Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Lucky Lou, Buck Tater and Heartbreak in Boston
2008-06-27 05:05
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

My good pal Hank Waddles has an interview with Richard Bradley, author of The Greatest Game: The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff of '78, over at Broken Cowboy:

BC: You mentioned that you spoke to a lot of players and people connected with the game. Even though we're talking about a game that was played thirty years ago, I'm guessing that the people you spoke with didn't have any trouble recalling its details. Were you surprised by how vivid some of the memories were?

RB: Actually I was surprised at how faulty some of the memories were. I think this is something that happens with iconic events. At some point, say, a faulty memory might get introduced into the conversation, people misremember things just a little bit, and then they repeat it over and over again until it becomes established fact, at least in their own minds. I'll give you an example. I went down to Florida to meet with Bucky Dent, and I was talking to him about his home run which he hit on a 1-1 count. Remember, this is one of the most famous home runs in the history of the game, far and away the most famous thing that Bucky Dent ever did on the playing field, and Bucky thought – and was adamant – that he had hit that home run with two strikes on him. He said that, and my ears kind of perked up, and I interjected and said, "Actually, no, there weren't two strikes." And he said, "Oh, yeah there were." And I felt kinda bad, because…

BC: Because you had seen the tape.

RB: Who am I to say to Bucky Dent what the count was? But in fact, I'd always wondered because the first pitch of that at bat was arguably a strike and a check swing by Dent. And I've always wondered if on some level in his memory he didn't sort of think that maybe that had been a strike, and maybe he remembered it that way.

Here is an excerpt from the book. Enjoy.

2008-06-27 05:40:46
1.   horace-clarke-era
By coincidence, I just finished this book earlier this week. Quite good, though I enjoyed (learned more from) the season-summary chapters than the inning by inning in-game ones. (He interweaves the two, throughout.)

One thing that comes through even more clearly than I grasped was just HOW unstable/psychotic/violent/alcohol-fueled Billy Martin was. I admit this affects my response to, say, the Ken Griffey 'hatred' of the Yankees for what MARTIN as a nutbar did in the clubhouse that day. To pin that on the organization may well work to motivate a dude, but it doesn't speak to being a grownup.

The team was a swamp of toxicity. It was an absurdly different era. Quick example: after Reggie homered in the playoff game, he detoured past where Steinbrenner was sitting, close to the dugout, to shake hands with HIM before rejoining his teammates. Can you IMAGINE that today? Can you imagine anyone else doing it even then?

All the 'good stuff' from the game is in there, for those who might not have tracked the 'lore' of the Bucky Dent game. Rivers noticing the crack in Bucky's bat, making him use another after he fouled the ball off himself. Lou bluffing on the fly ball he utterly lost in the sun, keeping a runner from advancing to where the next fly ball would have been a sac fly (and Lou getting VERY lucky in stabbing that fly as it landed and almost went by him ... I remember being so enraged at him for missing an easy fly ... turns out he saved the game.)

The hilarious story of Gossage, who was very shaky his first few appearances (his first year as a Yankee, insecure, and plopped into a replace Lyle role, with Lyle going to set-up) ... took the mound one day, Munson comes out, laughing, says, 'Look at Rivers' and Goose turns to see Mickey lined up like a sprinter facing the center field wall, ready to RUN after the expected smash over his head.

It is worth reading. 14 1/2 games back in July. My, my, my...

Oh, and Jim Rice apparently broke bats checking his swing THREE times in his career. Before maple bats yet.

2008-06-27 08:12:43
2.   OldYanksFan
1 Hoss, I confess (much to Alex's chagrin) that I hated Reggie on the Yanks. As good as he was and as much as he made the difference, I hated that he came into Thurman's house and acted like a total asshole. I still hold it against him.

I guess you could say the Munson/Reggie story has parallels with the Jeter/ARod story. Except unlike Reggie, ARod has been very, very cool (and still is) about respecting Jeter's 'position' in NY. Just imagine how the fans would have reacted if ARod pulled some shit (Can you IMAGINE that today?) like Reggie did.

I remember the season. The unlikely and thrilling makeup of a 14 game lead. Coming into Boston 8 games behind and the 'Boston Massacre'. Boston had an awesome team. That four game sweep was the grittiest 4 regular season games the Yankees ever played.

For the famous playoff game, I was in Colorado. I was with the girlfriend at a huge family reunion. Both her brothers were in Colorado, and the grandparents assembled the entire family, the 3 children, their grandkids and me. So there we were, at a table for 12 at a fancy restaurant, for the big reunion dinner... the first time the entire family had ever been together as adults.

Somewhere late into dinner, I 'excused' myself and went out to my rental car to check the game, figuring it was over. I tuned in for the final out in the bottom of the eighth. I knew I would catch hell for it, but I had to hear the rest of the game.

Between the 'inlaws', my stuation, and the game, I was racked with tension. I wanted to go back to dinner and just read the results of the game in the next mornings paper. But I stayed. By the time Yaz came up, I was literally in pain. When he hit that deep drive, I all but shit myself. This entire, amazing season, all determined by one, deep fly ball.

While it turned out to be the grestest victory I experienced as I Yankee fan, I was such a wreck, I couldn't enjoy it. Maybe like you feel if you fall off a 10 story building and amazingly walk away unscathed.

So, I walked back to the family, some 1/2 hour later, feeling like I'd been through a war. What I remember most is when I went to sit down, 11 pairs of eyes boring in on me like.... WTF!

While the family chit-chat continued, all my 'father-in-law' could do was stare at me. Wonder what he was thinking? So the biggest family event in my GF's adult lfe became...
Where the Fuck was OldYanksFan?

2008-06-27 08:33:20
3.   horace-clarke-era
2 Love it, great story. I watched that game on a tiny b/w tv in a friend's apartment, in transit, shortly before going overseas for the year. The friend was at work, I was alone in the place, 2 feet from the television, DYING with tension. There have been other killer games (vs KC, that same edition of NY, some playoff and WS games for the early Torre dynasty) that were almost as excruciating, but there's never been a game I've seen to touch the BFD game.

The book does bring it back. Pick it up, OYF.

2008-06-27 09:05:27
4.   Raf
2 Hoss, I confess (much to Alex's chagrin) that I hated Reggie on the Yanks. As good as he was and as much as he made the difference, I hated that he came into Thurman's house and acted like a total asshole. I still hold it against him.

I dunno. I can appreciate someone who wasn't "awed" (for lack of a better word) by NY. One quote of Reggie's that always stuck with me was "I didn't come to NY to be a star, I bought mine with me." I can appreciate that.

2008-06-27 09:06:38
5.   Raf
2 Cool story, BTW
2008-06-27 09:18:46
6.   YankeeInMichigan
My kids gave me Bryant's book for Father's Day, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. In fact when I started reading it, one of my first thoughts was "Alex must be loving this book."

Bryant, in his discussion of kids playing hookie from school to see the game, neglects to point out the game was played on the first day of Rosh haShanah and that many public school systems in the New York area were closed.

As I am today an Orthodox Jew, I feel a bit funny about having seen and enjoyed the game but -- well, I did. After the holiday meal, I headed straight for the den, turned on the TV and remained on my feet for the duration of the game. I had forgotten that Rivers had opened the game with a 4-pitch walk and a stolen base, but I certainly remember that every inning was tension-packed, right up to the moment when Nettles squeezed Yaz's pop-up and jumped into Gossage's arms.

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