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Series Wrapup

Story

The Kansas City Royals used solid pitching and exceptional team speed to capture their third consecutive A.L. West title in 1978, finishing the regular season with a record of 92-70, five games ahead of both the California Angels and the Texas Rangers.  Although the Royals hit only 98 home runs as a team, they finished third in the league with 743 runs scored, and they topped the junior circuit with 216 stolen bases.

Rookie outfielder Willie Wilson led Kansas City with 46 steals, even though he compiled fewer than 200 official at-bats.  Fred Patek placed second on the team with 38 stolen bases.  Even George Brett swiped 23 bags, while also batting .294, scoring 79 runs, and leading the league with 45 doubles.  Amos Otis was the team’s top offensive performer, stealing 32 bases and leading the club with 22 homers, 96 runs batted in, and a .298 batting average.  

Kansas City also finished third in the league with a team ERA of 3.44.  Dennis Leonard led the staff with 21 wins, 20 complete games, 295 innings pitched, and 183 strikeouts.  Paul Splittorff finished second on the club with 19 victories and 262 innings pitched.  Larry Gura pitched exceptionally well in his first season as a full-time starter, posting a record of 16-4 and compiling a 2.72 ERA.

However, Kansas City and the rest of the A.L. West failed to garner as much attention over the course of the regular season as the American League’s Eastern Division, which served as the focal point of the baseball world in 1978.  The Yankees and Red Sox found themselves involved in a wild and exciting pennant race during the final 10 weeks of the campaign that provided memorable moments both on and off the field.

Injuries and inner turmoil caused the Yankees to play mediocre baseball for most of the first three-and-a-half months of the season.  Don Gullett, Catfish Hunter, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Bucky Dent, and Roy White all missed extensive playing time.  Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin continued their personal feud, with Martin suspending the controversial outfielder for five games at one point due to insubordination.  Martin resigned a week later under pressure from the front office after making derogatory remarks about Jackson and Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.  The manager sealed his fate in late July when he said of the two, “The two of them deserve each other: One’s a born liar; the other’s convicted.”  

While the Yankees struggled, the Red Sox continued to play superb baseball, building a seemingly insurmountable 14-game lead over New York by the final week of July.  However, New York’s performance improved dramatically after Bob Lemon assumed the managerial reins of the team from Martin.  The Yankees thrived under Lemon’s laid-back approach, mounting a furious comeback over the season’s final eight weeks as players began returning from the disabled list.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox showed signs of vulnerability for the first time, as they watched the Yankees slowly whittle away their huge lead.     

With New York having reduced Boston’s lead to just four games by September 7, the two teams met at Fenway Park for a crucial four games series.  In what subsequently became known as “The Boston Massacre,” the Yankees won all four contests by a combined margin of 42-9.  They also took two out of three games from the Red Sox the following weekend at Yankee Stadium, building a 2 ½ game lead over their arch-rivals in the process.  However, the Red Sox eventually righted themselves, tying the Yankees on the season’s final day to force a one-game playoff between the two clubs at Fenway Park.  The Yankees prevailed in the tension-filled contest by a final score of 5-4, with light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent providing the game’s big blow in the seventh inning, with a two-out, three-run homer off Boston starter Mike Torrez.  New York finished the year with a record of 100-63, while Boston ended the campaign with a mark of 99-64.

Several players made significant contributions to New York’s second-half surge.  Ed Figueroa won 20 games and compiled a 2.99 ERA.  After starting off the season slowly, Rich Gossage ended up leading the league with 27 saves.  On offense, Chris Chambliss drove in 90 runs.  Willie Randolph batted .279, scored 87 runs, and led the team with 36 stolen bases.  Lou Piniella finished first on the club with a .314 batting average.  In addition to playing a Gold Glove caliber third base, Graig Nettles hit 27 homers and drove in 93 runs.  Playing through injuries much of the year, Thurman Munson batted .297 and led the team with 183 hits.  Reggie Jackson tied Nettles for the team lead with 27 homers and finished first on the club with 97 runs batted in.

However, Ron Guidry was easily New York’s most important player over the course of the season.  The slightly-built left-hander compiled one of the greatest seasons by any pitcher in American League history by leading all A.L. hurlers with a record of 25-3, a 1.74 ERA, and nine shutouts.  Guidry also placed among the leaders with 248 strikeouts, 16 complete games, and 274 innings pitched, en route to earning a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting.

Beating out Guidry for the honor was Jim Rice, who performed brilliantly for the second-place Red Sox throughout the campaign.  The slugging outfielder topped the junior circuit with 46 home runs, 139 runs batted in, 213 hits, 15 triples, 406 total bases, and a .600 slugging percentage.  He also placed among the league leaders with 121 runs scored and a .315 batting average.  As was the case with Guidry in New York, Rice received a great deal of help from his Boston teammates.  Carlton Fisk hit 20 home runs, drove in 88 runs, scored 94 others, and batted .284.  Fred Lynn hit 22 four-baggers, knocked in 82 runs, and batted .298.  Carl Yastrzemski drove in 81 runs and batted .277.  Dennis Eckersley led the pitching staff with a record of 20-8, a 2.99 ERA, 268 innings pitched, and 16 complete games.  But Rice and Guidry were the American League’s dominant players in 1978, just as the Yankees and Red Sox were the circuit’s foremost teams.   

The excitement generated by the Yankees and Red Sox during the season’s final few weeks made the impending playoff series between New York and Kansas City seem almost anti-climactic.  Nevertheless, the ALCS featured its fair share of electrifying moments.  The most exciting game of the Series turned out to be the third contest, which the Yankees won despite three home runs by George Brett off Catfish Hunter.  Thurman Munson delivered the pivotal blow of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning when he hit a two-run homer over the 430-foot sign in deepest left-centerfield that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead they did not relinquish.  Ron Guidry clinched the pennant for New York with a 2-1 victory the next day.  

New York subsequently faced Los Angeles in the World Series for the second straight time.  The Dodgers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Fall Classic, before the Yankees came storming back to win the next four contests.  Graig Nettles shifted the momentum of the Series with a brilliant defensive performance in Game Three.  Bucky Dent earned Series MVP honors by batting a lusty .417.

Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:

• May 23 – With the Oakland Athletics leading the A.L. West with a record of 24–15, manager Bobby Winkles walked off the job.  Jack McKeon replaced him at the helm.

• June 17 – New York’s Ron Guidry struck out 18 batters during a 4–0 shutout of the California Angels.  The 18 strikeouts established a new A.L. record for left-handers.

• September 7 – The "Boston Massacre" began with a 15–3 Yankee victory over the Red Sox.

• October 2 – Bucky Dent's crucial seventh-inning home run helped the Yankees defeat the Red Sox, 5–4, in a one-game playoff for the American League East title.

• Reggie Jackson had another big World Series for the Yankees, batting .391 and hitting two home runs.

• Filling in at second base for an injured Willie Randolph, Brian Doyle led all Series players with a .438 batting average.

• Rod Carew led the American League with a .333 batting average and a .415 on-base percentage.

• California's Lyman Bostock, who placed second to Carew in the A.L. batting race the previous season, was shot to death.

• Detroit's Ron LeFlore led the American League with 68 stolen bases and 126 runs scored.

• Detroit's Lou Whitaker earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.

• The Hall of Fame inducted Eddie Mathews, Addie Joss, and Larry MacPhail.

• The Yankees traded Sparky Lyle and four other players to Texas for Dave Righetti and four other players at the end of the year.

• Cleveland traded Buddy Bell to Texas for Toby Harrah.

• Texas swapped Bobby Bonds and Len Barker to Cleveland for Jim Kern and Larvell Blanks.

• Milwaukee’s Mike Caldwell finished 22-9, with a 2.36 ERA, 293 innings pitched, six shutouts, and a league-leading 23 complete games.

• Brewer teammate Larry Hisle hit 34 home runs, knocked in 115 runs, scored 96 others, and batted .290.

• Baltimore’s Jim Palmer finished 21-12, with a 2.46 ERA, 19 complete games, and a league-leading 296 innings pitched.

• The Brewers led the major leagues with 804 runs scored, 173 home runs, a .276 team batting average, a .342 team on-base percentage, and a .432 team slugging average, en route to finishing third in the A.L. East, 6 ½ games behind the Yankees.

• California’s Don Baylor hit 34 home runs, knocked in 99 runs, and scored 103 others.

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
BAL 2173 5422 659 1397 612 .245 248 19 154 75 61 2145 .354 .371 .725 136 42 41
BOS 1941 5587 796 1493 738 .245 270 46 172 74 51 2371 .351 .392 .744 135 58 65
CAL 2061 5472 691 1417 646 .248 226 28 108 86 69 2023 .367 .371 .739 135 56 72
CHA 2121 5393 634 1423 595 .251 221 41 106 83 68 2044 .346 .346 .693 122 57 63
CLE 2043 5365 639 1400 596 .248 223 45 106 64 63 2031 .371 .363 .752 124 40 92
DET 1991 5601 714 1520 666 .265 218 34 129 90 38 2193 .360 .387 .747 145 47 57
KCA 2208 5474 743 1469 695 .237 305 59 98 216 84 2186 .354 .346 .733 95 72 55
MIN 2150 5522 666 1472 621 .259 259 47 82 99 56 2071 .382 .362 .744 139 55 109
ML4 1967 5536 804 1530 762 .225 265 38 173 95 53 2390 .355 .338 .693 94 50 89
NYA 2092 5583 735 1489 693 .236 228 38 125 98 42 2168 .402 .339 .814 126 52 37
OAK 2464 5321 532 1304 492 .208 200 31 100 144 117 1866 .334 .300 .644 106 27 108
SEA 2081 5358 614 1327 571 .233 229 37 97 123 47 1921 .334 .342 .676 112 53 68
TEX 2096 5347 692 1353 650 .229 216 36 132 196 91 2037 .353 .330 .714 115 55 83
TOR 2079 5430 590 1358 551 .235 217 39 98 28 52 1947 .325 .333 .659 124 37 77

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
BAL 322 90 71 1429 754 509 5956 1340 107 117.970 566 633 65 14 33 44 6
BOS 341 99 64 1472 706 464 6274 1530 137 68.670 579 657 57 14 26 16 5
CAL 355 87 75 1457 892 599 6223 1382 125 49.330 593 666 44 10 33 36 14
CHA 361 71 90 1410 710 586 6087 1380 128 70.880 663 731 38 7 33 38 2
CLE 373 69 90 1407 739 568 6068 1397 100 62.340 624 694 36 5 28 56 7
DET 319 86 76 1455 684 503 6150 1441 135 66.930 594 653 60 12 21 48 2
KCA 370 92 70 1439 657 478 6034 1350 108 54.890 550 634 53 11 33 37 6
MIN 338 73 89 1459 703 520 6208 1468 102 72.590 601 678 48 5 26 51 14
ML4 335 93 69 1437 577 398 6060 1442 109 62.820 583 650 62 16 24 34 7
NYA 351 100 63 1461 817 478 6063 1321 111 73.760 516 582 39 12 36 43 4
OAK 433 69 93 1434 750 582 6171 1401 106 61.440 577 690 26 6 29 37 9
SEA 409 56 104 1418 630 567 6241 1540 155 71.690 744 834 28 4 20 31 5
TEX 332 87 75 1457 776 421 6084 1431 108 50.680 554 632 54 11 25 35 3
TOR 374 59 102 1431 758 614 6255 1529 149 62.330 721 775 35 3 23 47 5

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
BAL 2729 7409 5360 1914 135 .950 17150 81 68 0 7
BOS 2430 7625 5570 1891 164 .981 17672 114 55 1.00 8
CAL 2541 7365 5563 1650 152 .925 17471 154 80 0 5
CHA 2636 7288 5368 1750 170 .968 16912 129 60 1.00 13
CLE 2545 7285 5337 1804 144 .979 16888 129 59 0 15
DET 2457 7505 5474 1886 145 .962 17467 85 59 0 10
KCA 2754 7442 5550 1714 178 .957 17269 90 52 0 11
MIN 2648 7685 5526 1976 183 .960 17518 91 76 0 7
ML4 2440 7605 5416 2016 173 .969 17232 80 46 1.00 4
NYA 2610 7488 5568 1783 137 .952 17531 83 61 0 11
OAK 2978 7398 5540 1651 207 .934 17199 110 80 0 10
SEA 2547 7516 5440 1914 162 .975 17030 140 55 0 6
TEX 2557 7618 5429 2011 178 .971 17479 84 75 1.00 12
TOR 2517 7463 5492 1809 162 .972 17155 101 66 1.00 16

West

team W L Att Rk SOP
Kansas City Royals 92 70 2255493 1 657
California Angels 87 75 1755386 2 892
Texas Rangers 87 75 1447963 2 776
Minnesota Twins 73 89 787878 4 703
Chicago White Sox 71 90 1491100 5 710
Oakland Athletics 69 93 526999 6 750
Seattle Mariners 56 104 877440 7 630

Central

East

team W L Att Rk SOP
New York Yankees 100 63 2335871 1 817
Boston Red Sox 99 64 2320643 2 706
Milwaukee Brewers 93 69 1601406 3 577
Baltimore Orioles 90 71 1051724 4 754
Detroit Tigers 86 76 1714893 5 684
Cleveland Indians 69 90 800584 6 739
Toronto Blue Jays 59 102 1562585 7 758

Awards

Silver Slugger

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Tagged:
1978 ALCS, 1978 World Series, Amos Otis, Billy Martin, Bob Lemon, Bobby Bonds, Boston Red Sox, Brian Doyle, Bucky Dent, Buddy Bell, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Catfish Hunter, Chris Chambliss, Dennis Eckersley, Dennis Leonard, Don Baylor, Don Gullett, Ed Figueroa, Fred Lynn, Freddie Patek, George Brett, George Steinbrenner, Graig Nettles, Hal McRae, Jim Kern, Jim Palmer, Kansas City Royals, Larry Gura, Larry Hisle, Larvell Blanks, Len Barker, Lou Piniella, Lou Whitaker, Luis Tiant, Lyman Bostock, Mickey Rivers, Mike Caldwell, Mike Torrez, New York Yankees, Paul Splittorff, Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage, Rod Carew, Ron Guidry, Ron LeFlore, Roy White, Sparky Lyle, Thurman Munson, Toby Harrah, Willie Randolph, Willie Wilson

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