The Bucs just topped the series that couldn’t be
Many years ago, I covered the most amazing, most consequential first-half curtain-dropper. The two-time World Series Champion New York Yankees — the Bronx Zoo Bombers of Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Lou Piniella, Thurman Munson — pulled into Anaheim Stadium to face the upstart Angels.
Those Angels had five modestly winning seasons in their 18-year existence, but held a 1 1/2 game lead over Texas in the American League West.
Game 1. Nolan Ryan is no-hitting the Yankees with one out in the seventh inning. Jim Spencer hits a line drive to center on which Rick Miller makes a fantastic diving effort as the ball kicks off his glove.
In the press box, official scorer Dick Miller — no relation — rules “E-8.” Miller has an upcoming book on Ryan, and another no-hitter would spike sales. Angels GM Buzzie Bavasi storms into the press box and berates Miller, calling the situation a “national embarrassment.” The reporter’s act will signal the end of active media members acting as official scorers.
With one out in the 9th, Reggie Jackson lines a clean single to center to break up Ryan’s no-hitter. All the way to first, Reggie runs backwards, gesturing animatedly up at the press box.
Otherwise, it’s a routine 6-1 Angels win, except for the fact five of their runs were scored with two outs.
Game 2. The Yankees lead 6-0 after five. The Angels chip away, and tie it at 7 in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out, three-run homer by Don Baylor. In the 12th, Brian Downing doubles and scores on a single by Merv Rettenmund for an 8-7 walk-off.
Game 3, the last game before the All-Star Game break. The Yankees grab a 4-0 lead in the second inning behind Ron Guidry, in the midst of an 18-win season to follow up his 25-3 of 1978. With the Angels still trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Tom Donohue draws a one out walk off Guidry and, with two outs, Bobby Grich homers over the right-center fence for a 5-4 walk-off.
That was in 1979. For 35 years, I never thought I’d ever again see anything like it.
I just spent a weekend that topped it, of course, with both Pirates walk-offs not only coming in extra innings, but after they trailed — three times — in extra innings,
Through Sunday, there have been 208,678 games played in the Major Leagues. This was the eighth instance of a team winning back-to-back extra-inning walk-offs. And it just might have been the first time ever a team did it from behind in both.
Never coming down from their psych, those Angels banked their first division title.
Oh, something else happened in 1979. The Bucs won the World Series.
The ’15 script has been written.