World Series Hero Bucky Dent Proud Of Yankees Heritage
Even after his championship career with the New York Yankees decades back, cheering for Bucky Dent still comes easy.
One week from tonight, the 117th edition of MLB's World Series takes place in a yet to be determined site. Through the decades, there are many constants associated with baseball's biggest stage. One that can be counted on is legends will be made. Players, many defined by a nickname, or at the very least simply their first name, these are tomorrow's folk heroes. These are young men who will remain handsome and athletic, and will invoke vibrant moments in time for sports fans to embrace for generations.
Enjoying retirement in Southwest Florida's Manatee County, Dent is following through on what most come to the "Sunshine State" for, taking in life at an easier pace than in years past.
"Me and my wife (Angela) are anglers," said Dent during a recent phone conversation from his home. We like to fish and hunt; enjoy the outdoors."
Long after his playing days and managing in the majors and minor leagues, Dent is still very much a fan of the game that he gave and received so much from. He tells of attending ball games with Angela and his step-son Charlie, and traveling abroad, with England and Italy counted among their visits in recent years.
Life is good for the former Bronx Bomber shortstop. His voice sounds decades younger than his 69 years. His memory of his career, especially the half dozen seasons spent playing in New York City, is unchallenged.
Dent was recently quoted in The York Post - "There's nothing like playing in a one-game playoff". Well, it takes one to know one.
So, when earlier this month his old club found themselves jetting up to Fenway Park to play the Boston Red Sox in the American League wild card game, Dent wanted to go back to his baseball future.
Along with his wife and Charlie, 22, the Dents flew from Tampa International Airport for the October 5th game.
There's no hiding the excitement in his voice, as Dent recalls his return to Boston.
"I was excited. First, I wasn't going to go. Then my agent calls, and says he has four tickets for the game. We're going."
Returning to the scene of the crime, as most Red Sox Fans remember in 1978, when Dent homered in the tie-breaker to send the Yankees in the playoffs, and ultimately win a second World Series championship in as many seasons. He is not forgotten by New Englanders. But, the quick visit in Massachusetts was an experience he wanted to share with his bride of two years and Charlie.
Dent freely looks back in detail to the pressures of that one game in the season of '78. On the flight to Boston's Logan International Airport, Dent was anxious to experience the Yankees-Red Sox playoff atmosphere - again. The flashbacks were there. Once on the field, the 12-year MLB vet wanted Angela and Charlie to soak up the impact; the magnitude of the moment.
"Some people recognized me," explains Dent of the Boston faithful in the seats. I looked up at the wall (the Green Monster), and just thought what a special place.
Nearly everyday, Dent says he is somehow reminded of his historic three-run shot that secured the Yankees win during a period when post-season play was only for the division winners. Fans have a need to remind Dent where they were and what they were doing when he blasted Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez in the seventh-inning, with two outs.
"It's all fun," says Dent who estimates receiving 20 - 25 pieces of mail weekly from fans requesting autographs.
The lasting power of the October 2, 1978 game, the day Dent became a bona fide Yankees legend in perpetuity, isn't surprising. The long-standing rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox dating back to Boston selling Babe Ruth's contract to New York in 1920, the tie-breaking game being played in the afternoon, and during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana, the magnitude of the game caught the sporting world's undivided attention.
43 years later, and Dent easily is able to rundown teammates names of who made the '78 Yankees championship season memorable. Catfish, Thurman, Guidry, and Sparky, one word is all that is needed for Yankees' fans to know who Dent is speaking of. This was the third pennant winning season in a row for the Yankees, and the second consecutive World Series title snatched.
In '78, when MLB players had a minimum salary of $15,000 as opposed to in 2021 $570,500, Dent earned World Series MVP status. He batted .417.
"We (Yankees) had such a great group of guys. There were some characters but we had tremendous talent," explains Dent, selected in the first-round by the Chicago White Sox in the June 1970 amateur draft.
The years have gone by quickly for Dent, a three-time all-star during his playing days. But, baseball remains integral part of his life. He and Charlie have been watching the playoffs on TV, enjoying the games and sharing with each other their different takes on the action. During the regular season, Dent , locally, has followed the Tampa Bay Rays.
The 1977 World Series, like in '78, when the Yankees defeated the Los Angles Dodgers, belong to "Mr. October" Reggie Jackson. The '78 Fall Classic was Dent's acceptance into the exclusive club of baseball immortality, ignited by a seventh-inning swat earlier that October.
A conversation with Dent is as refreshing as a cool, crisp fall morning. He's genuine. There's not an ounce of aloofness about the man who played and managed for George Steinbrenner. None. He comes across as a public figure who has no difficulty turning off the switch, and being an avid private outdoorsman. So refreshing from today's pickings in professional sports.
One more time, a duly earned applause for the happiness Bucky Dent has offered to the MLB community.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.
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