The 1978 baseball season revolved around the American League East. For the final ten weeks of the season, the Red Sox and Yankees were involved in a wild, exciting race, full of memorable moments on and off the field.
Through mid-July, it was all Red Sox. They were enjoying a 13-1/2 game lead over the Brewers and had outstanding performances from a host of players, especially Jim Rice. Rice was on his way to an MVP season, in which he would bat .315 with 46 homers and 139 RBI.
Even better for Red Sox rooters, the Yankees were in the midst of intense turmoil. Reggie Jackson had been suspended for five games by manager Billy Martin, and a week later Martin was forced to resign after making derogatory remarks about Jackson and owner George Steinbrenner.
Amid the pandemonium, the Yankees began to play good baseball, arriving at Fenway in early September down by only 4 games. The Yankees went on to rock the Sox 15-3, 13-2, 7-0, and 7-4 in what became known as the "Boston Massacre."
There were exciting moments in other parks as well. Pete Rose got his 3,000th career hit, and ran a 44-game hitting streak through June and July. His efforts couldn't carry the Reds, though, as they fell 2½ games short of the Dodgers in the National League West.
The Phillies, led by Greg Luzinski's 35 homers, edged out the Pirates to capture their third straight National League East title.
The Royals, led by manager Whitey Herzog, won the American League West. Herzog had his team on the run, as they led the league with 216 stolen bases. Even George Brett had a career-high 23 thefts.
Back in Boston, the battle between the Sox and Yanks was reaching its climax. Tied after the regulation 162 games, the teams played a single game at Fenway to determine the division champ.
The Red Sox went into the seventh inning with a 2-0 lead, but then Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent swatted a three-run homer into the left-field netting. The Yanks never relinquished the lead.
Set against the dramatic one-game playoff, postseason play paled in comparison. The Yankees beat the Royals for the third year running, three games to one. Game three featured three home runs by Brett, but Thurman Munson belted a two-run homer to win the game 6-5. A Roy White solo shot in game four secured the American League flag for the Yanks.
The Dodgers also won their playoffs three to one, beating Danny Ozark's Phillies. A tenth-inning single by shortstop Bill Russell drove in the winning run in the final game and put the Dodgers back in the World Series, setting the stage for a rematch of the 1977 Series.
Although the conclusion was a repeat of last year's World Series -- the Yankees beat the Dodgers in six games -- the storyline was different. After the Dodgers won the first two contests, the Yankees shut them down the rest of the way.
The left side of the Yankees' infield was spectacular in the fall classic. Anyone who watched game three will never forget the amazing defensive might of Graig Nettles, who made several diving stops. Cy Young winner Ron Guidry, 25-3 during the regular season, went the distance in game three to earn the win.
The Yankees wrapped it up in game six. Dent, the 1978 World Series MVP, banged out three hits, lifting the Bombers to a 7-2 victory and to their 22nd World Title.
Find headlines and summaries of major stories from the 1978 baseball season on the next page.
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1978 Baseball Season Headlines
In 1978, the internal strife of the Yankees came to a head, resulting in the forced resignation of Billy Martin. Here are some of the headlines from the 1978 baseball season:
Ron Guidry on a Rampage
If not for Jim Rice's career season, Ron Guidry would probably have been 1978 American League MVP. Guidry won the 1978 Cy Young Award for his 25-3 record hands down. He set three Yankees records in 1978: most consecutive wins to start a season (13), most Ks in a year (248), and most strikeouts in a game (18, against the Angels on June 17).
Lou Whitaker Named 1978 American League Rookie of the Year
Slick fielding, speed, and a .285 average helped Lou Whitaker win the 1978 American League Rookie of the Year Award, making him the first Tiger who wasn't a pitcher to win the title since Harvey Kuenn in 1953. "Sweet Lou," who debuted with Alan Trammell, continued to turn two with his pal until 1995. Whitaker became the team's best second baseman since Charlie Gehringer.
Amos Otis Hits .429 in ALCS
Amos Otis gave a dazzling performance in the 1978 American League Championship Series, leading his team with a .429 batting average. Otis also set the then-record of four stolen bases in a five-game playoff event. His post-season heroics capped a 1978 season in which he hit .298 with 22 homers and 96 RBI.
Pete Rose Breaks, Ties Batting Streaks
In 1978, Pete Rose bettered the modern National League batting streak of 37 games set by Holmes in 1945. Rose hit in 44 straight games, tying Willie Keeler's all-time National League mark. On May 5, 1978, Rose, 37, became the youngest player to reach 3,000 hits.
George Steinbrenner Ousts Billy Martin
Billy Martin sealed his fate in July of 1978, while still at the Yankee helm, when he insulted owner George Steinbrenner and outfielder Reggie Jackson. Said Martin: "The two of them deserve each other: One's a born liar; the other's convicted." Martin was forced to resign shortly after making the remarks. He returned to the Yankees in July 1979.
Eddie Murray Clubs 27 HRs Again
In 1977, Eddie Murray became the first DH to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Hitting .283, he had 27 homers and 88 RBI.
As a sophomore in 1978, Murray was switched to first base, where he batted .285 with 27 homers and 95 RBI. The all-time home run king for the Orioles ranks among the all-time leaders in grandslams (he nailed at least one in each season from 1980-1986).
Bob Horner Is 1978 National League Rookie of the Year
Expectations for Bob Horner ran high in 1978. After signing with the Braves, Horner slugged his way to the 1978 National League Rookie of the Year Award. Smacking a dinger in his first game in the majors, he went on to tally 23 homers and 63 RBI in only 89 games. In the next two years, despite limited duty, Horner clubbed 68 homers. In 1987, he was playing the game in Japan.
Dave Parker Named 1978 National League MVP
In 1978, Dave Parker was made the leader of the team known as the "Pittsburgh Lumber Company." Parker followed on the heels of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell by winning the 1978 National League MVP Award with a .334 batting average, .585 slugging average, 30 homers, and 117 RBI. Parker achieved most of this success with a wired broken jaw which required him to wear a football-type helmet while at bat.
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More 1978 Baseball Season Headlines
Below are more headlines for the 1978 baseball season, including George Steinbrenner's wild year and Greg Nettles' outstanding World Series performance.
Gaylord Perry Takes 1978 Cy Young Award
Gaylord Perry (21-6, .778 win pct.) captured his second Cy Young Award in 1978 -- at age 42. He was the first hurler to capture the title in both circuits. For years, Perry was criticized for doctoring the ball -- using grease, jellies, Vaseline. Said Billy Martin: "When you stand next to Perry, he smells like a drugstore."
George Steinbrenner: Pure Yankee
George Steinbrenner symbolized the Yankees. He represented grit -- like the club's comeback in 1978 -- and arrogance by involving himself in the everyday affairs of managing. Steinbrenner changed managers in mid-1978, a move that sparked New York to the Series. Although he tried this maneuver several more times in his career, it never again brought success.
George Foster Tops National League in RBI
In 1978, George Foster whacked 40 homers, batted .281, and spearheaded the National League with 120 RBI. For the remainder of his 18-year career, the outfielder would be expected to duplicate his heroics in 1977 -- a goal he never achieved.
Jim Rice Named 1978 American League MVP
Not since Joe DiMaggio garnered 418 bases in 1937 had an American League player tallied 400 total bases until Jim Rice led the league with 406 in 1978. Rice batted .315, leading the circuit in homers (46), triples (15), hits (213), RBI (139), and slugging percentage (.600). His performance earned him the 1978 American League MVP Award. Rice ranks third on the all-time Red Sox list in round-trippers (379), RBI (1,423), and hits (2,403).
J.R. Richard Fans 303
J.R. Richard showcased his incredible fastball in 1978 while fanning a National League-high 303 batters. The Astro surpassed his personal record for strikeouts by 89, while also topping the loop in walks with 141. The 6'8" righty, when poised to pitch, appeared to hitters to be a power forward with a bazooka.
Bob Welch Saves Game Two
Dodger Bob Welch became a household name when he struck out Reggie Jackson to end game two of the 1978 World Series. With runners on first and second and two out, the reliever fanned Mr. October on a blazing 3-2 fastball to preserve the one-run victory. Welch paid the price of instant fame three days later, when he couldn't save the Dodgers in another 4-3 game.
1978 New York Yankees Cash in on Bill Russell Flub
Although Bill Russell was a solid member of the Dodger infield that comprised Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, and Davey Lopes, he may be best remembered for his weak composure during game five of the 1978 World Series. The deafening crowd noise in Yankee Stadium that day caused the usually unflappable Russell to bobble Roy White's routine first-inning grounder for an error. The Yankees went on to win the contest -- a game they had trailed 2-0 -- by a score of 12-2, setting a Series record with 16 singles.
Graig Nettles Stars at Third
Not since Brooks Robinson in the 1970 fall classic had a third baseman so dominated a World Series as did Graig Nettles in 1978. Although Nettles hit just .160 over the six-game tournament, his remarkable fielding more than made up for his weak bat. He was sensational in game three, making four incredible stops.
After winning that contest largely on Nettles' fielding, the Yankees went on to take the World Championship. On the season, Nettles whacked 27 homers and 93 RBI.
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1978 Baseball Season Highlights
The 1978 baseball season ended -- as in 1977 -- with the Yankees beating the Dodgers in the World Series. The year was also marked by outstanding performances by players like Reggie Jackson and Pete Rose. Below, you will find highlights from the 1978 baseball season:
- Yanks repeat in the American League to give them three consecutive flags.
- Dodgers triumph again in the National League, setting up the majors' first World Series rematch since 1958.
- Phils bow in League Championship Series for the third year in a row, as LA beats them in four games on Steve Garvey's four homers.
- Royals lose to New York for the third year in a row in the American League Championship Series, this time in four games.
- Yanks again beat the Dodgers in six games in the World Series.
- Reggie Jackson has another big World Series, hitting .391 with two home runs.
- Yankee second baseman Brian Doyle, playing for injured Willie Randolph, leads all Series players with .438 batting average.
- Yanks win the American League East crown by defeating Red Sox in one-game playoff at Fenway, as Bucky Dent's three-run homer wins it 5-4.
- Red Sox blow a 14-game lead over Yankees as late as July 17.
- Billy Martin resigns as Yankees manager in mid-season under pressure from owner George Steinbrenner.
- Martin punches out a Nevada State Journal reporter.
- New manager Bob Lemon leads the Yanks to the American League flag.
- Lemon is first manager in American League history to pilot a team to a World Championship after taking over the team in mid-season.
- Pete Rose sets modern National League record by hitting in 44 consecutive games.
- Ron Guidry is 25-3, sets win pct. record for 25-game winner at .893, and tops the major league with 1.74 ERA.
- Guidry is the unanimous choice for the 1978 American League Cy Young Award.
- Padre Gaylord Perry wins the 1978 National League Cy Young Award, becoming only hurler to win award in both leagues.
- Jim Rice edges out Guidry for the 1978 American League MVP.
- Rice leads the American League in hits (213), home runs (46), RBI (139), triples (15), total bases (406), SA (.600), and runs produced (214).
- Rice is the last major leaguer to reach 400 total bases until 1998.
- Pirate Dave Parker is named 1978 National League MVP.
- Parker repeats as the National League bat champ (.334), and also leads loop in total bases (340), SA (.585), and runs produced (189).
- Rod Carew takes his second consecutive American League bat crown (.333) and leads loop in OBP (.415).
- Cincinnati's George Foster again tops the National League in homers (40) and RBI (120).
- Giant Bobby Bonds is a member of 30/30 club (30 homers/30 steals) for the major league record fifth time.
- California's Lyman Bostock, who was the American League bat crown runner-up in 1977, is shot to death.
- Dodgers become the first team to draw more than three million fans in a season.
- Joe Morgan's record skein of 91 consecutive errorless games ends.
- National League wins 1978 All-Star Game 7-3 at San Diego for its seventh consecutive victory.
- On July 30, the Braves suffer the worst loss by a home team in National League history, as they're blown out by Expos 19-0.
- Giants get Vida Blue from A's for five players and $390,000.
- The average player's salary is up to $90,000.
- Rose leads the major league with 51 doubles.
For more highlights of the 1978 baseball season, continue to the next page.
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More 1978 Baseball Season Highlights
Below are more highlights of the 1978 baseball season, including Rookies of the Year, big trades, and the year's inductees into the Hall of Fame:
- Detroit's Ron LeFlore tops American League in steals (68) and runs (126).
- Atlanta's Bob Horner is 1978 National League Rookie of the Year.
- Detroit's Lou Whitaker is 1978 American League Rookie of the Year.
- Pete Rose gets his 3,000th hit.
- Cardinal Bob Forsch no-hits Phils on April 16.
- Cincinnati's Tom Seaver no-hits Cards on June 16.
- Cardinal Keith Hernandez wins his first of major league record ten consecutive Gold Gloves at first base.
- The Hall of Fame inducts Eddie Mathews, Addie Joss, and Larry MacPhail.
- Yanks trade Sparky Lyle and four other players to Texas for Dave Righetti and four other players.
- Mets send Jerry Koosman to Twins for Jesse Orosco and a minor leaguer.
- Texas ships Perry to San Diego for Dave Tomlin and $125,000.
- Cleveland trades Buddy Bell to Texas for Toby Harrah.
- Texas swaps Bobby Bonds and Len Barker to Cleveland for Jim Kern and Larvell Blanks.
- Ray Grebey named head of the owners' Player Relations Committee.
- Don Gullett's career ends at age 27 by a bum arm.
- Jesse Haines dies.
- Dodgers coach Jim Gilliam dies.
- O's rookie Sammy Stewart fans seven consecutive Cleveland hitters in his major league debut on September 1.
- Boston third baseman Butch Hobson is the first major league regular in 62 years to post a FA below .900.
- Guidry's nine shutouts top the major league and tie the American League record for a left-hander.
- Ross Grimsley becomes first Expos pitcher to win 20 games in a season, as he wins 20 even.
- Baltimore's Eddie Murray is second in the American League in total bases (293) but with 113 less than leader Rice.
- Cub Ivan DeJesus leads the National League in runs (104).
- Steve Garvey tops the National League with 202 hits.
- Atlanta's Jeff Burroughs paces the major league with 117 walks and .436 OBP.
- Cardinal Garry Templeton leads the National League in triples with 13.
- Pirate Omar Moreno leads the major league with 71 steals.
- Ranger Mike Hargrove, known as the "Human Rain Delay" for taking so much time in the box, paces the American League in walks with 107.
- George Brett leads the American League in doubles (45).
- Gaylord Perry leads the National League pitchers in wins (21) and win pct. (.778).
- Houston's J.R. Richard tops the major league with 303 Ks.
- Phil Niekro leads the National League in innings (334) and CGs (22).
- Mets' Craig Swan has best ERA in the National League (2.43), narrowly beating out Montreal's Steve Rogers.
- Giant Bob Knepper paces the National League with six shutouts.
- Rollie Fingers of San Diego leads majors with 37 saves.
- Mike Caldwell of Milwaukee tops the major league with 23 complete games and wins 22 games.
- Jim Palmer leads the American League in innings (296), wins 21 for O's.
- Goose Gossage of the Yankees leads the American League in saves (27).
- Brewers top the major league in runs (804), homers (173), BA (.276), SA (.432), and OBP (.342), as they finish just 6-1/2 back of Yankees in the American League East.
- The Mariners and Blue Jays, both in their second year of existence, finish last in their divisions and lose over 100 games apiece.
- Kent Tekulve saves 31 games for Pittsburgh and pitches in a major league top 91 games.
- Oriole Mark Belanger wins sixth consecutive Gold Glove at short.
- Three Oakland pitchers lead the American League in games: Bob Lacey (74), Dave Heaverlo (69), and Elias Sosa (68).