In honor of the start of a Yanks/Red Sox series and because my last post was about my worst moment as a sports fan (and maybe because I like to piss off Red Sox fans), I’m going to tell you about my best moment.
October, 1978. Junior year at my Catholic high school. Because the kids in my school came from all over Long Island, we would often stay after school, hanging out in the front lobby or the grass by the side of the parking lot instead of asking our parents to drive us all over creation.
The previous August I had a sweet sixteen party, one of those dress-up, dancing affairs where we played nothing but Who records and my friends got in trouble for sneaking Vodka into the pitchers of soda.
Those drunken friends chipped in to buy me a wonderful birthday present: a portable radio. Keep in mind this was in the days before boom boxes. This radio was small, had no cassette player or 8-track player - just an AM/FM radio. Their intention in getting me this particular present was so I wouldn’t rush home after school during the baseball playoffs. I could stay after and hang out with them and listen to the games on my portable radio.
On October 2nd of that year, there was a one-playoff game for the AL East title. Yankees. Red Sox. Fenway. This is what baseball was all about. This is the stuff that rivalries are made of.
I listened to most of the game in front of the school while everyone else was smoking or starting fights or whatever it was we did in those days. I held the radio up to my ear and did a play-by-play for everyone who was interested. As the game wore on and the tension grew, everyone gathered around me on the lawn and I turned the volume up. And then the late bus came. I had to leave them all there, not knowing what was happening.
My school district didn’t give us private school kids our own yellow buses. We had passes that allowed us to take the public buses for free. So for the four miles home, I had a bus full of commuters gathered around my seat, crossing their fingers, praying and waving lucky charms.
The moment happened when I got off at my stop. It was a 1/4 mile walk to my house, down one straight road. I had the radio up to my ear again as Dent came up to bat. My heart was beating fast, my nerves were tingling. I went into a half-run, hoping that I could make it to my house - which I could see all the way at the end of the block - before anything great happened. And there was no doubt in my mind, I felt it in every nerve in my body, that something grand was about to happen.
The only reason the Yanks left Dent in to hit in the seventh inning of a game they were losing 2-0 was because they were out of spare infielders.
Before his home run, Dent fouled a ball off his foot, hopping around in pain and asking the trainer to come out and take a look. After walking around a bit, Dent decided he was OK and went back into the box.
Mickey Rivers was on deck, and the Yanks leadoff hitter had been closely observing Dent the entire time. While most everyone in Fenway Park was watching Dent grimace in pain, Rivers noticed that the bat Dent was using was the same one that Rivers had used earlier in the game and Rivers knew the bat was cracked. He grabbed a bat-boy and sent him to the plate with the bat he was holding, and Dent took the new lumber despite being in the middle of an at-bat.
And then it happened. Dent swung at a Torrez fastball. It was going, going, gone. A three run homer.
“Deep to left! Yastrzemski will not get it! It’s a home run! A three-run homer by Bucky Dent! And the Yankees now lead by a score of 3-2!” - Bill White
I was literally jumping in the air. I broke into a sprint and ran the rest of the way home, where my mother, who was the source of all things Yankees for me, was standing in the kitchen waiting for me. High fives all around. The Yankees went on to win, 5-4.
And that is how Bucky Dent came to be known around Boston as Bucky Fucking Dent, making it pretty much the best baseball day ever.