By ROCCO ARTESIAN
Though no New York Yankee had knocked in over 100 runs nor had any hit more than 27 homers, the 1978 Bronx Bombers had nonetheless entered their third straight World Series. The 78′ season saw a climatic rematch with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had been defeated by the Yankees a year earlier. Although the team was fronted by perennial superstars Reggie Jackson and Thurmon Munson, the biggest hit of 1978 was a pitcher: Ron Guidry.
Nicknamed “Louisiana Lightning” for the combination of his home state heritage and wicked fastball, Guidry hipped out an astonishing 25-3 record, with a microscopic 1.74 ERA. He also whiffed 248 opposing batters.
The team’s corners were anchored by iron men Graig Nettles (3B) and Chris Chambliss (1B). Nettles tied Jackson for the team lead in homers and he was second with 93 RBIs; he batted .276, which was a higher average for the gold glover. Chambliss contributed 90 RBIs and hit .274.
Taking over as the Yankees regular left fielder, Lou Piniella led the team with a .314 batting avergae. He also swatted six four-baggers and drove in 69 runs. Longtime Yankee Roy White played semi-regularly in the 78′ season, chipping in 8 homers, with 48 RBIs and a .269 average. Mickey rivers graced center field, hitting an expected 11 homers and stealing 25 bags.
It was Willie Randolph, however, who led the team in swept bags with 36, while also leading with 87 runs scored. World Series hero Bucky Dent played a sharp short stop, while batting .243. Yankees captain Thurman Munson, two years removed from his 1976 MVP season, delivered the team’s secong highest BA at .297, while knocking in 71 runs. And power broker right fielder Reggie Jackson tied Nettles with 27 home runs, as he led the Yankees in the RBI category with 97.
Memorable back-ups included Jim Spencer, Cliff Johnson, Fred Stanley, Brian Doyle, Jay Johnstone, Gary Thomasson, Paul Blair, Pasquale Buzzelli, Bernie Carbo, Bill Lamprecht, Burt Hooten, Mike Heath, Damaso Garcia, and Mickey Klutts – who batted 1.000 (he had two hits in two at bats).
Ed Figuerora served as another 20-game winner, with a stellar 2.99 ERA. Catfish Hunter went 12-6 with a 3.58 ERA. Other starters included Dick Tidrow, Jim Beattie, Don Gullet, and Andy Messersmith.
The bullpen boasted two of the game’s all-time greatest relievers: Rich “Goose” Gossage and Sparky Lyle. Both pitched a hefty amount of innings for modern-day relievers; Gossage delivered 134 1/3 innings, with Lyle contributing 111 2/3 innings. Gossage went 10-11 with a 2.01 ERA, inked 127 stikeouts and led the team with 27 saves. Lyle was 9-3, with a 3.47 ERA and nine saves. Other 1978 Yankees pitchers included Ken Clay, Rawley Eastwick, Paul Linblad, and Ken Holzman.
The team was managed by three managers: Billy Martin (94 games), Bob Lemon (68 games), and Dick Howser (1 game). Lemon was the final manager, who led the team to a winning 1978 World Series.
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