It ended just the way it should have, with the tying run on third, the winning run on first and Carl Yastrzemski—Boston's Captain Carl—at the plate. Yaz took a mighty swing at the last pitch of an American League season that had gone into overtime, and the ball soared high—but neither deep nor fair. His foul pop to the left side was such a sure out that the Yankees started celebrating before it reached Graig Nettles' glove.
Thus New York won the American League East championship at Fenway Park Monday by defeating Boston 5-4 in a one-game playoff. And in the process the Yankees not only insured that the greatest comeback in AL history would not, at the last, fall short, but they also held off a valiant comeback attempt.
Fittingly, the Yankees also won Monday by coming back. Boston led 2-0 after six innings, on Yastrzemski's homer in the second and on Jim Rice's run-scoring single in the sixth. The Sox were not getting much off Ron Guidry, but they were getting enough, because the Yanks were getting nothing off Mike Torrez.
Until the seventh, that is. Then Chris Chambliss and Roy White slapped base hits, and one out later Bucky Dent, who had four home runs this season, walloped a three-run homer into the leftfield netting that brought back memories of Bobby Thomson. But this would be no Coogan's Bluff Miracle. There was too much excitement to come. Mickey Rivers walked; Torrez departed in favor of Bob Stanley; and Thurman Munson blasted a run-scoring double.
Reggie Jackson took his annual fall bow in the eighth inning. Reggie may have been born in May, but he is October's child. That's when he is worth his weight in candy bars. This time he slammed a home run to deep centerfield.
Jackson's clout became the difference in the game when Boston scored twice in the eighth off Reliever Rich Gossage. And then in the ninth Yastrzemski came up with two runners on. Gossage was not sharp—he gave up five hits—but after Guidry, who had left in the seventh, he was the best the Yankees had. And this time against Yaz, that was good enough. Yastrzemski walked to the dugout and never looked back.
For detailed reports on how the Sox and Yankees ended up in a playoff, turn the page.