The 1978 World Series was a rerun, and one the networks were happy to carry, as the two biggest markets were again on center stage. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers met in a rematch of the 1977 Fall Classic, and once again the Yankees brought home the title in six games, making a little history in the process.
You can read more about the paths the Yankees and Dodgers took to their respective pennants at the links below. This article will focus strictly on the games of the 1977 World Series.
The National League held homefield advantage in the rotation system that existed prior to 2003, so the World Series opened on a Tuesday night in Dodger Stadium. Tommy John, the veteran lefty, was on the mound for Los Angeles, while New York answered with 20-game winner Ed Figueroa. But Figueroa had pitched poorly in his ALCS start, the one game the Yankees lost, and Game 1 of the World Series was no different.
Los Angeles got going in the bottom of the second when Dusty Baker homered. Rick Monday then blooped a double into left-center and Lee Lacy drew a walk. It looked like Figueroa might get out of it, but when he got a double play ball, but Davey Lopes promptly hit the first pitch into the left field bleachers for a 3-0 Dodger lead. Lopes then added to the misery in the fourth, when a walk and an error set up his three-run shot off reliever Ken Clay.
The game ended 11-5, but New York never made it close. They didn’t score until it was 7-0 and each team traded three-spots in the seventh, and the Yankees picked up a couple meaningless runs in the eighth.
Game 2 was a much better, and produced one of the World Series’ most memorable confrontations. The Yanks got on the board first off of Burt Hooton when Roy White singled, Thurman Munson drew a two-out walk and Reggie Jackson pulled a double down the rightfield line to score both runs. The Dodgers got a run back in the fourth, but a double play ball off the bat of Dusty Baker killed a bigger inning.
Yankee veteran Catfish Hunter was on the mound and he took a 2-1 lead into the sixth. Lopes and Reggie Smith each singled with one out, and then Ron Cey hit a three-run homer to left for a 4-2 Dodger lead. The Yankees cut that lead in half in the seventh, getting runners to second and third. Jackson drove in a run with a groundout, but Los Angeles maintained its 4-3 lead.
Bucky Dent singled for New York in the ninth and Paul Blair worked a one-out walk. 21-year-old righthander Bob Welch came on, bringing his heat to face the muscle in the Yankee order. Welch got Thurman Munson to fly out and then came his epic battle with Jackson.
The count went fall. Jackson repeatedly kept fouling balls off. It was the veteran of October and MVP of the previous year’s Series, facing the kid. On the ninth pitch, Welch reared back one more time. Jackson swung and missed. Dodger Stadium exploded. Los Angeles had a 2-0 Series lead.
Only once had a team come from 0-2 down to win a World Series and that was 1955—these same two franchises when the Dodgers, then in Brooklyn, won a seven-game set with the Yankees. At least New York was going home and had their ace, 25-game winner Ron Guidry on the mound.
Mickey Rivers singled to lead off the Yankee first, but was promptly caught stealing. Roy White finally got momentum going for the Pinstripes when he homered. In the second inning, a pair of walks issued by Dodger starter Don Sutton led to productive ground ball outs from Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent, the light-hitting middle infield combo, and it was 2-zip.
The Dodgers manufactured a run off Guidry when veteran outfielder Bill North singled, stole second and scored on a base hit from Bill Russell. They were poised to get more when Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles saved the Series.
LA loaded the bases in the fifth with two outs. Steve Garvey ripped a shot down the third base line. Nettles speared it and got the force out at second. The Dodgers loaded the bases in the sixth. Lopes ripped a liner down the third base line. Nettles did the same thing. He had saved at least four, and perhaps five runs. The Yankees got three runs in the seventh to put the game away and with the 5-1 final, it was a Series again.
Game 4 was on Saturday afternoon, and proved to be a very good back-and-forth game, replete with controversy. It started with great plays in right field on both sides. Los Angeles had two on and a man aboard against Figueroa. Garvey hit a line drive to rightfield. Lou Piniella made the catch and then doubled off Bill Russell at first to kill the rally. Then New York had runners at the corners when Thurman Munson hit a fly ball to Reggie Smith in right. The Dodger rightfielder gunned Paul Blair at the plate. The first inning ended scoreless.
The Dodgers broke through in the fifth when Steve Yeager doubled, Lopes walked and then Smith drilled a three-run shot for a 3-0 lead. It was the sixth inning when the Yankees started to rally against John. With one out, White singled, Munson walked and Jackson singled to drive in a run. Then the controversy broke out.
Piniella hit a soft liner to Russell. The Dodger shortstop was near second base and alertly let the ball hit his glove and drop so he could turn an inning-ending double play. He touched second base and threw to first. But Jackson was standing in the way, not moving and appeared to maneuver his hip to get in the way of the throw. The ball bounced away and a run scored. Lasorda argued furiously that Jackson was guilty of interference, but the play stood and the lead was now 3-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, with Los Angeles closer Terry Forster in the game for John, Blair singled and was bunted over by White. Munson drove in the tying run with a double. After Jackson was plunked, Forster got Piniella to fly out and the game ended up going to extra innings.
With two outs, New York started the winning rally. White walked. Jackson, appropriately enough involved in the final drama, singled. Piniella singled to center and the World Series was tied two games apiece.
Los Angeles could still turn to 19-game winner Hooton to regain momentum, while New York turned to Jim Beattie, a young righthander. The Dodgers touched Beattie early. Lopes singled to lead off the game, stole second and scored on a base hit by Smith. Lopes again singled in the third and scored, this time on a double by Russell.
But Beattie had won a big division race game against the Boston Red Sox and the opener of the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals. He was young, but he was now battle-tested. He settled down and Los Angeles collapsed.
In the third, four singles, a walk, combined with a double steal by Rivers and White produced four runs for New York. In the fourth, another four singles produced a three-spot. In the seventh, three singles, a passed ball, a wild pitch and a double by Munson produced four more runs. The final was 12-2, with the Yankees literally pecking the Dodgers to death.
Los Angeles still had two games at home to look forward to, although New York knew they had Guidry in their back pocket for Game 7 if it came to that. It didn’t. Lopes again tried to lift his team, homering in the first, but Sutton couldn’t stop the Yankee lineup.
The top of the second saw Nettles single, then a walk was followed by a game-tying double from Doyle and a two-run single by Dent. The Dodgers picked up a run in the third, but a double play ground ball induced by Hunter kept the Yankee lead at 3-2.
It was still close in the sixth when Piniella hit a leadoff single. With two outs, he moved up on a wild pitch and Doyle drove him in. A bad decision to throw the ball to the plate allowed Doyle to move up to second where he scored on a single from Dent.
The score was 5-2 and with closer Goose Gossage still in reserve, the game didn’t seem in a whole lot of doubt, but Reggie made sure to put the finishing touches on. He came to the plate with White aboard in the seventh and homered to right. The pitcher on the mound? None other than Welch. Reggie knew how to answer.
Game 6 ended with a 7-2 final and another Yankee title. In a Series where the Yankees peck-peck-peck attack had reigned, it was appropriate that Dent was the MVP. The light-hitting shortstop had gone 10-for-24 and driven in seven runs. Doyle was 7-for-26, while Jackson and Munson each had big Series as well. But Dent was the appropriate choice.
New York was now the first team to win four straight World Series games after losing the first two. It was a fitting way to end a year that included a historic comeback from 14 games down in the AL East in July.
No one would have guessed that it would be eighteen years before the Yankees would win another title, with names like Joe Torre and Derek Jeter involved. In 1978, they had three straight pennants and two straight World Series titles.