1977 MLB: The Playoff Teams & October Battles
The 1977 MLB season was the beginning of a pattern—for two straight years, the same four teams would win division titles, the same two teams would win pennants and the same team would win the World Series. Given that this script involved the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers meeting in the Fall Classic, I can’t imagine anyone at ABC or NBC, the networks that then carried postseason baseball, were complaining.
New York had returned to the World Series in 1976, but was still looking for their first championship since 1962 and first under the ownership of George Steinbrenner. The Yankees, with Cy Young reliever Sparky Lyle won a tight AL East race, surviving the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
Los Angeles was under new leadership, as veteran manager Walter Alston retired and rookie skipper Tommy Lasorda took over. The Dodgers dethroned the two-time defending World Series champ Cincinnati Reds and their MVP left fielder George Foster, winning the NL West with ease.
The Kansas City Royals and Philadelphia Phillies served as the foils for the two marquee heavyweights. Kansas City actually finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, winning 102 games. Philadelphia won 101, had one of the game’s best offenses and the NL Cy Young winner in Steve Carlton. Both teams had surged down the stretch, blowing open close division races in the AL West & NL East respectively.
But in October, it was the Yankees and Dodgers who came through. Both LCS matchups were good ones, the Yanks-Royals particularly so. Ninth-inning rallies decided each one For Los Angeles, that came in Game 3 of what was then a best-of-five round. New York waited until the 11th hour, the ninth inning of the deciding fifth game in Kansas City.
The World Series was decided by the fact New York got superior starting pitching, namely in Games 3 & 4. It is remembered for a spectacular individual display put on by Yankee rightfielder Reggie Jackson, who hit three home runs on three swings to salt away the deciding sixth game.
You can read the complete story of the 1977 MLB season in a compilation of articles available at Amazon. The compilation has eight articles about notable teams–the four division winners, the Red Sox & Orioles, and the two teams that lifted a city’s hopes in the summer and then dashed it with a collapse–the White Sox & Cubs. The compilation also contains game-by-game narratives of all three postseason series. Download it today.