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.