1976 World Series
The 1976 season witnessed the return of baseball's most successful postseason-dynasty to the Fall Classic.
After a twelve year hiatus, the New York Yankees had rebuilt themselves back into the American League champions of old. After the team was purchased by a cunning-businessman named George Steinbrenner (in 1972) they filled several gaps with some shrewd trading and finished in third during the '75 season. This year, former "Bronx Bomber" Billy Martin was at the helm and his crew consisted of several standouts including Thurman Munson, Chris Chambliss, Graig Nettles, Sparky Lyle and Jim "Catfish" Hunter (who had made good on his threat to Oakland).
It seemed fitting that the perennial champions were to face the defending champions as the Cincinnati Reds returned for their second consecutive Classic. Manager Sparky Anderson may not have had a ship, but he did have "The Big Red Machine" and it ran on cylinders like Tony Perez at first, Joe Morgan at second, Pete Rose at third, Dave Concepcion at shortstop and George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey on the grass. They also boasted one of the best pitching rotations in all of Major League baseball. Gary Nolan led the pitching staff with fifteen victories, Pat Zachry won fourteen, and Fred Norman and Jack Billingham each won twelve games. Their bullpen was just as good with Manny Sarmiento and Rawly Eastwick, both with an ERA below 2.10 and a combined record of 16-6. The Reds had also remained one of the most consistent ball clubs in the league winning one-hundred eight games in '75, ninety-eight in '74 and ninety-nine in '73.
Cincinnati hosted the Series opener at Riverfront Stadium and showed their hometown fans who was in charge. Morgon launched a first-inning homer, Perez added three hits of his own and Gullett and reliever Pedro Borbon combined on a five hitter for the 5-1 victory. Game 2 looked much the same as Perez snuck a two out single in the ninth to score Griffey for the 4-3 win. Hunter had retired the Reds' first two batters, but New York shortstop Fred Stanley's throwing error on Griffey's roller put the National League champs back in business. The Yankees may have been back as well, but the dust and cobwebs were certainly showing. As the Series returned to the "not-so familiar" surroundings of Yankee Stadium (due to the two year long modernizing process that had sent the Yanks to Shea from '74-'76) the Reds continued to dominate the home team. Perhaps "The Babe" was displeased with his new décor as the "Big Red Machine" became the "Bronx Bombers" for a day. With the American League's designated-hitter rule being used in the Series for the first time, Dan Driessen cracked a homer and went three-for-three while helping the Reds to a third, 6-2 victory. On the other side, shortstop Jim Mason managed the only home run for the Yankees (in his only career at-bat ever in a Series).
Now on the verge of elimination, New York was determined to extend the contest, but the visiting team had a different idea. After blasting them for two and three run homers, the defending champions cruised to another title with a 7-2 sweeping triumph. Yankees fans were devastated (after all, losing in the Bronx was unacceptable) but Steinbrenner wasn't done yet and they would have their dynasty back, eventually. Cincinnati became the first National League team to win back-to-back crowns since the New York Giants had in '21 and '22. Seven of their hitters batted above .300, led by Bench's .533 and Foster's .429. Amazingly, Anderson did not make a single change during the entire Series among his nine regulars, forsaking the use of a pinch-hitter or a pinch-runner and never making a switch in either his batting order or fielding alignment. On the mound, his rotation boasted a combined 2.00 earned-run average and the franchise's two year totals consisted of two-hundred ten regular-season victories, a 6-0 record in Championship Series play, and two consecutive World Series triumphs. The mistaken fans at Yankees Stadium had witnessed the play of a dynasty, unfortunately for them though, they weren't wearing pinstripes.
"I don't want to embarrass any other catcher (specifically Thurman Munson) by comparing him with Johnny Bench."”— Cincinnati Reds' Manager Sparky Anderson (after the 1976 World Series
The 1976 World Series matched the defending champion Cincinnati Reds of the National League against the New York Yankees of the American League, with the Reds sweeping the Series to repeat. The Reds became (and remain) the only team to sweep an entire multi-tier postseason. The Reds are also the last National League team to win back to back World Series.
The Cincinnati Reds won the National League West division by ten games over the Los Angeles Dodgers then defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, three games to none, in the National League Championship Series. The New York Yankees won the American League East division by 10 ½ games over the Baltimore Orioles then defeated the Kansas City Royals, three games to two, in the American League Championship Series.
This World Series was the first in which the designated hitter rule was in effect which wound up benefiting the Reds who were able to get utility infielder Dan Driessen's bat in the lineup. Driessen hit .357 with one home run. Elliott Maddox, Carlos May, and Lou Piniella shared the role for the New York Yankees. Game 1 at Riverfront Stadium marked the first time the DH was used in a National League ballpark.
After spending the last two years sharing home field with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, the New York Yankees returned home to a re-built Yankee Stadium. George Steinbrenner had now owned the team for three years, since 1973, with Billy Martin serving the first of his five stints as manager since 1975. General Manager Gabe Paul made numerous trades getting Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa from the Angels for Bobby Bonds; Willie Randolph and Dock Ellis from the Pirates for Doc Medich; and Doyle Alexander, Ken Holtzman, and Grant Jackson from the Orioles for Rudy May, Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor, and Rick Dempsey.
The heart of the team was Yankee captain, Thurman Munson, whose grit and determination were factors in his winning the MVP award in the American League. Third baseman, Graig Nettles, and first baseman, Chris Chambliss were the key run producers, while speedy outfielders Roy White and Rivers set the table for the power hitters. Super free agent Catfish Hunter headed the staff while reliever Sparky Lyle led the A.L. in saves with 23. The Yankees finished 10 ½ ahead in the A.L. East advancing to the World Series by beating the Kansas City Royals in the fifth game of the playoffs on a ninth-inning walk-off home run by Chambliss.
The defending champion, Cincinnati Reds were piloted by Sparky Anderson who had a solid lineup from top to bottom led by two-time MVP, second baseman Joe Morgan while catcher Johnny Bench, first baseman Tony Perez, and outfielder George Foster provided enough power to drive in sparkplugs, Pete Rose, and Ken Griffey. This was the first World Series to utilize the designated hitter. Dan Driessen was the primary DH for the Reds while the Yankees interchanged Lou Piniella, Carlos May, and Elliott Maddox.
The Reds relied on left-handers Don Gullett and Fred Norman to pacify the Yankee hitters in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Gullett had come back from a mid-season injury to start Game 1 but had to leave the game in the eighth inning due to a twisted ankle while Norman out-pitched ace Hunter in Game 2. Game 3 in New York pitted effective Pat Zachry for the Reds against newly acquired Yankee, Dock Ellis. Ellis would last only 3 1/3 innings, taken out in the fourth after a homer by Driessen. Game 4 was delayed a day due to rain but the Reds were ready for the sweep. Four Cincinnati runs in the ninth blew open the game, triggering Billy Martin to lose his cool causing his ejection from the game.
The Cincinnati Reds outscored the New York Yankees, 22–8, and became the first N.L. team to repeat as World Champions since the 1921–1922 New York Giants. Bench would claim the MVP of the series hitting .533 with three home runs and six runs batted in. Honorable mention goes to Thurman Munson who had nine hits and a .529 batting average.