The special one-game playoff between the Red Sox and Yankees on Oct. 2, 1978 began at 2:30 p.m. EST in Boston.
School didn't get out until 3 p.m. Then my brother and I took a bus 20 minutes back to our house. Our friend, Matt, lived four houses away. He was a Yankees fan, but it didn't matter. He was a big, goofy guy, harmless as Yankees fans go, and besides, earlier that season I had traded a bunch of 1978 Yankees to him for old cards from 1969 and 1971 that he had received from his older brother.
We definitely could head down into his family's basement den to watch the game, aired by WPIX, on a black-and-white TV propped up in the corner.
By the time we got over to his house to watch the game, the Red Sox were already ahead 1-0 and soon added another run. Matt was disappointed, but as youngsters who liked to goof off, we didn't watch the game too closely, only for the big moments.
One of those came in the seventh inning:
Bill White: Now the batter's Bucky Dent, the Yankees shortstop. He's flied to right and popped to short. Dent's 0-for-2.
(Bucky Dent steps into the batters box, hands a few inches above the handle and squats toward the plate).
Bill White: Bucky got a key base hit here against Denny Eckersley when the Yankees won four in a row here the last time they played in Fenway Park. Eckersley had two strikes on him. This is another key situation for Bucky Dent. Runners at first and second, two outs, Yankees down two-nothing.
(Dent flails at a low pitch, barely checking his swing).
Bill White: Low, ball one.
Torrez has given up back-to-back singles by Chambliss and White here in the seventh inning. But he got pinch-hitter Jim Spencer and he's down ... uh, one ball, no strikes to Bucky Dent.
(Dent swings at a pitch over the plate and rolls onto the ground).
Bill White: Fouuuled off his foot. It's 1-and-1. (pause) Bucky's given up wearing protection on his (pause) left ankle. (pause). He fouls a lot of balls down there. He had been wearing a shin guard just where he's touching. Gene Monahan, the Yankee trainer, now out talking to Dent. Just off the left instep. Right there. And we'll get the ethyl chloride out and spray it. (pause). Dick Howser, the Yankee third base coach, in there looking. (pause). That's only temporary relief. Sometimes I wonder if it's relief at all. (chuckle).
(Replay of the swing)
Bill White: Here it is again. Dent getting on top of the ball, right off the left instep and that smarts. (pause). The bat boy brings Bucky a new bat and he'll exchange bats. (pause). The count's 1-and-1. Two outs. Two on. The Red Sox lead 2-0 in the seventh inning here at Fenway.
(Dent swings at the next pitch sending the ball high toward the left field corner)
Bill White: DEEP TO LEFT. YASTZREMSKI WILL NOT GET IT. IT'S A HOME RUN! A THREE-RUN HOME RUN FOR BUCKY DENT AND THE YANKEES NOW LEAD IT BY A SCORE OF 3-2. BUCKY DENT HAS JUST HIT HIS FIFTH HOME RUN OF THE YEAR INTO THE SCREEN! (pause). AND LOOK AT THAT YANKEE BENCH LED BY BOB LEMON. (pause). BIG CLIFF JOHNSON OUT THERE! AND A HAPPY BUCKY DENT! YANKEES NOW LEAD 3-2!
Boy, the last guy on the ball club you'd expect to hit a home run just hit one into the screen, Bucky Dent.
(A replay of the home run with the Miller beer logo superimposed on the screen. White doesn't miss a beat).
Bill White: Now comes Miller Time, when you've got the time to celebrate something special, head for the best-tasting beer you can find, Miller High Life! There's that ball going up on the screen! (pause). And Mickey Rivers just fouled one back. Chambliss scored. Roy White scored. Bucky Dent floated home and the Yankees lead it 3-2!
Rivers has walked, doubled and forced a runner. (pause). 1-and-1. (pause). So Bucky Dent hitting what has to be the biggest home run of his career. Lifted one onto the screen against Mike Torrez with two runners on and the Yankees lead by one. Curve ball's a strike 1-and-2. (pause). Yankees now have three runs on five base hits, the Red Sox two runs on five base hits. (pause). 2-and-2 and the Yankees have Rich Gossage loosening up in the bullpen. Let's see, the Red Sox will have Hobson, Scott and Brohamer, two right-handers and a left-hander, due in in the bottom of this inning (pause) and we might get Gossage in the ballgame. Guidry pitching with just three days rest.
That'll kick foul! (pause). Yup (chuckle), that'll ... Fisk hurries and picks it up before it goes back fair. (pause) 2-and-2.
(Bill White with a low chuckle)
Phil Rizzuto: Don't ask me to say anything, I've been holding my breath, Bill White.
Bill White: I'm not going to ask you to say anything. (pause). How'd you like that ball up on the screen?
Phil Rizzuto: Oh! You know I was in the press room with all those Red Sox fans and when Bucky hit it, I let out three holy cows and I thought Frank Malzone was going to bite me on the ankle!
Of course, I didn't hear anything after Dent reached home plate. Our friend Matt was jumping up and down awkwardly and my brother and I slipped into a deep cloud of denial. I remember nothing of that game until Yastrzemski popped up to third with runners on first and third and two outs for the final play of the game.
For years, that game was the most disgusting outcome of any game I had ever watched and it led to another Yankees World Series victory against my Dodgers. Every baseball fan encounters heartbreak, my first crushing moments were as a 12- and 13-year-old.
I still want MLB to check the bat the bat boy gave Dent. I still want MLB to check what was in that ethyl chloride.
The guy is *@!&%# BUNTING on his baseball card!