The Boston Red Sox had their share of of heartbreaking failures over their history. On this day in 1978, light hitting New York Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent put the final nail into one of the most epic collapses in MLB history with his legendary three run home run.
The Boston Red Sox appeared set to cruise into the postseason during the 1978 campaign. They had been, at the very worst, tied for first place in the American League East since May 20, and had rapidly built an impressive lead throughout the season. In fact, heading into September, the Red Sox had a seven game lead over second place.
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees appeared to be dead in the water heading into the second half. They were 14.5 games behind the Red Sox in July, and trailed by those aforementioned seven games heading into September. However, the Yankees caught fire, even taking the lead in the East before a loss, and a Red Sox win, on the last day of the season forced a one game playoff.
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For a time, the Red Sox appeared to be on their way to the postseason, their collapse in the second half just a footnote to the season with no harm done. Carl Yastrzemski hit a home run in the bottom of the second off eventual Cy Young winner Ron Guidry, and Jim Rice had an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead heading into the seventh.
Then, disaster came in the top of the seventh. After consecutive one out base hits but runners on first and second, Red Sox starter Mike Torrez was able to get pinch hitter Jim Spenser to fly out for the second out. Up came Bucky Dent, the Yankees light hitting shortstop who had a .243/.226/.317 batting line with four home runs that year.
What happened next will live on in baseball lore forever. Dent took the Torrez offering and sent it into the night, hitting a three run home run to put the Yankees in front. Thurman Munson followed with an RBI single after Mickey Rivers walked and stole second to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead.
Reggie Jackson homered in the top of the eighth to extend the lead, an insurance run that was needed. Boston came back to score two in the bottom of the eighth, but it was not enough, as they lost 5-4. The collapse was complete, and Bucky Dent would forever be referred to in a profane manner by those inhabitants of Red Sox Nation. However, they truly had no one to blame but the team for putting themselves in that situation in the first place.
It may not have been ‘The Shot Heard Around the World,’ but Bucky Dent hit one of the more infamous home runs on this day in 1978. The New York Yankees dynasty of the late 1970’s continued to roll along, winning the World Series that year, with Dent as the MVP.