The 1978 Fall Classic was a rematch of the previous year with the Dodgers 95-67 still managed by Tommy Lasorda facing the New York Yankees 100-63 managed by former pitcher Bob Lemon as Billy Martin had been fired by George Steinbrenner midway through the season.
Steinbrenner’s use of free agency continued as they added all-star relief pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage to their pitching staff who took over as the closer in the bullpen.
The New Yorkers were led by catcher Thurman Munson .297 BA, Craig Nettles 27 HR/93 RBI, Reggie Jackson 27 HR/94 RBI, Willie Randolph 36 SB and Lou Piniella .314 BA.
The pitching staff was again anchored by lefthander Ron Guidry 25-3, 1.74 ERA, Ed Figueroa 20-9/ 2.99 ERA, Catfish Hunter 12-6 and Gossage with 27SV/2.01 ERA.
The 5’ 11” 160 pound Guidry’s pitching constantly kept New York in the pennant race with 16 complete games and nine shutouts. A complete game helps a tired pitching staff rest during the long major league season.
Guidry compiled the best season since Sandy Koufax’s 25-5 year for the Dodgers in 1963. He also had an 18 strikeout game and finished second in the AL MVP balloting.
The Dodgers returned pretty much the same team from the previous year with Steve Garvey 21HR/113RBI/.316 BA, Davey Lopes 45SB/93RS, Ron Cey 23 HR/84RBI, Reggie Smith 26 HR/93RBI/.295BA and left-handed hitting Rick Monday adding 19 home runs off the bench.
Burt Hooten led the pitching staff with a 19-10 record followed by Tommy John 17-10 and Doug Rau 15-9 with Terry Forster 5-4, 22SV/1.53 ERA in the bullpen.
The series opened in Dodger Stadium in LA with Tommy John opposing Ed Figueroa. LA got a boost from an unlikely power hitter-second baseman Davey Lopes-who hit two home runs and drove in five runs to lead the Dodgers to an 11-5 victory. Reggie Jackson continued his streak of games with a home run in it with a solo blast in the seventh for the Yankees.
Game two featured Catfish Hunter starting against Burt Hooten and in a close game the Yankees led going into the bottom of the sixth 2-1 until Dodger third baseman Ron Cey unloaded a three run homer off of Hunter which proved to be the winning runs in a 4-3 victory and the Dodgers seem to be in good shape with a two games to noneseries lead.
Ron Guidry changed the course of the series with an eight hit complete game 5-1 win in Yankee Stadium to put the Yankees back in the series. A first inning solo home run by secondbaseman Roy White set the stage as the Bronx Bombers got to Don Sutton for five runs in his six innings of work.
Still in New York game four was a key game of the series and the closest. Neither starter Ed Figueroa or Tommy John would be around at the end of the game which was tied 3-3 after nine innings. A three run Reggie Smith home run accounted for all of the Dodger runs.
John was ahead 3-2 after having pitched seven inning and Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda sent him out to start the eighth. As often happens when a pitcher begins to tire, he walked the leadoff hitter which breaks one of the cardinal rules of baseball-never put the leadoff hitter on base.
John was replaced by Terry Forster and Thurman Munson doubled in Paul Blair to tie the game 3-3 with Bob Welch coming on to pitch the ninth and tenth for LA.
Bob Lemon went to Gossage for the ninth and tenth innings and he pitched two scoreless innings. Lou Piniella singled in Roy White in the top of the tenth for a 4-3 Yankee lead and the New Yorkers tie up the series 2-2.
The what if is what if Lasorda had pulled John and allowed Forster to start the eighth-the Dodgers might have able to hold on to the lead for those last six outs.
Capitalizing on the previous day’s momentum the Yankees exploded for 18 hits and a 12-2 win with Thurman Munson driving in five runs with three hits and Jim Beatie going all the way for a complete game victory.
After winning the first two games the Dodgerswere on the ropes and attempted to regroup as the teams moved back to Chavez Ravine in LA.
WorldSeries veteran Catfish Hunter got the ball for New York and Don Sutton for LA. Davey Lopes homered for his third of the series in the first inning but the Dodger bats were mostly silent against Hunter who scattered six hits in seven innings and Gossage who pitched two scoreless innings in relief for a 7-2 Yankee win.
The Dodgers had scored 15 runs in their first two games but only eight in the last four as the Yankee pitching held them in check. It would be Catfish Hunter’s last World Series appearance as he would retire after the 1979 season.
Reggie Jackson added a home run in game six to his WS total and Bucky Dent got the series MVP.
Both teams would be back to face each other in the World Series in 1981.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate