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Former Baseball: 40 years later, Ron Guidry recalls Yankees’ magical 1978 season

Pete Caldera,
Staff Writer, NorthJersey.com @pcaldera March 22, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. – Asked about his memories of 40 years ago, Ron Guidry isn’t just recalling the Yankees’ storybook 1978 season.

He’s up from his seat, reenacting whole scenes.

Talking about the Yankees’ pivotal four-game September sweep against Boston, Guidry is back at Fenway Park, in a seven-run inning that hastened the Red Sox’s ruin.

“Balls are dropping in, we keep scoring. And here’s Yaz in the outfield,’’ says Guidry, slumped against a wall inside Steinbrenner Field to mimic Carl Yastrzemski’s forlorn expression.

“Wake up the next morning, the Boston Globe headline is: Red Sox still in first place, but they’re chasing the Yankees.’’

This is the 40th anniversary of the Yankees’ incredible comeback, erasing a 14-game deficit  – culminating with Bucky Dent’s famous playoff home run – and ending as repeat world champions.

And at age 27, the left-handed Guidry put up video game numbers as the Yankee ace:

Record: 25-3

ERA: 1.74

Complete games: 16

Shutouts: 9

Strikeouts: 248

Seven of Guidry’s shutouts came in the second half, when Bob Lemon had replaced manager Billy Martin in a crazy summer of Reggie-George-Billy drama.

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“It was the best soap opera in the country, all that stuff rolled up together,’’ Guidry said on a recent spring morning here as a Yankees guest instructor.

“With everything we had to go through, it was just a testament to how strong we really were inside, to go through all of that animosity and still repeat.’’

Starting over

One of baseball’s most dominant seasons by any pitcher began with Guidry being lit up all over Florida.

A case of bronchitis delayed Guidry’s spring training in ’78, arriving at Fort Lauderdale having lost seven pounds, “and I only weighed 150-something’’ to begin with.

“I’ve got two pitches, a fastball and a slider. And I can’t start throwing the slider until the fastball is in shape,’’ Guidry said. “I don’t even know if I got out of the first inning of my first exhibition game.’’

Becoming a team

Despite the presence of reigning AL Cy Young reliever Sparky Lyle, the Yanks imported free agent Goose Gossage, whose early-season problems were crystalized on a mid-May evening.

Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry, center, is congratulated

Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry, center, is congratulated by teammates Thurman Munson, left, and first baseman Chris Chambliss after the final out of the game with the California Angels on June 17, 1978. Guidry struck out 18 batters to set a Yankee record.  (Photo: AP)

With Gossage warmed and ready, “Billy comes to take me out,’’ Guidry said. “But Billy never made the decision until he really asked me,’’ whereupon Guidry refused to be replaced by the struggling Gossage.

After the game, Guidry waited by his locker for the inevitable confrontation.

Guidry: “Until you start getting guys out, don’t plan on coming into any more of my games.’’

Gossage: “You’re right. The way I’ve been pitching, I wouldn’t even want me in there.’’

Guidry: “Let’s go get a beer.’’

It was a key team-building moment, and Gossage pitched to a sub 2.00 ERA from that point on.


“You’re 14 games out and it seems insurmountable because of how good Boston was playing,’’ Guidry said. With Yaz, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, “it’s the best team that I ever faced.’’

But the Yankees were getting healthier while the Sox were losing a player here and there. Plus, “I stopped a losing streak I don’t know how many times that year.’’

September 7-10

Arriving at Fenway four games behind the first-place Sox, the Yankees departed even in the AL East standings.

Ron Guidry is shown in action against the Toronto Blue

Ron Guidry is shown in action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in New York in this Sept. 28, 1978 file photo. Guidry would win the AL Cy Young this year and a World Series with the Yankees.  (Photo: AP)

“We thought we could win. But we thought they’d be close games because they always were,’’ said Guidry, whose club outscored Boston 42-9 in the sweep.

And it was a hero-a-day period for the Yanks. “Somebody would do something when you least expected it,’’ Guidry said. “That’s when we hurt you.’’

Game 163

Working on three days rest, Guidry didn’t recall any of his teammate being nervous for the one-game playoff at Fenway Park. But, “I think it was the most nerve-wracking game any of us had ever played.

“We knew we could beat them there, all we had to do was keep the game close and that was my job.’’

Dent’s seventh-inning homer wiped out a 2-0 lead, “but don’t forget Mickey (Rivers) singles, steals second and Thurman (Munson) drives him home with two outs’’ to continue the inning. “We never quit.’’

Down to the Dodgers

After losing the first two World Series games at L.A., Guidry recalled how a ticked-off Munson announced: “We’re the world champions, we can sweep these guys…we’re just not doing what we’re supposed to be doing.’’

Guidry’s complete-game, Game 3 win turned the Series around, highlighted by several great plays by third baseman Graig Nettles.

Later, Guidry would tell Nettles: “If it wasn’t for me having a bad game, nobody would have known you were that good.’’

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