Sparky Lyle: Trading Card Database

October 11, 1977: Yankees leave Dodgers blue in Game 1 of World Series

This article was written by Ed Gruver

Sparky Lyle: Trading Card DatabaseYankees President Gabe Paul told reporters on November 18, 1976, that the Bronx Bombers considered newly signed southpaw ace Don Gullett “a modern Whitey Ford.”1

At the time of his free-agent signing, Gullett’s .684 winning percentage led all active major-league pitchers who had 100 or more decisions. Ford, like Gullett a left-handed hurler, owned a .690 winning percentage with the Yankees from 1950 to 1967.2

Paul’s comparison proved prescient. Nearly 11 months later, on October 11, 1977, Gullett joined Ford and new teammate and former Oakland A’s star Ken Holtzman as the most recent pitchers who were Game One starters in at least three consecutive World Series. Just as Ford did decades earlier, Gullett stood on the Yankee Stadium mound, wearing pinstripes and facing a formidable Dodgers squad.

Gullett split his prior two World Series openers, falling in Fenway Park to the Boston Red Sox in 1975 before rebounding in Riverfront Stadium in 1976 against the Yankees. Taking the view that if you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner III signed Gullett away from the Reds.3

Gullett was familiar with the Dodgers, having pitched against them since joining the Reds as a 19-year-old rookie in 1970. He was also familiar with his mound opponent, Dodgers ace right-hander Don Sutton. They dueled through the years in games that proved pivotal in deciding the National League Western Division champion.

While Gullett went 14-4 with a 3.58 ERA and a league-leading .778 winning percentage, Sutton was 14-8 in ’77 with a 3.18 ERA and a .636 percentage. In their League Championship Series, the two Dons went a combined 1-1. Gullett lost to Kansas City, 7-2, in Game One in an afternoon game at Yankee Stadium on October 5; Sutton shut down the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-1, that night in Dodger Stadium.

Sutton was no stranger to Yankee Stadium. The previous July 19 he started there for the NL All-Stars and was named Most Valuable Player in a 7-5 victory. He might have been more familiar with Yankee Stadium had his fate taken a different turn. Sutton, in fact, might have been starting for the Yankees and Gullett for the Dodgers.

When the 19-year-old Sutton was offered only a $2,000 signing bonus by the Yankees, he accepted the Dodgers’ offer of $15,000.4 Sutton signed with Dodgers scout Leon Hamilton on September 11, 1964.5

In 1976 Los Angeles was one of the clubs seeking to sign Gullett before the free agent agreed to terms with the Yankees.6

Because Gullett had left his ALCS Game One start after just two innings because of a sore shoulder, he was a surprise choice for the World Series opener. The 26-year-old tried to calm the fears of Yankee fans by stating that his use of heat treatment and 1- and 2-pound weights in the interim keyed his rapid recovery.7

To the 56,668 in attendance on a cool night – the game-time temperature in the Bronx stood at 59 degrees Fahrenheit – Gullett didn’t appear to be in prime condition when Davey Lopes led off with a walk and Bill Russell roped a run-scoring triple to left-center field. Reggie Smith followed with a walk on a 3-and-1 pitch, prompting Yankees manager Billy Martin to get right-handed reliever Dick Tidrow throwing in the bullpen. Ron Cey, perhaps bolstered by the black magic of a witch’s brew he acknowledged taking to deal with a batting slump, bombed a 410-foot sacrifice fly to Lou Piniella in left-center field to score Russell for a 2-0 lead.8

Next up was Steve Garvey, who banged 33 home runs and drove in 115 runs in the regular season. With the Dodgers threatening a big inning, Gullett called for catcher and team captain Thurman Munson to head to the hill. “If we get this fellow,” Gullett told Munson, “somebody’s in trouble.”9

In immediate trouble was Smith, who was trapped off first base and run down. Garvey worked the Dodgers’ third walk of the inning, but Gullett got Dusty Baker to ground to Graig Nettles at third base for the final out.

“Gullett was all psyched up for the game,” Munson told reporters. “He was hyper, he was overthrowing. As soon as he settled down, he was all right.”10

The Yankees halved their deficit in their first at-bat. Sutton retired jackrabbits Mickey Rivers and Willie Randolph on groundouts. Munson stroked a single to left field, Reggie Jackson singled to center, and Chris Chambliss singled to right for New York’s first run.

Gullett and Sutton settled in and did not allow further scoring for the next four innings. Los Angeles rallied in the top of the sixth, Garvey reaching on a one-out bunt single along the third-base line. Baker flied out to Rivers in short center field, but Glenn Burke lined a two-out single to the gap in right-center. Seeking to score from first base, Garvey stormed home as third-base coach Preston Gomez gave the former Michigan State football player the green light. Rivers’ throw bounced before reaching Munson, who grabbed the ball on the first-base side and lunged to his left to tag the sliding Garvey.

Plate umpire Nestor Chylak, peering through the dust and dirt kicked up by the collision, called Garvey out, raising a storm of protest by the Dodgers. Steve Yeager saw the play from the on-deck circle and said Chylak was screened and could not see that Garvey was safe. Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda agreed. Garvey told reporters Munson “tagged me somewhere from the calf up, which meant my foot had to be across the plate.”11

In the bottom of the sixth, Randolph, who hit just four homers in the regular season, pulled a Sutton pitch into the left-field seats, tying the game, 2-2. In the eighth inning, Sutton surrendered a leadoff walk to Randolph, who raced home when Munson picked on a first pitch and drilled a line-drive double down the left-field line. Down 3-2, Lasorda replaced Sutton with reliever Lance Rautzhan. The Dodgers escaped further damage, then tied the game in the ninth.

Gullett gave up a leadoff single to Championship Series MVP Baker, then retired pinch-hitter Manny Mota on a short fly ball to right field. A walk to Yeager brought on ace reliever Sparky Lyle to face pinch-hitter Lee Lacy. Lyle had 26 saves in the regular season and would be named the American League’s Cy Young Award winner. He had also won the final two playoff games in Kansas City. Lyle, however, yielded a single to left by Lacy that scored Baker with the tying run.

Lyle ended the threat by getting Lopes to fly out and Russell to line out. Mike Garman, the fourth Los Angeles pitcher, set down the Yankees to force the second extra-innings World Series game in three years.12

The Dodgers and Yankees dueled deep into the New York night. In the bottom of the 12th, the Yankees faced the fifth Dodgers pitcher of the game, right-hander Rick Rhoden. Randolph led off with another big hit, a double down the left-field line. Munson was intentionally walked, and Paul Blair, a veteran of the Baltimore Orioles’ World Series squads between 1966 and 1971 whom Martin had inserted in the ninth as a defensive replacement for Jackson in right field, approached the plate. Ordered to move Randolph to third to give sluggers Chambliss and Nettles the opportunity to plate the winning run, Blair twice attempted to bunt.

A conference with third-base coach and future Yankees manager Dick Howser ensued, and Blair followed by redirecting a Rhoden fastball past Russell at shortstop. Baker tried to barehand the ball in left field but failed to grip it and Randolph ran home with the winning run. The 4-3 victory was the Yankees’ first in a World Series game since Game Six in 1964, ending a run of five straight losses. It also snapped a streak of four consecutive home defeats in World Series play, the Yankees not having won in the Bronx since a ninth-inning homer by Mickey Mantle beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Three of the 1964 fall classic.

Blair told reporters the game-winning single ranked among his more memorable postseason memories, including another one against the Dodgers, in 1966 against Claude Osteen that gave the Orioles a 1-0 win.13

Gullet worked 8⅓ innings and allowed three runs, all earned, on five hits. He struck out six and walked six. Lyle got the win, working 3⅔ innings and surrendering just one hit while striking out two. The victory was Lyle’s third straight in the 1977 postseason.



Along with the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted and for additional information on players and teams.

Photo credit: Trading Card Database.



1 Associated Press and United Press International Wire Services, “Yankees Snare a ‘New Ford’: Don Gullett,” St. Petersburg Times, November 19, 1976: 1C.

2 “Yankees Snare a ‘New Ford.’”

3 Murray Chass, “Yankees Sign Gullett to 6-Year Pact Worth a Reported $2 Million,” New York Times, November 19, 1976: 25.

4 Lowell Reidenbaugh, “Yanks’ Extra-Innings Heroics Subdue Dodgers,” The Sporting News, October 29, 1977: 5.

5 Ronnie Joyce, “Former Aggie Sutton Signs Dodger Contract,” Pensacola News-Journal, September 13, 1964: 37.

6 Murray Chass, “Yankees Sign Gullett to 6-Year Pact Worth a Reported $2 Million,” New York Times, November 19, 1976: 25.

7 Reidenbaugh 5.

8 John Holway, “Those Witches’ Brews Could Be Good For You,” The Sporting News, October 29, 1977: 16.

9 Reidenbaugh.

10 Reidenbaugh.

11 Reidenbaugh.

12 In the 1975 World Series, Carlton Fisk’s dramatic 12-inning home run gave the Boston Red Sox a sixth-game victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

13 Reidenbaugh.

Additional Stats

New York Yankees 4
Los Angeles 3
12 innings
Game 1, WS

Yankee Stadium
New York, NY


Box Score + PBP:

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