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1978 American League Season Summary 1978 American League Season Summary

American League 1978 Roundup

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From Complete Baseball by Microsoft... Actual Wording:

Red Sox Collapse in Stretch, Blow AL East Flag to Yankees in One-Game Playoff

Powered by the continued development of outfielders Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, fueled by the acquisition of newcomers such as pitchers Dennis Eckersley and Mike Torrez, and steadied by the influence of veterans such as catcher Carlton Fisk and DH Carl Yastrzemski, the Boston Red Sox roared through the first half of the AL season at a 62-29 (.681) clip.

By July 19 the new Boston ownership of Jean Yawkey, former catcher Haywood Sullivan, and former club trainer Buddy LeRoux had much to feel pleased about, sitting atop the AL East 10 games up on the revitalized Milwaukee Brewers and 14 ahead of the slumping, dissension-ridden New York Yankees. Unaccountably the BoSox then went into neutral, idling at 13-15 while events in New York completely changed the course of the race.

The unstable chemistry between owner George Steinbrenner, Manager Billy Martin, and slugger Reggie Jackson reached critical mass and exploded. The turmoil accelerated with Martin's decision to use Jackson frequently as a designated hitter. Jackson felt this disparaged his defensive abilities.

As tension continued to build the Yankees floundered. On July 17 in a game at Yankee Stadium against the Royals, the score was tied in the bottom of the tenth with the winning run at first base. Jackson got the bunt sign, which infuriated him. The first pitch was a ball and the bunt sign was rescinded. But Jackson kept on trying to bunt until he finally struck out. Although Jackson was suspended for five days, his return pushed Billy Martin over the edge. The volatile skipper sealed his own fate by criticizing Jackson and Steinbrenner in a newspaper interview. Retribution was not long in coming. Martin was forced to resign and was replaced by easygoing Bob Lemon.

In one of the most incredible turnarounds in history, the Yankees put on a blazing 52-21 (.712) drive to the finish. In early September the white-hot Yankees roared into town for a four-game series that lives on in bitter memory as "the Second Boston Massacre." The Bombers annihilated the Red Sox by scores of 15-3, 13-2, 7-0, and 7-4. The Yanks shot past the BoSox, building a 3 1/2-game lead. Boston rallied, winning 11 of 13, including the final 7 in a row. The Yanks lost on the final day, falling into a 99-63 tie that necessitated adding a one-game playoff to the schedule.

The teams met at Fenway Park on October 2, with New York ace pitcher Ron Guidry (25-3, 1.74 ERA) opposing former Yank Mike Torrez (16-13, 3.96 ERA). For six innings Torrez shut out the Yankees on two hits, and a solo home run by Yastrzemski gave Boston a 2-0 lead.

But in the 7th with two out and two on, shortstop Bucky Dent (.240, 4 HR) lofted a high fly to left field. The ball drifted over the Green Monster for a three-run homer.

By the bottom of the eight, following a RBI double by Thurmon Munson and a solo home run by Reggie Jackson, the Yankees lead was 5-2.

The Red Sox tallied twice against reliever Goose Gossage , setting up the final act of the drama. In the last of the ninth with one out, Rick Burleson walked, and a single and a flyball to right put the tying run at third base. The next batter was Carl Yastrzemski, the architect of the 1967 "Impossible Dream." But Yaz popped it up off third base, Graig Nettles gathered it in, and it was all over.

Boston's Jim Rice (.315, 46 HR, 139 RBIs) could look back on a fabulous season, winning the Most Valuable Player trophy after pacing the AL in home runs, RBIs, Hits (213), total bases (406), slugging (.600), and triples, 15. Rice's total-base figure was the first 400-plus mark in 41 years.

Teammate Fred Lynn (.298, 22 HR), Fisk (.284, 20 HR, 88 RBIs), and Eckersley (20-8, 2.99 ERA) starred all year long.

For the Yankees, "Louisiana Lightning" Ron Guidry copped the Cy Young Award and led the loop in wins, ERA, and shutouts, 9, posting the highest winning percentage by a 25-game winner, .893.

Milwaukee Brewers Catch Burgher's Fancy; "Bambi's Bombers" Make Milwaukee Famous: Following the disastrous, strike-torn 1977 season, Brewer President Bud Selig cleaned house, firing his general manager, his player-development director, two coaches, and Manager Alex Grammas. The new general manager was Harry Dalton, formerly of the Orioles and Angels. Dalton's Baltimore connection also produced the new manager, O's pitching coach George Bamberger.

Dalton landed free-agent DH Larry Hisle (.290, 34 HR, 115 RBIs) and traded for outfielder Ben Oglivie (.303, 18 HR). The two joined shortstop Robin Yount (.293) and a contrasting pair of rookies - rugged, mustachioed outfielder Gorman Thomas (.246, 32 HR, 86 RBIs) and teenage idol second baseman Paul Molitor (.273) - in a colorful crew who, as "Bambi's Bombers," took over the town.

Pitcher Mike Caldwell (22-9, 2.36) led the Brewers' staff, and the hard-hitting Brewers, the AL leaders in batting, slugging, runs, RBIs, and hits, stayed in the race until the final month, finishing third, 6 1/2 back.

The Baltimore  Orioles' Jim Palmer paced the circuit in innings pitched (296), while first baseman Eddie Murray, who would go on to post power numbers second only to Mickey Mantle's among switch-hitters, finished a distant second to Boston's Rice in total bases (293).

Supporting Palmer (21-12, 2.46 ERA) were new faces Mike Flanagan (19-15, 4.03 ERA) and Dennis Martinez (16-11, 3.52 ERA) and former Yankee Scott McGregor (15-13, 3.32).

The Detroit Tigers engineered a 12-game turnaround but failed to advance in the standings. They finished fourth, 13 1/2 games out, but led fifth-place Cleveland by a whopping 15 1/2 games. First baseman Jason Thompson (.287, 26 HR, 96 RBIs) and designated hitter Rusty Staub (.273, 24 HR, 121 RBIs) continued to be the main men.

But a bumper crop of Bengal farmhands were beginning to infiltrate the lineup, forming the basis of a club that would emerge in the 1980s as a powerful force in the American League.

Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker (.285), the AL Rookie of the Year, and shortstop Alan Trammell (.268) began a 15-year reign around the keystone, and pitcher Jack Morris (3-5, 4.33 ERA) made his debut. Outfielder Ron LeFlore (.297, 68 SB) copped his first stolen base crown and led the league in runs scored (126).

In Cleveland the Indians entered one of the darkest ages in franchise history with the reappearance of Gabe Paul as the general manager. Paul had presided over the decline of the Indians in the 1960s and had looted the team of its best prospects for his employer-to-be, the Yankees, in the early 1970s. Typical of Gabe Paul's deals was the one sending Dennis Eckersley to Boston in March for pitcher Rick Wise (9-19, 4.32 ERA) who promptly led the AL in loses. Only first baseman Andre Thornton (.262, 33 HR, 105 RBIs) was much of an attraction at Municipal Stadium, "the Mistake By The Lake."

In Toronto the expansion Blue Jays picked up proven run-producers first baseman John Mayberry (.250, 22 HR) and DH Rico Carty (.284, 20 HR) and improved by five games in the victory column. Jays' rookie pitcher Jim Clancy (10-12, 4.09) topped the Toronto staff in wins.

Royals Outlast Halos (Angels), Win Third Straight AL West Title Although the Kansas City Royals nabbed their third consecutive division championship, the rest of the AL West was catching up. Manager Whitey Herzog was in his third year. John Mayberry was traded to the Blue Jays and was replaced by first baseman Pete LaCock (.295, 5 HR), whose only claim to fame was being the son of TV game-show host Peter Marshall.

Key Kansas City players such as third baseman George Brett (.294, 9 HR, 62 RBIs in 132 Games), outfielder Al Cowens (.274, 5 HR) and DH Hal McRae (.298, 16 HR) slumped badly. Only outstanding performances by rebounding outfielder Amos Otis (.298, 22 HR, 96 RBIs) and pitchers Dennis Leonard (21-17, 3.33 ERA) and Paul Splittorff (19-13, 3.40 ERA) kept the Royals atop an increasingly competitive division.

The California Angels, five games back, realized a return on their free-agent investments as second baseman Bobby Grich (.251), outfielder Jor Rudi (.256, 17 HR) and DH Don Baylor (.255, 34 RBIs, 99 RBIs) spearheaded an offensive resurgence that lifted the Halos into a second-place tie with Texas. A much-criticized trade sent Angel outfielder Bobby Bonds to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Brian Downing (.255) and pitcher Dave Frost (5-4, 2.59 ERA), both of whom would be heavy contributors to future Angel successes.

Rookie third baseman Carney Lansford (.294) made an Impressive debut, and pitcher Frank Tanana (18-12, 3.65 ERA) Boosted the staff when pitcher Nolan Ryan (10-13, 3.71, 260 Ks) developed arm problems. Nevertheless Ryan won his sixth AL strikeout crown. In September the Angels suffered a tragic loss when outfielder Lyman Bostock (.296) was fatally wounded in a case of mistaken identity.

The Texas Rangers benifited from sharp trades that brought the club pitchers Jon Matlock (15-13, 2.27 ERA) and former Ranger Ferguson Jenkins (18-8, 3.04 ERA) and outfielder Al Oliver (.324, 14 HR, 89 RBIs). Well-traveled outfielder Bobby Bonds came over from the White Sox. Bonds (.265, 29 HR, 82 RBIS, 37 SB) barely missed extending his big league record of five "30-30" - 30 HR-30 SB seasons.

A distant fourth, 19 games out, were the Minnesota Twins, whose season as usual centered on the accomplishments of first baseman Rod Carew (.333). Carew won his second straight batting title and sixth overall.

In Chicago the realities of free agency ended the one-year era of "the South Side Hit Men." Only third baseman Eric Soderholm (.258, 20 HR) stayed behind as a reminder of the good times. Comiskey Park deteriorated, amateur draft picks went unsigned, and skipper Bob Lemon jumped ship to join the Yankees as chronic cash shortages mired the White Sox in fifth place.

In Oakland, Charlie Finley's continual harassment of his field managers had especially damaging consequences for the A's. Skipper Bobby Winkles abruptly quit after piloting the team to a 24-15 start. Citing his inability to handle Finley's meddling.

Winkles left with the A's leading the AL West. Jack McKeon, Winkles' predecessor, returned to preside over the club's slide to sixth, 23 games off the pace. Newcomers were first baseman Dave Revering (.271, 16 HR) and outfielder Mitchell Page (.285, 17 HR) were the best of the AL's weakest lineup.

In Seattle the Mariners took a giant step backward, losing eight more games and plunging into the cellar. Among the few bright spots in the bleak Kingdome were crowd-pleasing second baseman Julio Cruz (.235, 59 SB), shortstop Craig Reynolds (.292) and outfielder Leon Roberts (.301, 22 HR, 91 RBIs). Baseball History

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