Bucky Dent 1983 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 6, 2017

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As it turns out, Bucky Dent’s middle name is NOT “Fucking.” In fact he was born Russell Earl O’Dey. But Russell Fucking O’Dey doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I wonder what Bucky Dent’s legacy is going to be moving forward. Stop and think about that. The whole Curse of the Bambino thing has been over for 13 years.

If you use “The Rule of Seven”, then there are 20 year old kids in college who have no memory of the Red Sox NOT being a World Champion or the Yankees being the eternal tormentors of all of New England.

The whole concept of a villain like Bucky Dent making a fan base shudder is recency but also the idea that the wrong has not been righted.

Compiling all the horrible events between 1918 and 2004 allowed named like Bucky Dent to be compounded. It helped that Bucky and Buckner not only sounded similar but also sounded like a certain word that rhymes with Buck that a lot of Red Sox fans would mutter.

But with the 2004 title, the Curse became a thing of the past. And with 2007 and 2013, it became clear that not only was the Curse a thing of the past but there was healing.

If 2004 was a direct answer to 2003, Aaron Boone and Grady Little, then 2007 wiped out 1986 and 2013 took care of 1978. All Red Sox fans need is the corresponding title to 1975, 1967 and 1946 and all is taken care of.

Young fans might not understand exactly how powerful Bucky Dent was. But also consider, I was too young to REALLY remember 1978. I remember the red hats and the players, but 6 year old Sully didn’t understand the pennant race etc. I didn’t understand how the Red Sox blew a gigantic lead, allowed the Yankees to pull off the 4 game sweep in September only to see Boston finish the season with a wild winning streak to force a one game playoff.

And I didn’t understand the cruelty of not only losing the one game playoff by one run and with the winning runs on base, but that the entire game hinged on a 2 out fly ball homer by the lightest hitting member of the Yankees on a ball that would have been caught in any other park.

As I wrote in a post in 2015, historically, that loss still stings. So many great Red Sox could have received their rings in 1978. But that sting is getting more and more distant as a generation of Boston fans have grown up expecting a championship at least every other year.

He was raised by his mother’s brother and adopted the name Dent in Georgia. He later moved to Florida and was drafted by the White Sox. He was an adequate shortstop, arriving in White Sox camp as a 21 year old in 1973. By 1974, he had supplanted Hall of Famer Luis Apparcio.

He made the 1975 All Star team and was a steady player. But the pressure of replacing a legend was not pleasant to Dent. He needed to go somewhere where the fans could be easier on him and he’d have less pressure.

Before the 1977 season started, he was traded to the Yankees, the same place where George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin turned the clubhouse into a tabloid newspaper paradise.

Circumventing the lunacy, Dent made a nice double play combination with Willie Randolph and helped the Yankees win the 1977 World Series.

In 1978, he was serviceable as the shortstop but only had 4 homers in the entire season before showing up to Boston for the one game playoff.

His hot hitting extended into the World Series where he batted .417 and was named the MVP. (It should have been Reggie but I digress.)

He made a few more All Star teams but was traded away to Texas in time for this Fleer Card to be printed. (I barely remember that logo for the Rangers.)

After a few games with the Royals in 1984, he called it a career, briefly resurfacing as the Yankee manager in 1989 and 1990.

So now he goes on, a fading specter and a ghost who has lost his haunting powers. The more sports curses are broken, as we saw with the White Sox, the Cubs and the city of Cleveland, the more their tormentors are weakened.

Dent will always be beloved in Yankee Stadium. The glory of victory is eternal. The fear of the conqueror is no longer as great if you’ve done some conquering since then.

Greg Gagne 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 20, 2017

The 1980’s were a strange time for the New York Yankees. They did not win a World Series in a decade for the first time and they had a hard time developing a new young core.

Sure Don Mattingly and Dave Righetti came of age in that decade. But young pitching stars like Jose Rijo and Doug Drabek were shipped off as were young bats like Fred McGriff and Willie McGee for veterans who did not help their cause.

George Steinbrenner’s impulsiveness was always in the way.

With Bucky Dent, hero of 1978 fading, the Yankees also had a revolving door of shortstops. As always, the team coveted proven veterans in place of young up and comers.

Greg Gagne was a young prospect in the Yankees farm system from Massachusetts. At the start of the 1982 season, he joined the parade of talented future big leaguers who would be dealt away. He was sent to the Twins for Roy Smalley, an established big leaguer.

By 1985 he was the starting shortstop of the Twins at age 23 while the Yankees were still struggling to fill the void in the infield.

Steady but hardly spectacular, Gagne provided some pop at short in an era where they were expected to field and not hit much. He would smack double digit homers and get his share of doubles and triples as the Twins formed a slugging team that resembled a beer league.

He hit a pair of inside the park homers on October 4, 1986, being just the second person since 1930 to achieve that feat.

In 1987, the Twins shockingly made the post season. Gagne homered twice in the ALCS win over the Tigers, posting a 1.187 OPS. He also homered in the World Series against St. Louis and the Twins won the franchise’s first World Series title since they were the Washington Senators in 1924.

Former Yankees Joe Niekro and George Frazier were also on that team. Also on that team? Roy Smalley, who was reacquired by Minnesota. Being a Twin was an easier path to a World Series than being a Yankee.

That was the case in 1991 when the 29 year old Gagne was once again starting in the World Series. (The Yankees had not appeared in a Series at that point since dealing away Gagne. )

He hit a key homer in Game 1 of the World Series, helping give the Twins the win over Atlanta. The two would play one of the great World Series in baseball history with the Twins coming out on top.

He bounced between the Royals and Dodgers between 1993 and 1997, making the post season again with Los Angeles in 1996.

That was the year the Yankees finally DID win a World Series title. They did so with a lot of homegrown players including a young shortstop named Jeter.

Maybe they would have made it back to the World Series sooner if they held onto a few of their homegrown players.

I’m just saying.

MIKE TORREZ – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 9

File Photo - AP

File Photo – AP

OCTOBER 9, 1977 – American League Championship Series Game 5

The 1977 Yankees are one of the most written about and talked about World Series winners in the history of baseball. The combination of George Steinbrenner’s madness, Billy Martin’s paranoia and Reggie Jackson’s ego under the microscope of a tumultuous summer filled with blackouts, elections and the Son of Sam made the soap opera of the Yankees too much to resist. Even a miniseries was made about that team.

The team had a spectacular conclusion, with Reggie Jackson homering with his final three swings of the season and delivering the Yankees their first championship since 1964. The pitcher on the mound for the clinching was not Cy Young winning closer Sparky Lyle but rather Mike Torrez, a steady veteran who never played a full season with the Yankees.

Torrez pitched a pair of complete game victories in the World Series and made his imprint on the 1977 title. But this entry is not about his World Series. This is about his performance in the ALCS, where his positive contributions were not as obvious as in the World Series but no less important.

The native of Kansas did not even begin the season with the Yankees. The 30 year old right hander was a steady 225 inning a year pitcher who bounced around from the Cardinals, Expos, Orioles and A’s between 1967 and 1977. (He was sent from Baltimore to Oakland in the deal that sent Reggie Jackson to the Birds.)

He found himself joining the Yankee staff in a deal that sent Dock Ellis to the A’s (Ellis lasted in Oakland for about an hour and a half before becoming a Ranger.)

Torrez was a relatively anonymous starter in a staff that featured future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, World Series hero Don Gullett and rising stars Ed Figueroa and Ron Guidry. Torrez was steady, unspectacular and reliable for Billy Martin, hardly a boat rocker on a team full of them.

In the ALCS, Martin gave Torrez the ball to start Game 3 in Kansas City with the series tied at one. He fell behind early and eventually finished with an unimpressive 5 2/3 inning outing, allowing 5 runs and getting the loss. The Yankees were on the brink of elimination on Torrez’s shoulders.

Sparky Lyle’s arm and the bat and speed of Mickey Rivers forced a 5th and deciding game between the Royals and Yankees for the second straight year. Billy Martin rattled the controversy cage again by benching Reggie Jackson for the finale. Ron Guidry got the start but did not have his best stuff. Brett’s triple and Al Cowens’ single put the Yankees in a 3-1 hole with 1 out in the third.

Martin lifted Guidry and brought in Torrez to stop the bleeding. He struck out Amos Otis and John Wathan to end the 3rd inning rally.

Then Mike Torrez worked around a lead off hit to throw a scoreless 4th. He tip toed around 2 base runners for a scoreless 5th. He tossed a 1-2-3 inning in the 6th and 7th. All the while Paul Splitorff kept the Yankees from scoring, but the Royals could not pad the lead.

Reggie Jackson came off the bench to make it a one run game before Torrez came out to pitch the 8th. He got the first two outs before walking the next two batters. Lyle relieved him and worked out of the jam. In the end, Torrez threw 5 1/3 shutout innings and kept the game from getting out of hand.

The Yankees would rally for three runs in the 9th and capture the pennant. Lyle clinched the game and was credited for the win. Torrez’s performance probably saved the game and put the Yankees in a position to win. Had Torrez not pitched well, the Royals would have won the pennant and the “Reggie Jackson in New York” experiment would have ended with him on the bench in the post season, nursing a reputation of being a small market player.

Torrez shone in the World Series. When he caught the clinching out, Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent was one of the players who embraced him. Less than a year later, those two would be linked forever as Torrez left for Boston in the off season and served up his former teammate one of the most memorable (and profane inducing) homers in baseball history.

But for Yankee fans, thank Torrez for giving them a chance to see a title and lead to Reggie’s signature moment.

For that reason, Mike Torrez is the Unsung Postseason Hero of October 9.