McGee: This year in baseball, 1978

From SABR member Bob McGee at The National Pastime Museum on May 4, 2016:

It was a season with a prelude, beginning way before it started, perhaps even moments after Reggie Jackson had taken his big black bat to the plate, and on three successive swings in subsequent at-bats, put an exclamation point on the end of the 1977 World Series, the last of his three home runs soaring into the batters’ black-background of the Yankee Stadium center-field bleachers. Yankee hurler Mike Torrez had skip-jumped to corral a soft pop, the last out, arms-immediately-extended; within weeks, it seemed, he had traded colors, signing with the Red Sox for what would certainly be an epic struggle between both teams for the American League East in 1978.

And why wouldn’t it be? The Red Sox had won the American League pennant in ’75, the Yankees in ’76 and ’77, and it was really the first time the old archrivals were consistently competitive and nose-to-nose good since the epic teams of the late ’40s and roundabout ’50, with dueling DiMaggios, Williams, and supporting casts.

The Big Red Machine had polished off the Red Sox in seven in ’75 and swept the Yankees in ’76, but when Steinbrenner signed Jackson—“the straw that stirs the drink,” he would say of himself during ’77’s spring training in the long Sport magazine interview—it set the stage for a tumultuous, circus-strewn season and ultimate drubbing of the Dodgers in the Fall Classic. And now, all that behind them, as the stars were aligning, the two best teams in baseball seemingly had the distinction of residing in the same league, same division.

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Originally published: May 5, 2016. Last Updated: May 5, 2016.