Special Story on Bucky Dent — in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine
By Alfred Santasiere III
August 3, 2016 — In late April, I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and have since written a feature story that I believe is as special as any I’ve penned during my career.
A few weeks before the season began, I asked my friend and former Yankees great Bucky Dent if he would spend some time with me in Boston for a story about the home run he hit in the winner-take-all, tiebreaker game to decide the American League East in 1978.
When Dent agreed to re-live the moment that changed his life and that helped shape the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry in the city and specifically the ballpark that it took place in, I felt as if I had hit a monumental home run.
Of course, I still needed to get the Red Sox front office to allow me to bring Dent to Fenway Park for an interview and photo shoot. Following a request from Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy agreed to let us do so.
A few weeks after ironing out the plans, I arrived in Boston and met up with Dent at the Union Oyster, America’s oldest restaurant. In my opinion, this historical establishment was the perfect place to start the two-day trip and for Dent to share his memories of the history he wrote.
As Dent began to reminisce about the dramatic 1978 game, the restaurant’s GM brought out a round “Green Monsta’ IPA” beer, a tasty tribute to Fenway Park’s left-field wall that the shortstop is forever linked to.
Early the next morning, I met Dent outside Fenway Park. Moments later, we were greeted by Zineb Curran, a Red Sox executive who escorted us everywhere we wanted to visit within the ballpark.
As we walked through a dimly-lit concourse and out to the seats, Dent’s eyes lit up.
“This is pretty cool,” he said. “I haven’t been here in a long time. When you walk into this ballpark, the first place your eyes take you is to the Green Monster. Every time I see it, I’m in awe of its beauty.”
When Dent got down to the field, he began to retrace his steps, from the dugout to the on-deck circle and finally to the batter’s box where he made history.
“In my first two at-bats, I popped the ball up,” Dent said. “Then when I came up in the seventh, I fouled the second pitch off my foot. I had been wearing a shin guard and a foam pad on my leg because I had gotten a blood clot earlier in the season. I wasn’t wearing that stuff that day, and when I fouled the ball off my foot, it swelled up right away because of the blood clot. We didn’t have any other infielders on the bench, so I knew that I had to stay in the game.
That’s when fate — and a helpful teammate — intervened.
“As I was walking back to the batter’s box, Mickey [Rivers] noticed that the bat that I had been using was cracked,” Dent said. “So he yelled, ‘Hey, Homie, you’ve got the wrong bat.’ But I was in so much pain that I didn’t even hear him. The next thing I know, the bat boy comes up to me, takes one bat out of my hand and gives me a new bat.”
Still standing in the batter’s box on the late April morning earlier this year, Dent turned toward left field.
“I knew [Red Sox pitcher] Mike Torrez was trying to get the ball in on me,” Dent said. “I thought he was going to try to throw another pitch on the inside part of the plate, and that is what he tried to do. But he missed, and the ball came in over the middle of the plate. I knew I hit the ball pretty good. But I didn’t know if it was going to clear the Monster. There was a shadow on the wall, and I couldn’t tell where the ball was. When I rounded first base, I saw the umpire signal that it was a home run.”
After describing the at-bat, Dent began to walk in the same direction that the baseball had traveled all those years ago.
“As I was rounding third base, this is what it sounded like,” said Dent, looking into the seats of the nearly empty ballpark. “It was silent.”
Still taking it all in, Dent continued a slow walk out to the Monster.
When he got to the large wall, Dent pointed to one of many grooves created by baseballs crashing up against it.
“They used to refer to these as dents,” he said. “But that’s not a nice word around here, so now they call them dings.”
Our last stop that morning was the seats on top of the Green Monster, which were added many years after Dent hit the home run.
“Who would have ever thought they would have built seats up here,” Dent said. “This is an amazing view. Whoever thought of putting seats up here is a genius.”
After taking in the view, Dent figured out where the baseball he hit cleared the Monster.
“This is where the ball went out,” Dent said. “It was right here. I can tell by where the poles were. Back then, the poles held the net. We tried to get the ball out of the net afterward. My friend asked the Red Sox if they could get the ball out of the net, but after each game, they would dump all of the batting practice and home run balls onto the street below.”
Later that evening, we attended the Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway. We got to our seats — next to the Yankees dugout — early, and with time to kill before the first pitch, Dent decided to do something he had never done in Fenway Park: walk up to a concessions stand and buy a beer.
Without looking up at Dent, the man serving the beer asked for his driver’s license. The man looked down at the license. Then he looked up at Dent.
“How are you doing, Bucky?” the man asked.
“Great,” Dent said. “I love being here.”
There are so many more anecdotes from the two days I spent with Dent in Boston in the story, which is in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine. It is a special and candid recollection of one of the great events in Yankees — and baseball — history.
— Alfred Santasiere III