Get ready for Yankees' Wild Card Game appearance with Bucky Dent's iconic home run
Relive Bucky Bleepin' Dent's iconic dinger
Early October is a pretty good time to be a Yankees fan. Not only did the team just wrap up a playoff spot on Thursday while recording their 10,000th win in team history -- against the Red Sox of all teams -- but today is the anniversary of one of the cruelest blows to Red Sox hearts around the world: Bucky Dent's home run.
The fact that there was a one-game playoff in 1978, with a postseason spot on the line, was a strange one to begin with. After trailing the Red Sox by nine games as late as Aug. 13, the Yankees went on a 34-13 tear, even taking a 3 1/2-game lead in September before the two teams ended the year knotted at 99-63.
On Oct. 2, the Yankees drove up to Boston and had Ron Guidry, who would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award, take the mound. The Red Sox countered with Mike Torrez, who was using Z's instead of S's long before it was cool.
With the Red Sox leading 2-0 heading into the top of the 7th, things were looking good for Boston. But that hope would soon turn to total, bone-crushing sadness. Torrez got Graig Nettles to start the frame off by flying out to right, but singles from Chris Chambliss and Roy White put runners on first and second. Torrez then got pinch-hitter Jim Spencer on a flyout to bring up Bucky Dent. With two outs, it seemed like a good chance for the Red Sox to escape with their lead intact. After all, here was Dent, batting ninth and entering the game hitting .243/.286/.309 with just four home runs and 37 RBIs on the season. What were the chances that he would go deep here?
After Torrez worked the count to 0-2, things were looking especially good -- Dent had fouled a ball off his foot and had to change out his bat. But whether it was a new piece of lumber imbued with the power of Thor, or simply that Torrez left his next pitch belt high and on the inner-third of the plate, Dent's choked up swing lifted the ball over the Green Monster. Just like that, the Yankees were up, 3-2.
What most people fail to remember is that the game didn't end there. The Yankees would eventually push the score to 5-2, capped by a Reggie Jackson home run in the top of the eighth, before the Red Sox scored two in the bottom of the inning.
With three outs left and a chance to relegate Dent's name to a footnote in the game, Boston put two on in their final turn at the plate. But Goose Gossage got Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski out in succession to send the Yankees into October with a 5-4 victory.
Of course, destiny didn't just choose Dent to become one of the great villains in Boston sports history. He also went on to become a World Series icon going 10-for-24 with seven RBIs in the Fall Classic and collecting the MVP award as the Yankees topped the Dodgers in six games.
Said Dent later, ''I played in three All-Star Games, I played in the World Series, I got to play for the Yankees. But that home run was the biggest thing I ever did. Every kid dreams of it.''