The Greatest Game

The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff Of ’78, Richard Bradley, Free Press.

For baseball fans in New York and Boston, Bucky Dent’s three-run home run in the seventh inning of the 1978 playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox is a flashbulb memory. It’s the defining moment in what is arguably the most memorable game in baseball history, when “the last guy on the ball club you'd expect to hit a home run … hit one into the screen,” said Yankee announcer Bill White.

In “The Greatest Game” author Richard Bradley brings that infamous one-game playoff back to life in a vivid pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning account that alternates points of view between the two teams. In between innings, Bradley recounts the trials of the 1978 season, during which the Yankees and Red Sox both endured a surprising number of challenges for pennant contenders. 

For its part, New York’s clubhouse was filled with interpersonal conflict, leading to manager Billy Martin’s resignation midway through the year. Meanwhile, up in Boston the Red Sox built a 14½ game lead, then proceeded to suffer one of the greatest collapses in baseball history—a late-season meltdown that included the so-called Boston Massacre, when the Yankees swept four games from the Sox at Fenway Park in early September. 

Certainly, readers old enough to remember the '78 playoff—won by the Yankees, 5-4—will find “The Greatest Game” a compelling trip down memory lane, a rare instance in which knowing the ending makes the behind-the-scenes back story that much more riveting.