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LA-Yankees 70s

With the Dodgers and Yankees back at it this weekend, let’s look back at the history the clubs had when they faced each other last in the World Series: 1977, 1978, and then again in 1981. These two clubs had a lot of bad blood going back to when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, so it’s nice to see how a rivalry continues to form here.

1977 was a fun year for the clubs. The Dodgers became the first team to house four hitters who hit 30 or more homers over the season, and they owned the best team ERA in the league. The Yankees relied on a new fandangled thing called “Free Agency”. They signed Reggie Jackson and Bucky Dent to deals (Bucky will be important later). The background for New York was the prime George Steinbrenner era: rambunctious Billy Martin at the helm with Reggie Jackson and Chris Chambliss doing magical things and the rise of the famed serial killer “Son of Sam” terrorizing all of New York City. In this backdrop, the Series occurred. Key highlights include a walk-off in Game 1 by light-hitting Paul Blair for New York and a clubbing in Game 5 10-4 by the Dodgers to send the Series back to New York with the Yankees up 3-2. Reggie Jackson then comes in and whacks three homers consecutively to lift the Yankee championship banner for the first time since 1962. Two records took place here: Reggie’s three home runs in a game as well as 5 in a World Series, and Sparky Lyle winning three consecutive decisions in a postseason.

1978: A repeat Series which had more excitement in it than seeing your favorite player win MVP. There was more backroom drama than ever before, especially among the Yankees: George and Billy had a falling out (shocker) and Reggie Jackson being the infamous straw that stirred the drink of the dynasty. This bickering led to them being 14 games behind Boston for the AL East crown on July 17, with them roaring back 48-20 down the stretch to force a playoff series and Bucky Dent causing pain to Red Sox fans everywhere. The Dodgers were a tad better, but raced in a three team race with San Francisco and Cincinnati at their heels almost the whole season. LA prevailed, thanks to good pitching and strong hitting. The outcome of the series, however, was still the same: Reggie Jackson came through in the clutch, especially against Dodger pitcher Bob Welch. Ron Guidry led the AL in wins and was Cy Young going 25-3 and finishing second in AL MVP votes.

1981: The third matchup in five years for these clubs leads to a new outcome: Los Angeles winning their first title since 1965. A season strike forced the leaders of the first half of season to play the second half in playoffs. In this example, the Dodgers played the Expos, where they won thanks to Rick Monday. Fernando-mania was rampant in LA as Valenzuela, the rookie of the year, led the team in a split season to a 63-47 record and a 2.48 ERA. LA also had Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Burt Hooten balance a great team. New York still had some faces familiar in this trilogy: Reggie, Tommy John and Guidry and cantankerous backstage politics that makes Macbeth look stable. The Yankees had to face the Brewers to get back to the Classic. The last meeting between these two powerhouses had the watchers in knots as to figure out if the Yankees would get the best of the Dodgers again, or if LA would exorcize their Yankee demons. Game 6 was the nadir for Yankees fans, as manager Bob Lemon controversially pulled Tommy John in the fourth inning and forced his gassed bullpen to close the door to force game seven. It failed magnificently as LA scalded the Yankee bullpen for nine runs and would win 9-2. Keep in mind that at the time of this Series, there was no DH in the World Series, so pitchers had to bat in both ballparks. LA would win their first title since 1965 and had 3 co-MVPS for the Series: Steve Yeager, Ron Cey, and Pedro Guerrero, the first time co-MVPs were recognised for their contributions.

Submitted by Dave Hummel

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