williams (one of the “8 Men Out”).  Ruth’s opposite-field home run, over the high fence in left field ended the game. The ball was said to have gone through a window in a building across Landsdowne Street.

Wrote James O’Leary of the <em>Boston Globe:</em>

“…the efforts of the Roman populace were only murmurs compared with the vocal explosion with which upward of 31,000 baseball fans expressed their feelings at Fenway Park yesterday afternoon when Babe Ruth made his 27th home run of the season. Nothing like this demonstration was ever heard in Rome or anywhere.”

The home run being the 27th was notable in this regard. It tied the single-season record for home runs set by Ned Williamson of the Chicago White Stockings in 1884 (that was a fluke record – Williamson never hit more than nine home runs in any other season in his 13-year career).

In-between games, Ruth was honored by the Knights of Columbus for his remarkable season (little did they know, he’d be headed elsewhere in the offseason). Both teams participated in the ceremony (which I find fascinating). Ruth also donated the bat with which he hit the homer to the Liberty Loan Newsboys’ Association where it was to be auctioned for a memorial fund for a newsboy killed in World War I.

The second game didn’t feature a walk-off, but the <em>Globe</em> tells a story that I deem worth repeating. Ruth thought he had the record-breaking home run in that game, but umpire Bill Evans said the ball landed in play, then bounced a short fence in the outfield, behind which a few thousand people were crowding in. The paper describes an argument that took place later between the umpire and “a sergeant of the military guard” who brought with him a written statement from a fan saying that call should have been a home run.

“It would be well for you to attend to your police duties and leave the umpiring to me,” Evans said.

Ruth hit the record-breaking home run at the Polo Grounds a few days later against the Yankees.  This one was a game-tying home run in the ninth inning. This too was a mammoth shot, described by W.O. McGeehan of the <em>New York Tribune</em> as both the first ball to clear the right field roof of the Polo Grounds and the longest home run ever hit (!)

The 1919 White Sox clinched the AL pennant that same day. They would be bonded by their shared celebrity for the moment, but there was much more ahead for the Bambino and the Black Sox. That story had not yet been written.

Ruth minutiae

-Babe Ruth hit 5 of his 12 walk-off home runs against the White Sox. That included two in a three-day stretch in 1922 and a grand slam when down by three runs in 1925.

Ruth broke his home run record again in 1920. After finishing 1919 with 29 home runs, he walloped 54 in his first season with the Yankees. That time he tied the record with a walk-off home run against the St. Louis Browns and broke the mark with a home run against … the White Sox.

Note: If any of this was covered in Jane Leavy’s or Leigh Montville’s biographies of Ruth … I don’t have either book. This was just something I noticed that I thought was cool

The time there were inside-the-park walk-off HR on consecutive days

The walk-off inside-the-park home run is normally an every few years sort of occurrence. In the time for which Baseball-Reference.com has data (1925 to 2018), there have been 27 documented. It’s a cool list of players, one highlighted by Reggie Jackson and Ken Griffey Jr.

There is only one instance in this time of two walk-off inside-the-park home runs being hit in the same season. In fact, they were hit on consecutive days!

The first came in a game between the Phillies and Astros on August 1, 1966. The Astros came back from three runs down to tie the game in the ninth, and nearly went ahead in the 10th when Jim Wynn tried to steal home. The Astros contended afterwards that Wynn beat the tag at the plate, but umpire Ed Vargo called him out.

It got worse for Wynn in the bottom of the inning. In attempting to catch a fly ball hit by Richie Allen (also known as Dick Allen, which will be important in a bit), Wynn crashed into the fence and disclocated both his elbow and wrist. Allen circled the bases for the walk-off inside-the-park home run. Wynn recovered from the injuries well enough to play nearly the full 1967 season, in which he hit a career-high 37 home runs.

Let’s fast forward one day and 3,000 miles across the country, where the Angels are hosting the Yankees. The Angels trailed 5-1, but rallied to tie. The last two runs came with two outs in the ninth inning against the Yankees closer that day, Hall-of-Famer Whitey Ford.

As if it wasn’t enough that Ford failed that day, how about this: Angels third baseman Paul Schaal batted with the score tied. He hit a line drive to shallow center. Mickey Mantle came racing in for the ball, and missed it. The ball went past him and went all the way to the wall. Schaal joked to sportswriters that it took him five minutes to circle the bases, but he beat the throw home for a walk-off inside-the-park home run.

To which I’d say: Find me another story in which Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle were the goats!

As I’ve noted before, I use old time newspaper stories to write this recap and when you get to a page with a game story, you often find yourself scanning the whole page. In this case, the second page of the game story in the Los Angeles Times is next to an article labeling Mantle ‘The Colossal Cripple.’ The story is about how Mantle is finally getting recognition he deserved as fans realize the end is near.

But there’s something smaller that also caught my eye, a really small ad for “Mr. Toyota” in nearby Inglewood. And who is Mr. Toyota in this case?

A man by the name of Dick Allen. (Please allow the artistic license to make for a fun coincidence!)

Chris Chambliss had other big home runs too

Chris Chambliss is best known for his home run that won the Yankees a pennant in 1976. But it turns out that Chambliss had a great flair for the dramatic beyond that game.

Chambliss had three instances in which he hit a walk-off home run with his team trailing, including one earlier in the 1976 season against the Red Sox.

These Red Sox were not a threat to the eventual AL champion Yankees, but it’s fun to reminisce regardless. The game of note was on July 25, 1976. Don Zimmer had just taken over as Red Sox skipper and his team was in a bit of a funk. A disastrous 14-game road trip ended in New York.

The day started well for the Red Sox. They led 5-0, but frittered it away. Still, they had a 5-3 edge with two on and two outs in the ninth inning. Zimmer called on lefty Tom House (best known for catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run) to pitch to the left-handed hitting Chambliss. House had the edge here – Chambliss was 0-for-8 in his career against House. Not for long.

House threw one pitch and Chambliss hit it over the wall for a game-winning three-run home run.

“I told (House) to pitch him tough,” Zimmer said. “If that’s pitching him tough, than I don’t know what tough is.”

The next of these walk-off home runs came the next season against the White Sox. The Yankees entered the day 4 ½ games out of first place with 46 to play, so wins were necessary to catch both the first-place Red Sox and second-place Orioles.

This was a bonkers baseball game. The Yankees led 9-4 in the ninth inning, but Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle and Ken Clay combined to blow the lead, allowing six runs, with the go-ahead hit being Oscar Gamble’s two-run single.

Trailing 10-9, a leadoff walk to Thurman Munson proved costly for the White Sox. Two batters later, Chambliss hit a walk-off home run off rookie Randy Wiles. If you’ve never heard of Wiles, that’s not surprising. He pitched in five MLB games. This one was his last.

Speaking of last, the last of the three home runs in our story is a cool one. It came in an otherwise nondescript season for the Braves against the Padres on August 13, 1986.

The Braves trailed 7-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two men on and one out, Padres Hall-of-Fame closer Rich Gossage struck out the Braves best hitter, Dale Murphy. But Ken Griffey Sr. followed with an RBI single. The game came down to Gossage versus Chambliss. It ended in Chambliss’ favor with a walk-off home run against a high fastball.

“Isn’t that great?” said Braves manager Chuck Tanner afterwards.

It was great beyond just that moment.

It was the last home run of Chambliss’ career.

Not a bad way to go out.

The time a Lou Gehrig walk-off HR capped a huge comeback!

I don’t have a particular reason to write a walk-off post on Lou Gehrig, other than that I thought that there would be a good story there. And there is.

On September 8, 1937, the Yankees and Red Sox played a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won the first game in walk-off fashion, with Gehrig scoring the winning run on a hit by Myril Hoag. The second game is where the goodness lies.

The Red Sox were winning 6-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. The lead was built up by two RBIs from left fielder Buster Mills and three runs scored by Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx. It was held by pitcher Jack Wilson, who had allowed only two hits through the first eight innings. The 1937 season was Wilson’s best. He went 16-10 with a 3.70 ERA. But there was a notable blemish in the form of this game.

Gehrig walked against Wilson to lead off the ninth inning, but the Red Sox moundsman was able to get two outs, sandwiched around a walk to Hoag. That’s when the floodgates opened. Don Heffner tripled in Gehrig and Hoag to make it 6-3. Pinch-hitter Bill Dickey doubled home Heffner to make it 6-4. Frankie Crosetti hit a ground ball to shortstop that Joe Cronin bobbled, then threw away, allowing a pinch-runner to score. Red Rolfe’s walk advanced Crosetti to second.

All the while, Wilson remained in the game. Wilson would later gripe that Cronin, the manager, didn’t know how to handle pitchers (this SABR bio
is well-detailed on that). Cronin was mad that he couldn’t get pitching help from his farm system because five of the teams needed pitchers for their playoff runs. We should point out that the Red Sox had not used a relief pitcher through 17 2/3 innings of the doubleheader.

So Wilson pitched to DiMaggio and DiMaggio did what DiMaggio does: he singled home the tying run. Finally, Cronin called on Tommy Thomas to come out of the bullpen to pitch to Gehrig. The 37-year-old Thomas entered the appearance with a 6.42 ERA. This would be the 397th appearance of a 398-game career.

However, perhaps there was a method to Cronin’s madness. Gehrig was 2-for-his-last-20 against Thomas, so perhaps this was an example of Cronin playing the matchup. It didn’t matter.

Gehrig homered to win the game. The Yankees tallied eight runs in the ninth inning to win, 9-6. The five-run deficit is the largest overcome in the ninth inning by the Yankees in a walk-off win against the Red Sox in the time for which full data exists on Baseball-Reference.com (since 1908).

Minutiae
On the same page as the game story in the New York Daily News are ads for home beer keg service ($2.50) and a shoe store offering a clearance sale on Oxfords with rubber soles for 79 cents.

Gehrig had only three walk-off home runs in his career, the other two coming in 1932 against the Indians and 1934 against the Indians. That’s the same number of career walk-off home runs as Brett Gardner.