After defeating the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS a third straight time, the Yankees flew to California to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series for the second consecutive year. The Yankees and Dodgers had previously met in the Fall Classic a total of nine times, with the Yankees coming out on top on seven of those occasions. However, the two teams had faced each other in the World Series only twice since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, and they had split those two meetings. Having lost to the Yankees in the previous year’s Fall Classic, the Dodgers had revenge on their minds. They had the additional incentive of trying to win for Jim Gilliam, who passed away just two days before the Series began, after spending the previous 26 years in the Dodger organization, first as a player and then as a coach.
Despite having lost the previous year’s Fall Classic to New York, the Dodgers were considered a slight favorite heading into the 1978 Series. Los Angeles won the N.L. West title by finishing 2 ½ games ahead of second-place Cincinnati. The Dodgers then defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in four games in the NLCS for the second straight year. Los Angeles was an extremely well-balanced club that led the National League with 727 runs scored, 149 home runs, a .264 team batting average, and a 3.12 team ERA. By contrast, the Yankees scored only eight more runs, hit 24 fewer home runs, and batted just three points higher, even though they played in a league that employed the services of a designated hitter. However, Yankee pitchers led the American League with a team ERA of 3.18 that compared favorably to the mark of 3.12 posted by Dodger hurlers.
Inspired by the memory of their fallen coach, the Dodgers displayed a great deal of emotion once the Series got underway, hammering four Yankee pitchers for 11 runs and 15 hits during an 11-5 Game One victory. Davey Lopes homered twice for Los Angeles, and Dusty Baker added another in support of Tommy John, who got the win. Reggie Jackson homered for New York.
The Yankees gathered themselves for Game Two, taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, before Ron Cey’s three run-homer gave the Dodgers their first lead of the night. New York closed the gap to 4-3 and threatened to tie the game in the top of the ninth. But a memorable confrontation between hard-throwing Dodger reliever Bob Welch and Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson that lasted several minutes resulted in a Jackson strikeout, giving Los Angeles a 2-0 Series lead heading back to New York.
Desperately needing a win, the Yankees turned to A.L. Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry, who compiled an extraordinary 25-3 record during the regular season. The left-hander hardly had his best stuff, surrendering eight hits to the Dodgers and working in and out of trouble all evening. But the magical glove of Graig Nettles at third base repeatedly thwarted the Dodgers, ending numerous rallies and keeping Los Angeles off the scoreboard most of the night. Roy White homered for New York against Dodger starter Don Sutton, Guidry went the distance, and the Yankees got back into the Series with a 5-1 win.
Tommy John and Ed Figueroa started Game Four for their respective teams, and both men pitched well until Reggie Smith tagged Figueroa for a three-run homer in the top of the fifth inning. The Yankees closed the gap to 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, which featured the Series’ most controversial play. After Reggie Jackson singled in New York’s first run, he got in the way (the Dodgers claimed intentionally) of a throw from second on an attempted double play, deflecting the ball to the outfield in the process and permitting a second run to score. Thurman Munson doubled home the tying run two innings later, and the Yankees finally won the game in the bottom of the 10th inning when Lou Piniella drove home Roy White from second base with a two-out single.
With momentum clearly on their side, the Yankees scored 12 runs on 18 hits in Game Five, en route to taking a 3-2 Series lead with a 12-2 victory. New York collected two doubles and a Series record 16 singles during the contest, with Thurman Munson’s three singles driving in five runs.
The Yankees completed their comeback with a 7-2 victory when the Series returned to Los Angeles for Game Six. Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent each collected three hits, and they combined to knock in five of New York’s seven runs. Reggie Jackson drove in the final two runs by exacting a measure of revenge against Bob Welch with a two-run homer. Catfish Hunter worked seven strong innings to earn the victory.
The Yankees’ comeback in the Series made them the first team ever to sweep the final four games after dropping the first two. Meanwhile, Bucky Dent earned Series MVP honors by driving in seven runs and collecting 10 hits in 24 times at-bat, for a .417 batting average. Brian Doyle and Reggie Jackson also excelled for New York. Filling in at second base for the injured Willie Randolph, Doyle accumulated seven hits in 16 trips to the plate, for a .438 batting average. Jackson hit two homers, drove in eight runs, and batted .391.
Davey Lopes and Bill Russell starred in defeat for Los Angeles. Lopes hit three home runs, knocked in seven runs, scored seven others, and batted .308. Russell led all players with 11 hits, en route to compiling a .423 batting average.
- 1978 World Series, Bill Russell, Bob Welch, Brian Doyle, Bucky Dent, Burt Hooton, Catfish Hunter, Chris Chambliss, Davey Lopes, Don Sutton, Dusty Baker, Ed Figueroa, Graig Nettles, Jim Gilliam, Los Angeles Dodgers, Lou Piniella, New York Yankees, Reggie Jackson, Reggie Smith, Rich Gossage, Ron Cey, Ron Guidry, Roy White, Steve Garvey, Steve Yeager, Thurman Munson, Tommy John, Willie Randolph