Reliving 1978 with Goose, Gator and Bucky

February 26, 2014 – While attending Bucky Dent’s annual golf outing in Lake Worth, Florida, in January, I sat down with Dent, Ron Guidry and Hall of Famer Goose Gossage for special Q&A feature that was published in the 2014 New York Yankees Official Spring Training Program.

In the interview, which took place on a deck that overlooks The Falls golf course, I asked the greats several questions about the Yankees 1978 championship season.

That year, the Yankees trailed the Boston Red Sox in the standings by 14 games in late July, before staging an epic comeback. Thanks in part to the contributions of Gossage, Dent and Guidry (who won 25 games), the Yankees caught the Red Sox at the end of the regular season, forcing a one-game playoff.

That epic contest, which took place in front of a hostile crowd in Fenway Park, is regarded as one of the most thrilling games in major league history, and the three men I spoke with played the most significant roles that afternoon. Guidry pitched the first 6 1/3 innings, giving up only two runs. Gossage staved off the Red Sox in the final 2 2/3 innings, and Dent hit the home run that put the Yankees on top in the seventh inning — and etched his name into baseball lore.

In the first few minutes of the half-hour conversation, I asked the former Yankees to discuss the season-long chase of the Red Sox.

“I was happy we were chasing the Red Sox, rather than being chased by them,” Gossage said. “We knew that they were looking over their shoulders because we were playing great and they were faltering. We knew there was more pressure on them, and we felt comfortable chasing them.”

A few minutes later, the former ballplayers discussed their archrivals.

“They were by far the best team I ever pitched against in my career,” Guidry said of the 1978 Red Sox squad. “From the first guy to the ninth guy, they were dangerous.”

When the conversation turned to the one-game playoff, the former players discussed the atmosphere in Fenway Park as if the storied game had just taken place.

“It was a beautiful fall day, and the crowd was into every pitch,” Dent said. “I felt a lot of pressure from the minute I got into the ballpark, but thankfully, I was able to stay focused and help us win the game.”

“There was a different feel to that day, beginning with batting practice,” Gossage added. “You could feel the tension in the ballpark. The crowd was actually subdued because they were so nervous. I never pitched in a game like that before or after that day.”

This feature includes several other great anecdotes about the 1978 season, and if you are a fan of Yankees history, I believe you will enjoy it.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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