1977 World Series

November 5, 2009

1977 World Series

Not to be disturbingly self-centered or anything, but last night my team, the Boston Red Sox, lost a big one, in part because their old hero Pedro Martinez wasn’t up to the task of holding back a steamrolling Yankees lineup. (How do you say “daddy” in Japanese?) I’m talking about the designation of being Team of the Decade. Had the Phillies somehow won last night and in a Seventh Game tonight, only they and the Red Sox would have two World Series titles during the first decade of the twenty-first century, and the Red Sox would trump the Phillies, in my opinion, with their heavier playoff presence throughout the decade. The Phillies made it to the postseason three times, all in the last three years, while the Red Sox made it six times, and on top of that they made four appearances in the league championship series to the Phillies’ two appearances.

But that’s all moot: the fucking Yankees won, bookending the decade with titles in ’00 and ’09. And if you compare the accomplishments of the two teams with two World Series trophies in the decade, it’s not really that close. The Yankees won the division eight times to the Red Sox’ one division crown, and the Yankees added four more pennants to their gluttonous collection while the Red Sox won two. You could certainly argue that the Red Sox, in ending their 86-year title drought, deserve the distinction of being the story of the decade, and I’d also hold that in their two monumental ALCS clashes with the Yankees their comeback from an 0-3 hole in ’04 trumps the Boone home run in ’03. Really, the story of the decade comes down to the following message, written by a Yankees fan friend of mine in an email chain among friends a few days ago, as he described his mindset with his team holding a commanding three games to one lead:

“i’m permanently scarred from 2004.  i’m convinced we’re gonna blow it.  you happy now, red sox fans?”

I’m sure there aren’t any Yankees fans feeling any scars this morning, but at least the seed of doubt has been planted in their minds, and I guess that’s the best those of us who live under the basically eternal Yankees reign can hope for.

I say basically eternal because as I was thinking about this whole team of the decade thing during the series, I started going back over baseball history to see who would be the team of each decade, starting in 1900. I discovered that the Red Sox had a chance to become the first team ever besides the Yankees to repeat as team of the decade. How can anyone else repeat when they never get a chance to win the distinction in the first place?

Below is how I see it, decade by decade. I stick to the basics here, which is that I judge a team’s claim on a decade by championships. It may not necessarily be the best barometer of a team’s worth over the course of a decade, but championships are what we fans want.

1900s: Chicago Cubs
1910s: Boston Red Sox
1920s: New York Yankees
1930s: New York Yankees
1940s: New York Yankees
1950s: New York Yankees
1960s: New York Yankees
1970s: Oakland A’s
1980s: Los Angeles Dodgers
1990s: New York Yankees
2000s: New York Yankees

A couple notes on the list: I think it speaks to the game played during my childhood and teen years as a golden age of baseball that the 1970s and 1980s are the hardest for which to crown a Team of the Decade. (The 1960s are also a little iffy, since the Cardinals won as many titles as the Yankees and beat the Yankees head-to-head, but the Yankees won five pennants to the Cardinals’ three.) The 1970s are tough because there were so many dominant teams, the Yankees, Orioles, and especially the Reds all having strong claims for supremacy over the A’s, who followed their dynasty with a dive into putridness by the end of the decade. The 1980s are even tougher because it was the only decade we’ve ever seen without a dynasty, the Dodgers the only team with two titles, the first in a strike year and the second several years later by a squad that is often brought up as a “team of destiny,” which is a nice way of saying they somehow won even though they weren’t exactly bulging with Hall of Fame talent.

One thing you can say for certain about the first of the two Golden Age decades, the 1970s, is that the man pictured in the card above was the Player of the Decade, in terms of championships: he won five. Here’s my stab, without researching it beyond leafing through the jumbled mass of facts and fictions in my mind, at choosing the championship player of the decade since 1900:

1900s: Frank Chance
1910s: Harry Hooper
1920s: Babe Ruth
1930s: Lou Gehrig
1940s: Joe Dimaggio
1950s: Yogi Berra
1960s: Mickey Mantle
1970s: Reggie Jackson
1980s: Lonnie Smith (that’s right; look him up)
1990s: Mariano Rivera
2000s: Derek Jeter

The last two decades have come down to the last year to determine a decade champion. Had the Braves beat the Yankees in 1999 they would have been gotten the distinction, and if the Phillies had won this year the nod would have gone to the Red Sox. Now we’ll all have to wait around another ten years, if we’re lucky enough to last that long, to see if anyone else can sneak onto the list for a change. For now, as the card at the top of this page puts it, let’s just face it: the Yankees reign supreme.

I’ll leave it to Artie Lange to have the last word on the matter. I’m currently reading the recent book, Too Fat to Fish, by the comedian and compellingly self-destructive, big-hearted Howard Stern show personality, who is a raging Yankees fan, and the high point of his life is the moment memorialized by the card at the top of this page. He was there that day. Though he misspells Mike Torrez’ name (and earlier misidentified the yielder of Reggie’s third home run as Bob Welch, who wouldn’t have his famous showdowns with Reggie until 1978), he does a good job of describing the way childhood joy can turn into something almost haunting as the years go on:

Torres caught the ball easily to end the game, and he and Thurman Munson embraced at the mound and started the celebration. When I saw that they’d won, I practically went numb. I started screaming and jumping up and down uncontrollably; it was such an overwhelming feeling of elation that I was incapable of containing myself in any way. To this day, I have never been as happy as I was at that moment. I think that deep down, subconsciously, I have been chasing that feeling ever since. That type of rush, the kind that overcomes every bit of your being, is the same rush you get when you first chase money and gamble. And heroin? Don’t even get me started. I’ve done both of those over and over again, and even at their best they don’t measure up to a fraction of what I felt that night. I think most people’s happiest times occur when they’re children. Whether you’re rich or poor, we’re all kids for a while; we are basically carefree . . . the only time in life when anyone can ever be 100 percent happy. Not to sound like a negative prick, but once you become an adult, particularly if you do not have money, life becomes just one stressful, unending parade of depressing bullshit.

I didn’t put all this together as a ten-year-old. I was too busy losing my mind with joy. (p. 34)


  1. While I agree that, by pretty much any measurable account, the Yankees have racked up the most impressive decade. But I’m not sure that this means they are the “Team of the Decade.”

    Years hence, when we look back at the aughts, won’t the biggest story* be the 2004 Red Sox?** Won’t it be their legend that persists? Yeah, the Yanks were “better”, but c’mon, are we likely to memorialize their 27th championship more than the Curse reversed?*** It was during the 00s that Red Sox Nation became firmly entrenched, for better or worse. It’s hard to remember now, but not so long ago, the Red Sox weren’t a national phenomenon; now they are the only team on somewhat co-equal footing with the Yanks. This seems like a more noteworthy occurrence than the Yanks continued supremacy.

    *In all likelihood it’ll be steroids that we remember. But I’m talking on-field exploits.

    **Full disclosure: I’m wearing a Sox cap right now, so maybe this is just a little bit biased.

    ***There never was a curse.

  2. Okay, in the giant middle bulk of the decade, ’01-’08, the Yankees, with more money than any other team every single year, didn’t win any World Series, and only appeared there twice, each time losing to an expansion team, and had two of the most classic chokes in baseball history, each time with their reliever who never ever fails except when he does. I vote for not them. I was actually under the impression that the one “good” thing about the Yankees winning was that we wouldn’t have to worry about a Team of the Decade debate because the Phils wouldn’t have won the last two.

  3. Lonnie!

    Thanks for giving Skates his props, Josh. I’m glad someone was paying attention during the 1980s.

  4. The team of the decade is a pretty interesting exercise but I don’t think it should just be about how many championships a team wins.

    I remember I did this once with a friend of mine, It’s not very scientific but we did it by a point scale: 5 points for a WS, 3 points for a League Championship, 1 point for a division title, 1/2 point for a wild card, 1/2 point finishing a season above .550, 1 point finishing a season .600, 1-1/2 points for a .650 or better, 2 points for a .700.

    I can’t remember what the results were but they were pretty much the same as you have listed.

    I would say the Reds were the team of the decade for the ’70’s. They had 2 W.S, 4 Pennants and 6 divisions, 6-.600 seasons, plus they were very good the whole decade.

    The A’s had 3 W.S., 3 Pennants, and 5 division titles 3-.600 seasons. But they were pretty awful post-1976 with a .333, .426, and a .391

    I would say the Braves were the team of the 90’s 1 WS, 4 Pennants, 8 Division titles, 1->.650 season, 5->.600 seasons, 3->.550 seasons. 36 points

    Yankees 90’s: 3 WS, 3 Pennants, 3 Divisions, 1->.700 season, 2->.600 seasons, 3->.550 seasons. 33 points.

    Remember the Yankees didn’t win a division until 1996.

    Also, the Dodgers of the 60’s deserve some attention.

  5. As far as “championship player” of the decade, that’s kind of a hard term to quantify. Is it the amount of rings a player has per decade or is it his performance in the WS games..

    As far as the 40’s goes you can make a great case that recent HOF Joe Gordon should be the Championship player of the decade. He played in 4 WS 41,42,43,48 and won 3 of them, 41, 43 with the Yanks and 48 with the Indians. And he hit better than Dimaggio. His 1,595 ops in 1941 was a big reason they won. He also had a .821ops in 1943.

    The highest Dimaggio every hit in a WS was .837ops in 1947 and his other 3 aren’t that great, .596, .667, .516. Remember that Dimaggio was in the Army in 1943 and missed the WS.

    As far as the 60’s go I would probably pick Bob Gibson as the Championship player of decade: 1.89 era 92 k’s in 81 innings and a .889 Whip.

    You could also make a case for Lou Brock: 1,079 ops in 87AB with 14/16 in SB attempts. Mantle hit .892ops in the 60’s WS.

    Koufax had a 1.36ERA and a .87 Whip with 32 k’s in 33 innings.

    AS far as the 80’s goes I guess it’s Lonnie Smith. His 3 rings and ops of .616, .881, .884 is very good

    George Brett played in two WS but won only one but he had a 1,068 ops.

  6. It’s interesting to note that the Yankees weren’t considered the team of decade in the 70’s when the amatuer draft was in full swing and the 80’s, when collusion was taking place.

    Interesting to note that the two periods were the Yankees were not very good was when there was a level playing field: 1965-1975 Amatuer Draft/pre free agency, 1986-1989 Collusion, you could also place part of the problem of 1990-1992 on left over effects of collusion.

    The current Yankees money orgy machine kind of takes the fun out of “team of the decade”

    Seriously, if I have to hear another Yankee player talk about “team” and it’s not about the money, I think I’m going to puke.

    When a team has the same payroll as the second highest team (Red Sox) and then has the ENTIRE payroll of the Oakland A’s on top of that, then there is a fundamental problem in the way MLB is set up.

  7. The Mets have the second highest payroll in baseball…although after this winter, the Red Sox may catch them.

    The Braves cannot be team of the decade over a team that beat them in 2 WS during that decade. That won’t fly.

  8. Josh, love this site and your writing. I always have. I do, however, have to expose a major pet peeve I have. Somehow, some way, a Yankees win in a World Series has to be about the Red Sox?

    Yes, I am a Yankees fan. I am willing to express some very negative feelings about this Yankees win but it has nothing to do with the Red Sox. Sox fans are like no other in professional sports. Unlike any other fans, they spend more energy on hating the Yankees than they do in rooting for their own team. How many bumper stickers have I seen saying Yankees Suck or show a cartoon figure pissing on a Yankees logo (while posting nothing about their love of their team)? A lot. As a high school kid I showed up to Fenway for the first time to see the Yankees play. I had my yankees hat and jacket on. I just got off a subway train and already there was a lunatic screaming in my face that the Yankees Suck! Sox fans were pouring beer on anyone with Yankees stuff on. Sox fans all need a huge virtual therapy couch to address their hatred issues. Sox fans would be better off channelling all that energy in “Go Sox!” Conversely, I recall going to the old Yankees stadium when Pedro was going to be pitching for the Sox. Over the radio the Yankees had a message informing fans that they would not be permitted to enter the park if they were wearing hatred shirts about the opposing team.

    The much bigger problem is a MLB problem. It’s real. I’ll be having an article come out about it soon. It’s the money problem. The spending problem. It’s damaging the game. Sox fans can’t really complain about the Yankees spending. Boston is always right up there in the top three in spending, and usually second. God help Pirates fans . . . for their sake I’m glad they have the Steelers. More on these issues soon . . .

  9. I do like the interesting decade topic though Josh. It was just that it came out with a Sox focus immediately after the Yankees win, and I had already been thinking a lot about the other issue . . . which was identified by Johnq above:

    “When a team has the same payroll as the second highest team (Red Sox) and then has the ENTIRE payroll of the Oakland A’s on top of that, then there is a fundamental problem in the way MLB is set up.”

  10. Yes, there will always be a Red Sox slant on this site. I don’t think this post was overly freighted with that bias or even particularly derogatory about the Yankees beyond a bit of annoyance at their historical hegemony.

  11. Catfish, those number about the Red Sox being second I took from 2005.

    If you take 2009 I think the Red Sox are around 4rd. But there’s a huge gap from #1 Yankees around 206 million and the Mets at $143million

    Let’s go back to the Red Sox 2009 to illustrate baseball’s problem.

    If you take the Red Sox at $122 million and the Entire Minnesota Twins Roster at $68 million PLUS Albert Pujols, you would equal the Yankees 2009 payroll.

    When I was a kid The Orioles, Reds, Pirates and Royals were among the best run most successful teams in major league baseball. From 1969-1983 Those teams accounted for 7 WS champs, 13 Pennants, and 24 division titles. The last time one of those teams made it to the playoffs was the Orioles in 1997. Now it’s impossible for any of those teams to have anywhere near the long term success they had in the 70’s & 80’s.

    Under a “perfect Storm” one of teams might get lucky and go to a WS but they will soon have to break up the team.

    Why would you even care about baseball if you were under 30 and lived in any of those cities?

    It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to those 4 cities in 10-15 years when the kids and teenager and 20’s get into their 30’s-40’s.

  12. Excellent point John, except that you don’t have to be under 30. I’m 50 and grew up within walking distance of Riverfront Stadium during the heyday of The Big Red Machine. I probably haven’t ranked as even a casual fan for the last 15-20 years for the reasons you just cited. The only time there’s continuity in a small-market team is when it’s lousy, and if they have a decent year, it’s followed by a mass exodus. Baseball has always been a game of tradition and consistency – this and steroids making the record books a joke have really damaged the game, at least for me…

  13. awelleiot,

    The good news is the Reds out of those 4 teams are in the best position and they can actually. The Reds aren’t really a small market team, they’re more a mid-market team like the Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Blue Jays and Giants. They have to be smart in their moves and can’t really sign many big ticket free agents but they can compete in their division.

    The weird thing about baseball is that a team like the Reds compete in a 6 team division while a team like the Angels compete in a 4 team division and the Yankees compete in a 5 team division. How does that make any sense??

    But the Reds can compete, because there is really only one big market team (Cubs) in their division and they’re run like crap. The Cardinals are a smaller market then the Reds and they compete.

    The Orioles are screwed because they’re a smaller market than the Reds and they’re in the Yankees/Red Sox division.

    The Royals could compete for a division title, but it’s not likely they could ever compete for a WS again.

    The Pirates are screwed because they’re one of the smallest markets in a football town in a 6 team division with a large market club (Cubs)

  14. I wouldn’t classify the Reds as a mid-market team, especially while classifying the Cards as small-market, but you may be right since I don’t follow this stuff very closely anymore. The Reds may well wrest a wild-card or even a division title somewhere down the road, but they’ll be hard-pressed to advance any further in today’s climate. If they do, it’ll be a one-time event, and the stars who made it happen will be quickly lured away to greener pastures. In any event, my larger point was that we’ll probably never see a group of core players have long-term success on a small-market team, because it’ll be broken up. To me, one of the most endearing features of baseball was that the tide moved really slow, i.e., our favorite team was usually able to keep its star players over a period of time. That’s nearly impossible now, unless your favorite team is the Yankees or Red Sox….

  15. The thing about Reggie was that when he first came to the Yankees, a lot of fans did not like him. He shot his mouth off about his greatness and totally dissed Thurman Munson, whom everyone loved. Imagine Alex Rodriquez coming to the Yankees and during his second week announcing that Jeter is overrated. My 10 year old friends at the time resented Reggie’s big mouth and the way he disrupted what had been a harmonious team; we sided with Billy and Thurman. But when Reggie caught fire in the World Series it was the greatest thing I ever saw. Three home runs in the final game. Still the most awesome thing I ever saw as a fan.

  16. It may be my memory playing tricks on me, but I just don’t remember any of this “team of the decade” stuff before the 1990s. I’m old enough to have been a big sports fan in both 1979 and 1989, and there was none of this hoopla that I recall from either year.

    As to payroll, there’s a million different ways to look at it, but it drives me crazy when anyone lumps the “Red Sox and Yankees” together in discussions about salaries. The two are not comparable, and have not been at any time in recent memory. The Yankees have had the largest payroll in baseball every year back to 2002 (earliest year I can find data). Depending on the source, they have spent between 60M and 100M more than Boston every year.

    Again depending on source, Boston has ranked anywhere from 2nd to 5th over that span, typically grouped in with the Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, and a couple of other teams. The Tigers have been in that group recently. Basically when you look at payroll, it’s the Yankees in a group by themselves, a half dozen teams next (Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, etc), and then everyone else.

    Whether any of this is really a problem is another question altogether. I think the game is stronger now than at anytime in my life, and with MORE competitive balance, not less. But there are certainly people with valid opinions in the other direction.

  17. “It may be my memory playing tricks on me, but I just don’t remember any of this “team of the decade” stuff before the 1990s.”

    I’m sure you’re right, basically, but for what it’s worth my wife’s parents, big Reds fans, have an old poster hanging in their basement, from 1979 or 1980, that designates The Big Red Machine as “The Team of the Decade.”

  18. “I’m sure you’re right, basically, but for what it’s worth my wife’s parents, big Reds fans, have an old poster hanging in their basement, from 1979 or 1980, that designates The Big Red Machine as ‘The Team of the Decade.’”

    There, that settles it!! }8^D

  19. DavidWillis,

    I can remember people talking about Team of the decade around ’79-’89-’99, Not like today because there wasn’t a lot of media back then but I remember it. I think baseball digest used to have a “team” of the decade like the ’76 Reds and then the best overall team and I think it came down to a debate over the Reds, A’s, and Pirates and I think they picked the Reds.

    For some reason, I remember in ’89 there was a big deal made about “player of the deade” in each sport. I don’t know why exactly, maybe it’s because sport-talk radio was just starting as a format and they needed something to talk about, but I remember this topic being debated all the time during the fall of 1989. think in the end it was Schmidt in Baseball, Montana in Football, Magic in Basketball, and Gretzky in hockey. I still have a sports magazine with those 4 guys on the cover with the title: “Players of the Decade”

    I don’t remember them doing anything like that in 1999.

  20. The lesson, as usual, is that I should never trust my memory! Thanks for the info guys.

  21. johnq11,
    In 1999, most of the talk was “all century” players, etc. The decade was sort of overlooked because of that.

    Also, I think the Cardinals and Dodgers deserve team of the 1960s.
    Post 1964, the Yankees were really a bad team

  22. artie rules and so do the yanks. i have never doubted that the pinstripes would re-take their rightful place once the red sox lost their magic player, manny ramirez — and by giving him away voluntarily!!!!!!

    the red sox can be team of the decade if they want – they purged the curse by being idiots. nice representation of how america acted toward the international community during those years too – drunk, irreverent, unaware of the consequences.

    only difference is that if the sox had said “mission accomplished” it would have been true.

  23. btw “catfish” has my support. i would love the red sox fans to stop hating the yanks and start liking their own team more.

    sox nation complains about our payroll as if the red sox are run by the public broadcasting system.

    and finally: pumpsie green

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