The magic that was 'Louisiana Lightning'

April 10th, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- One of baseball’s all-time great nicknames was created in the late 1970s by legendary Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto, who was behind the WPIX-TV microphone lending commentary to another splendid Ron Guidry performance when inspiration struck.

“Louisiana Lightning” was born.

MLB Network paid tribute to “Gator’s” career recently, airing Game 4 of the 1977 World Series. In that contest at Dodger Stadium, Guidry logged a complete-game victory, limiting the Dodgers to Davey Lopes’ two-run third-inning homer.

Game 3 of the 1978 World Series also was shown on the Network. Guidry defeated the Dodgers again in that outing, another complete-game victory.

"I've always been most happy when the guys that I played with tell stories about what it was like playing behind me," Guidry said in 2018. "Someone once asked [outfielder] Mickey Rivers what it was like playing behind me. He said, 'I don't know why I ever bring my glove out there.'”

In addition, Guidry’s 18-strikeout performance against the Angels on June 17, 1978, also aired. His 18 punchouts remain a single-game Yankees record, and that evening gave birth to the two-strike clap that has continued by fans at stadiums across the country for decades.

"For the team, every time that I'd take the mound, they would look at me knowing we were going to win," Guidry said. "They knew all they had to do was score one or two runs and the game was over, because that's how well I was pitching. I never thought about what I was actually doing in terms of me having a great year; it was about the impact I was having on my team."

The whip-armed lefty from Lafayette, La., created fits for American League batters, especially during his Cy Young Award-winning season of 1978, when Guidry went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA in 35 starts. Guidry’s dominance helped the Yankees to an unlikely comeback from a 14-game deficit in the AL East, defeating the Red Sox in an epic one-game tiebreaker game before the club's eventual World Series title.

"There were so many things going on during that season," Guidry said. "In 1977 and 1978, there was a lot of turmoil in those years. I just felt like I needed to do a good job whenever I went out there, because of the way the season progressed."