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After barely getting by the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS for the second consecutive year, the Yankees returned home to New York to face the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.  Reggie Jackson, who wasn’t a member of the 1976 squad that lost to the powerful Cincinnati Reds in four straight games in that year’s Fall Classic, promised the fans of New York that the team would not be embarrassed in the same manner again.

Jackson’s vow was prompted, at least in part, by his extremely confident nature.  However, the slugger also knew that New York was a stronger team than the one that Cincinnati devastated in the previous year’s World Series.  The Yankees had a deeper starting rotation that featured four solid starters in Ron Guidry, Mike Torrez, Ed Figueroa, and Don Gullett, and they also had A.L. Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle lurking in the bullpen.  The team also had a more powerful lineup that included, well, Reggie Jackson.

Jackson also knew that the Los Angeles Dodgers lacked the overwhelming offense of the Cincinnati Reds.  Nevertheless, the Dodgers were not to be taken lightly.  They finished the season a full 10 games ahead of the second-place Reds in the N.L. West, with a record of 98-64.  They then defeated in four games in the NLCS a Philadelphia Phillies team that posted 101 victories during the regular season.  The Dodgers finished third in the National League with 769 runs scored, and they topped the senior circuit with 191 home runs.  Four Los Angeles players hit at least 30 home runs.  Steve Garvey led the club with 33 homers and 115 runs batted in, and he also finished second on the team with 91 runs scored and a .297 batting average.  Ron Cey hit 30 home runs and knocked in 110 runs.  Reggie Smith hit 32 homers, drove in 87 runs, and led the team with 104 runs scored, a .307 batting average, a .427 on-base percentage, and a .576 slugging percentage.  Dusty Baker hit 30 homers, drove in 86 runs, and batted .291.  Smith, Garvey, and Cey all placed in the top 10 in the N.L. MVP voting.  Meanwhile, second baseman Davey Lopes batted .283 and finished among the league leaders with 47 stolen bases.

Perhaps making the Dodgers even more dangerous was the depth of their pitching staff.  Los Angeles finished well ahead of every other National League club with a team ERA of only 3.22.  Veteran left-hander Tommy John headed the starting rotation, finishing the year with a record of 20-7, a 2.78 ERA, and 11 complete games.  Rick Rhoden placed second to John on the team with 16 victories.  Don Sutton and Doug Rau each won 14 games, and, even though Burt Hooton finished last among the starters with 12 victories, he compiled the lowest ERA – a mark of 2.62 that placed him third in the league rankings.  Los Angeles also had a solid bullpen, with knuckle-balling right-hander Charlie Hough saving 22 games and Elias Sosa posting a 1.98 ERA.  Therefore, the Yankees knew a formidable task lay ahead of them as they attempted to win their first world championship in 15 years.

The World Series opened in Yankee Stadium on October 11th, with the Dodgers scoring twice in the top of the first inning against Yankee starter Don Gullett.  New York cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first and eventually tied the score in the sixth inning on a Willie Randolph home run.  The two teams traded runs in the eighth and ninth innings, sending the contest into extra innings.  The game continued into the 12th inning, when Paul Blair sent the fans of New York home happy by singling home Willie Randolph from second base with the winning run.  Sparky Lyle, who worked 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, got the win.

Game Two provided no such suspense.  With sore-armed Catfish Hunter making his first start in weeks, the Dodgers scored five times in the first three innings, en route to posting a 6-1 victory.  Ron Cey, Steve Yeager, Reggie Smith, and Steve Garvey all homered for Los Angeles, and Burt Hooton threw a complete-game five-hitter.

The Yankees scored three first-inning runs against Dodger starter Tommy John when the Series shifted to Los Angeles for Game Three.  Los Angeles tied the score, though, on a three-run homer by Dusty Baker in the bottom of the third.  The Yankees regained the lead with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, and then held on for the 5-3 victory.  Mike Torrez went all the way for New York, allowing the Dodgers seven hits.  Meanwhile, Mickey Rivers, who went 0-for-10 in the first two contests, responded to team owner George Steinbrenner’s criticism in the newspapers by collecting three hits in five times at-bat.

New York took a commanding 3-1 lead in the Series by defeating Los Angeles by a score of 4-2 in Game Four.  Reggie Jackson homered for the Yankees, and Ron Guidry went the distance, allowing the Dodgers two runs on only four hits.

The Dodgers staved off elimination in Game Five, hammering four Yankee pitchers for 10 runs and 13 hits, en route to posting a 10-4 victory.  After falling behind earlier in the contest 10-0, the Yankees made the score a bit more respectable by pushing across two runs in the seventh inning, and another two in the eighth against Don Sutton, who got the complete-game victory.  Steve Yeager and Reggie Smith homered for Los Angeles, while the Yankees scored their final two runs on back-to-back homers by Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson.

The Dodgers scored twice in the first inning against Mike Torrez when the two teams returned to New York for Game Six.  However, the Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the second on a two-run homer by Chris Chambliss.  The Dodgers regained the lead in the top of the third on a solo blast by Reggie Smith, before the contest turned into the “Reggie Jackson Show.”  Jackson drove in five of the six remaining runs New York scored on the evening, hitting three straight home runs on three consecutive pitches.  He delivered the last blow into the black seats in deepest center field, eliciting chants of “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie” from the fans in attendance and firmly establishing his reputation as “Mr. October.”  Jackson’s memorable performance, which led the Yankees to an 8-4 victory and their 21st world championship, earned him Series MVP honors.  “Mr. October” finished the Series with five home runs, eight runs batted in, 10 runs scored, and nine hits in 20 official trips to the plate, for a batting average of .450.

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
1977 World Series, Burt Hooton, Catfish Hunter, Charlie Hough, Chris Chambliss, Davey Lopes, Don Gullett, Don Sutton, Doug Rau, Dusty Baker, Ed Figueroa, Elias Sosa, George Steinbrenner, Los Angeles Dodgers, Mickey Rivers, Mike Torrez, Mr. October, New York Yankees, Paul Blair, Reggie Jackson, Reggie Smith, Rick Rhoden, Ron Cey, Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle, Steve Garvey, Steve Yeager, Thurman Munson, Tommy John, Willie Randolph

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