National League, 1978 - More of the Same?
The first season of parity in the two-division era.

by Gustavo Bagattini

The Setting

The year was 1978 and the world was changing. The Nobel Peace Prize had been divided equally between Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, for jointly negotiating peace between their two countries. John Irving had written The World According to Garp. Japan's Konica produced the first point-and-shoot autofocus camera. First tests of cellular telephones were conducted. Intel offered the first 16-bit microprocessor. Teenagers played Space Invaders at the arcades.

The Players

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers were still reeling after being dispatched by the New York Yankees and MVP Reggie Jackson’s 5 home runs in the 1977 World Series. The 98-win team returned virtually unchanged the following season, bringing back the oldest hitters in the league, led by the legendary infield formed by Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey. Four players (Garvey, Cey, Dusty Baker, and Reggie Smith) had hit 30 HR in 1977, and the offense had finished 3rd in the league. The team’s true strength was its pitching, which, led by a strong starting rotation of Don Sutton, Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, and Rick Rhoden, paced the Senior Circuit by almost a half of an earned run. For the bullpen, the Dodgers signed their first ever free agent, Terry Forster, away from the Pirates. Using the Pythagorean method, LA was a 103-win team in 1977, which would have paced the runner-up by 14 games.

The Dodgers’ main rivals in the Western Division were the Cincinnati Reds. The two teams had battled for the top place in the division every year since 1973, but LA had paced the Big Red Machine by 10 games in 1977. Cincy returned its lineup intact, led by slugger George Foster (.320, 52 HR, 149 RBI, 1013 OPS, 63 RCAA), Joe Morgan (417 OBP, 53 RCAA), Pete Rose (204 H), and Johnny Bench (31-109). The rotation was expected to stabilize, owing to having Tom Seaver from the onset, the arrival of Bill Bonham from the Cubs, and the development of second-year players Tom Hume and Paul Moskau. The departures of Jack Billingham (5.23 ERA) and Woodie Fryman (5.38 ERA) consisted of addition by subtraction.

The San Francisco Giants, in their second season under manager Joe Altobelli, looked to make some noise in the division. Little did they know that the events of January 30 would change their season. No, it was not the voting into the Hall of Fame of former P Addie Joss and former executive Larry MacPhail by the Special Veterans Committee. On that day, Commissioner Kuhn voided a deal of December 9, 1977, in which the A's would have sent P Vida Blue to Cincinnati for OF Dave Revering and $1.75 million cash. The Commissioner contended that too much money was involved and there would be a competitive imbalance created (he later set a limit of $400,000 as the maximum that can be exchanged between teams). On February 25, Revering was traded anyways, but for Doug Bair. This set up a deal on March 15, the day in which Israeli troops invaded Lebanon, in which the A's traded Vida Blue to the Giants for seven players and an estimated $390,000 in cash.

Out east, Philadelphia’s league-leading offense had led them to a 101-win season, which was sufficient to dispatch Dave Parker’s Pirates for the second year running. Greg Luzinski (.309-39-130, 988 OPS, 58 RCAA), Steve Carlton (23-10, 2.64 ERA, 39 RSAA), and Mike Schmidt (38-101, 967 OPS, 54 RCAA) had excellent seasons, all finishing among the top 10 in the MVP race (2nd, 5th, and 10th, respectively). This was the first year of the Phillie Phanatic, the team’s mascot.

The Pirates, which did not come within 5 games of the Phillies in the last five weeks of the season, decided to reshuffle their lineup. Left fielder Al Oliver was traded in a four-team deal to Texas (along with SS Nelson Norman) for P Bert Blyleven and 1B/OF John “The Hammer” Milner. Ed Ott replaced Duffy Dyer behind the plate. Bill Robinson moved to the outfield to replace Oliver, leaving 1B for Willie Stargell, who had played only 63 games in 1977. Finally, Kent Tekulve became the primary reliever, as Goose Gossage signed as a free agent with the Yankees, after just one season in the Steel City.

Pre-Season

January

1/19/78 – The BBWAA elects Eddie Mathews to the Hall of Fame. The former 3B is named on 301 of 379 ballots.

1/25/78 – The Padres trade P Dave Tomlin and an estimated $125,000 in cash to the Rangers for aging P Gaylord Perry. The 39-year old hurler goes on to be “awarded” the NL Cy Young. The Padres lead the NL in future Hall of Famers with four: Dave Winfield, Rollie Fingers, Ozzie Smith, and Perry.

1/27/78 – Two-time All-Star Monte “Hoot” Pearson (69 RSAA in 10 seasons with the Indians, Yankees, and Reds) dies aged 69.

February

2/3/78 – F.J. "Steve" O'Neill becomes the principal owner of the Cleveland Indians under a reorganization of the club's financial structure.

2/27/78 – Nig Lipscomb dies aged 67. I just like to say “Nig Lipscomb.”

            March

3/17/78 – At the annual St. Patrick's Day exhibition, the Reds wear green uniforms, starting an annual ritual that would last a few seasons, probably because the good luck ‘worked’ and the Reds beat the Yankees, 9–2. The Cardinals would be the next team to follow suit and don green colors.

3/21/78 – The Padres fire manager Alvin Dark in the middle of spring training, replacing him with pitching coach Roger Craig. Dark is the second manager to which this happens (the first was Cubs' Phil Cavarretta in 1954).

The Season

            April

4/3/78 – Bob Hope hosts the Academy Awards. Annie Hall is selected Best Picture of 1977. Richard Dreyfuss and Diane Keaton win Best Actor/Actress Awards.

4/6/78 – The season-opener in Cincinnati is delayed by rain. When play begins, Houston's Terry Puhl leads off with a homer against Tom Seaver, who is tagged for 5 runs in 3 IP. In the bottom of the 7th, with the Reds’ Joe Morgan on 3B and George Foster on 1B, Dan Driessen strikes out and Foster is caught stealing second. Morgan then tries to score on the play, but is thrown out. According to Retrosheet, this is apparently the first triple play begun with a strikeout. The Reds come back to win, 11–9, led by two Morgan two-run doubles and a homer.

4/16/78 – Bob Forsch of the Cards no-hits Philadelphia 5-0, walking two and striking out three in pitching the first no-hitter in St. Louis by a Cardinal since Jesse Haines in 1924.

4/23/78 – Joe Morgan commits an error during a 2–1, 10-inning win over San Francisco, ending his major-league record streak of 91 consecutive errorless games since July 6 of the previous season.

4/25/78 – St. Louis manager Vern Rapp is fired after a 6-11 start, including a 7-game losing streak. He will be the only NL manager to lose his job this season. Jack Krol takes over as the interim manager, going 1-1, before Ken Boyer is hired on the 29th, the same day in which Tony Armas Jr is born. On that same Saturday,  “Charlie Hustle” hits 3 HR (and 2 singles) in a 14–7 Reds victory at Shea, pushing his career hit total to 2,996. Rose will hit just seven homers this season.

4/30/78 – At the close of the season’s first month, LA has a half-game lead over Cincinnati and 3-game lead over San Francisco in the Western Division. In the East, all teams are within three games of each other, with the Phillies a half-game ahead of Chicago and one game ahead of Pittsburgh and the Expos.

            May

5/5/78 – Pete Rose, at age 37, singles to left field off Expo Steve Rogers (MTL) and becomes the 13th member of the 3,000 hit club. When he reaches first base, he gets a hug from former teammate Tony Perez.

5/7/78 – Two days later, Rose’s 678 consecutive games played streak (currently the 15th longest all-time) ends, as he sits game 2 of a doubleheader because of stomach cramps. The streak had started on 9/28/73.

5/9/78 - Aldo Moro, the former premier of Italy who had been kidnapped by Red Brigade terrorists, is found shot.

5/14/78 – Dave Kingman makes his mom proud on Mother’s Day, driving in eight runs with a single and three home runs, including a 15th-inning 3-run shot that gives the Cubs a 10–7 win over the Dodgers. This is his second 3-HR, 8-RBI day at Dodger Stadium.

5/16/78 – The Reds’ Tom Seaver strikes out 13 in beating the Expos, 7–1, in Montreal.

5/17/78 – Lee Lacy of the Dodgers becomes the first pinch hitter to ever hit home runs in 3 consecutive AB (the 3rd on this day). His previous blasts had been on May 2nd and 6th.

5/24/78 – On the day Brad Penny is born, the Cubs take over first with a 6–4 come-from-behind win over the Phillies. Dave Rader's 2-run triple ties the game in the 8th and Manny Trillo's 2-run home run in the 10th wins it.

5/26/78 – Pitcher Silvio Martinez, making his last start for Springfield, of the American Association, before joining the Cardinals, no-hits Omaha 4–0.

5/30/78 – In his first ML start, Silvio Martinez tosses a one-hit 8–2 victory over the Mets. Steve Henderson homers in the 7th inning for the lone safety. The rookie will pitch two one-hitters and two 2–hitters this season.

5/31/78 – At the end of May, the Giants had completed a 20-6 month (including 8 in a row and 12 of 13) and catapulted into first place, 1.5 games ahead of the Reds. The Dodgers’ .500 month dropped them to third, 3 and a half games out. The wide-open East began to take shape and look like a three team race among Chicago, Montreal, and Philadelphia. The ‘spos and Phils trailed by 0.5 and 1.5 games, respectively. St. Louis is 9-20 in May (including a 11-game skid and 15 of 16) and is 5 games below the second worst team in the NL, the Mets.

            June

6/2/78 – At Riverfront, Johnny Bench pinch hits with two outs in the 9th and the Reds trailing the Pirates, 2–1. With a runner on, Bench smacks his first ever pinch home run and the Reds win, 3–2.

6/3/78 – The Phillies’ Davey Johnson breaks up a 1–1, 9th-inning tie with Los Angeles by hitting his 2nd pinch grand slam of the year. His first had come on April 30th in San Diego. Johnson is the first ML player to accomplish this feat, but Mike Ivie will duplicate it later in the same month.

6/8/78 – The amateur draft is held. With the first pick, the Braves select Arizona State 3B Bob Horner. Other future major leaguers taken in the first round by NL teams are SS Hubie Brooks (NYM-3), P Andy Hawkins (SD-5), C Bill Hayes (CHC-13), and SS Nick Esasky (CIN-17). Future All-Stars not selected in the 1st round include Kirk Gibson, Kent Hrbek, Cal Ripken, and Dave Stieb. Horner would go straight to the bigs, signing for a $175,000 bonus and debuting (and homering off Bert Blyleven) on 6/16/78.

6/12/78 – Jesus Alou, signed by Houston after being out of the majors for two seasons, goes 4-for-4 to help the Astros to a 6–5 win over Pittsburgh. Alou is now hitting .343. He’ll finish the season at .324 in 139 AB.

6/13/78 – The Reds’ Pete Rose is held hitless during a 1–0 win over the Cubs. In the midst of a 5-for-44 slump, his average is down to .267. But he would not be collared again until August.

6/14/78 – The streak begins, as Pete Rose collects two hits against Chicago’s Dave Roberts.

6/16/78 – Tom Seaver of the Reds finally gets his first no hitter, shutting down the Cardinals 4-0, while issuing three walks, in just over two hours. This is the 4th time he takes a no-no into the 9th frame. Uncharacteristically, Seaver strikes out only 3 batters, getting 15 groundouts and 9 flyouts.

6/23/78 – At Veterans Stadium, the Phils whip the Cubs twice by 6–1 scores to take over 1st place in the NL East, a spot they will not relinquish for the rest of the season.

6/25/78 – Argentina wins its 1st World Cup, at home, defeating the Netherlands.

6/30/78 – The Giants’ Willie McCovey hits his 500th home run, off the Braves’ Jamie Easterly, in the first game of a doubleheader. At 40 years and 171 days of age, he becomes the club’s 12th member. Mike Ivie adds his 2nd pinch grand slam of the year. Jack Clark has three home runs in the two games. However, the Giants lose both games, while the Dodgers win two against the Reds to take over second place. At the end of the month, the Giants are holding a three-game lead over the Dodgers and three-and-a-half lead over Cincinnati. In the NL East, all teams, except for the leader Philadelphia, have .500 or worst months, and the Phillies have opened a 3-game lead over the Cubs. The Expos (5 games back) have dropped below .500. The Mets go 10-18 and drop from 4 games back to 11.5 back and out of contention.

            July

7/7/78 – The Solomon Islands become an independent nation, ending 80 years of British rule. The region was relatively isolated from European contact until the late 19th century when several European nations began to look to the islands as a source of labor for plantations in Fiji and Australia.

7/8/78 – Omar Moreno's first-inning single is the Pirates' only hit as STL rookie pitcher Silvio Martinez settles down and hurls a one-hit 4–0 shutout.

7/11/78 – The 49th edition of the All Star Game is held (for the first and only time) in San Diego. 51,549 people are in attendance, as the National League wins, 7–3. Don Sutter takes the win, while Steve Garvey singles and triples to earn the game's MVP trophy – his second (tied with Willie Mays, Gary Carter, and Cal Ripken). Vida Blue starts for the NL, the first pitcher to start for both leagues (he had also started in 1971 and 1975 for the AL). Rod Carew sets the All-Star triples record with 2 (in the 1st and 3rd innings). The NL All-Stars were Vida Blue, Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Ron Cey, Jack Clark, Dave Concepcion, Rollie Fingers, George Foster, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Greg Luzinski, Rick Monday, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro, Biff Pocoroba, Steve Rogers, Pete Rose, Ted Simmons, Reggie Smith, Willie Stargell, Bruce Sutter, and Dave Winfield. Johnny Bench, Jeff Burroughs, Ross Grimsley, Tommy John, Terry Puhl, Tom Seaver, and Pat Zachry were also selected, but didn’t play in the game.

7/14/78 – Umpire Doug Harvey ejects a shocked Don Sutton in the 7th inning of a Dodgers-Cardinals game after discovering three scuffed balls. Sutton takes the loss, 4–1. On the same day, Houston's Ken Forsch defeats Montreal twice in extra innings. He pitches two innings in the first game, winning 4–3 in the 13th, and comes back for two more innings in the rubber game, winning 5–4 in the 10th.

7/15/78 - Pete Rose collects a hit in his 28th straight game, setting a Reds’ post-1900 club record, as they beat the Mets, 7–5. His only hit comes off Craig Swan. Three days later, he'll hit in his 31st straight game to top the Reds’ all-time record set by Elmer Smith in 1898.

7/17/78 – Jason Jennings, the current NL Rookie of the Year, is born.

7/19/78 – Against the Phils, Pete Rose’s streak seems to end at 31 games when he’s retired in the 8th inning. But the Reds score four runs to give Rose the chance to hit again in the 9th. Mike Schmidt can't handle Rose's bunt, which he beats out to keep the streak alive. The Reds win, 7–2.

7/20/78 – Chris Speier hits for the cycle and has 6 RBI to lead Montreal to a 7–3 win over Atlanta. The same night, at 6:34 pm, a Giants-Cubs match is suspended in the top of the eighth inning after a Jack Clark single. Since this was the last trip to Wrigley for the Giants, the game was completed at Candlestick Park on 7/28/78 - an unusual but not unprecedented way to complete a game.

7/24/78 – Pete Rose singles twice against the Mets, the first time off All-Star Pat Zachry. This extends his hitting streak to 37 games, which ties the modern major-league record held by Tommy Holmes. Zachry kicks the dugout steps in anger, breaking his foot and ending his season.

7/25/78 – The Reds lose to the Mets 9–2, but Pete Rose collects another three hits to break Tommy Holmes' record. Holmes is in attendance at Shea and shakes Rose's hand after his 3rd inning single off Craig Swan. Across the Atlantic, the first test tube baby (Louise Joy Brown) is born.

7/26/78 – Johnny Bench hits his 300th career home run, off Nino Espinosa.

7/27/78 – In Houston, umpire Joe West ejects manager Joe Torre and utilityman Bobby Valentine of the Mets in the 7th inning of New York's 8-3 loss, for protesting a call at 2B. West ruled that second baseman Doug Flynn did not tag the base on a potential double play. “West is so insecure,” says an angry Torre, “that he has to do things like that to draw attention to himself. He leads the league in calling balks and phantom tags.”

7/29/78 – The Dodgers catch up to the Giants, as both teams are 61-42. The Padres have a five-game win streak to move up to 52-52. The streak will end at 10 wins, but the Pads will be at .500 or better the rest of the way, marking their first winning season ever.

7/30/78 – The Expos crush the Braves 19–0, collecting 28 hits and an NL-record-tying eight home runs. Andre Dawson (twice), Larry Parrish, and Dave Cash homer in the 4th inning. Parrish has a single and 3 consecutive HR in the game, only the 3rd major leaguer to accomplish the feat (the 4th would be Andres Galarraga in 1995). The 58 bases breaks an 85-year-old record held by the Reds.

7/31/78 – Pete Rose singles off Phil Niekro to extend his streak to 44 games, as the Reds edge the Braves 3–2. Rose ties Willie Keeler's 81-year-old NL record, achieved when foul balls didn't count as strikes. The win moves the Reds back into 2nd place, a half-game behind the G-men. LA is 1.5 games back. The East looks weak, with the Phils ahead of the .500 Cubs by five games. The Pirates, who had won 96 games the previous year, can’t seem to put anything together. After reaching a season high 3 games over .500 on 7/21/78, they proceeded to go on a seven-game skid.

            August

8/1/78 – Rose’s streak ends at 44 games, as he goes 0-4 (3 lineouts and a strikeout) with a walk. Atlanta’s Larry McWilliams, Dave Campbell, and Gene Garber shut him down. This is the first serious assault on Joe DiMaggio’s record in 37 years. Rose once said “Pressure? Well it ain’t hitting in forty-four straight games, because I done that and it was fun. The playoffs are pressure.”

8/5/78 – Hall of Famer Jesse “Pop” Haines (120 career RSAA in 1 game with the 1918 Reds and 18 seasons with the Cardinals) dies aged 85.

8/6/78 – With a 3–1 win over the visiting Padres, the Reds move into first place. A loss the following day would drop them a half-game behind the idle Giants.

8/7/78 – Eddie Mathews, Addie Joss, and Larry MacPhail are inducted into Cooperstown.

8/10/78 – In just his 2nd start, Dodger P Bob Welch beats the Giants’ Vida Blue, 12–2. The win puts both teams in a tie for first place. The Reds lose and are a half-game behind. The following day, LA beats San Francisco again to take over the lead for the first time since May 11th. The Reds also win to keep pace, a half-game back, while the Giants’ loss drops them to 3rd place, one game back.

8/12/78 – The Dodgers visit the Pirates, and two players are involved in a double play, but neither gets an assist! The Dodgers fill the bases (Garvey on 3B, Baker on 2B, Ferguson on 1B) with one out in the 9th. Bill North hits a long fly ball to center. Omar Moreno catches the ball over his shoulder at the warning track. Meanwhile, Garvey had tagged up at third and Baker stood halfway between second and third waiting to see if Moreno would catch the ball. Ferguson rounded second base and passed Baker just about the time Moreno made the catch. Ferguson was called out (the third out) for passing Baker on the base paths. Moreno had thrown the ball to the cutoff man, Frank Taveras, who then threw to Rennie Stennett, who threw to Willie Stargell. All for nothing. There was no need to double up Ferguson with throws, as he had already been called out by third base umpire Eddie Vargo. In the record books, it is scored as a team double play. A putout for Moreno and a putout for third baseman Ken Macha, the nearest fielder when Ferguson passed Baker. The double play on the official score sheet reads: Moreno AND Macha. No assist. The Dodgers lose the game and fall back into a tie for first with the Giants. Out east, the Pirates complete a 4-game skid and are 11.5 games out of first. Between this day and 9/5/78, they will go 22-3, making up 11 games on the Phillies, which go 10-13 over the same period.

 

8/15/78 – With six weeks to play, the Dodgers and Giants are absolutely tied, at 69-50.

 

8/17/78 – The Phils drop their 4th in a row, losing to the Dodgers, 5–2. The loss cuts the Phils’ lead to two games as the Cubs beat the Reds and Tom Seaver in an afternoon contest. After Reggie Smith had driven in the game-winner the previous two nights, it is Steve Garvey's turn. His bases-loaded triple in the 8th, off Tug McGraw, breaks a 2–2 tie. The Dodgers have opened a one-game lead over the Giants and 3-game lead over the Reds.

 

8/20/78 – Los Angeles beats New York 5–4 at Shea Stadium, but the real hitting occurs before the game. Dodgers’ Don Sutton and Steve Garvey engage in a clubhouse wrestling match. The two had been feuding for a long time, but newspaper remarks by Sutton about Garvey's All-American image spark the brawl. LA’s win gives them advantages of two and three games over the Giants and Reds, respectively.

 

8/21/78 – Ken Griffey drives in six runs, on two homers and a single, but it is not enough as his Reds lose, 14–9 to St. Louis. They are now two games behind the Giants and three behind the Dodgers.

 

8/22/78 – Sandinista Guerillas captured the National Palace in Managua, seizing 1,500 hostages, including members of the legislature. The Reds win and climb to within 2.5 games of LA. However, it’s the closest they’ll get to the leader until the final day of the season.

 

8/24/78 – Rafael Antoni Furcal is born. In the NL East, the Pirates have completed a 10 game win streak (and 12 of 13) to tie the Cubs for second place, 3.5 games behind the Phillies. Out west, the Dodgers opened a game lead over idle San Francisco. Cincy’s loss dropped them to four back.

 

8/25/78 – ML umpires stage a one-day strike in defiance of their union contract. Semi-pro and amateur umps are pressed into service until a restraining order forces the strikers to return. Meanwhile, the Cards’ George Hendrick has 7 RBI against the Braves.

 

8/27/78 – Joe Morgan hits HR number 200 to become the founding member of the 200 HR/500 SB club. The Giants climb to within a half-game of the Dodgers, but they won’t taste first place again. Meanwhile, the Pirates keep putting pressure on the Phillies, as they win the first of 11 straight games.

 

8/30/78 – Riverfront Stadium has its first rainout since opening in 1970. The 2nd half of a twinbill had been rained out on July 18, 1971, but no rain checks had been issued.

 

8/31/78 – August closes with tight heat in both divisions. Out west, the three-way battle has become a bout between the Dodgers and the Giants, trailers by two games. The Reds, 4-10 in the second half of the month, drop to seven back. In the Eastern Division, Pittsburgh’s surge, led by the two-way play of Dave Parker, brought them into second place, five games behind the Phillies. The Cubs hung tough, 5.5 back.

 

            September

9/2/78 – Pete Rose begins a new consecutive games streak. This one would run 745 games and end on 8/23/83 – currently the 11th longest streak ever. Ken Henderson's 3-run pinch homer in the 12th  leads the Reds to a 6–3 win over the Cardinals.

9/3/78 – The Mets’ Lee Mazzilli is the 11th NL player to hit a home run from both sides of the plate.

9/4/78 – The Pirates' Dorian Boyland has a 1-2 count in his first major-league AB when the Mets make a pitching change. Rennie Stennett pinch-hits for him, and takes the 3rd strike. The strikeout is charged to Boyland, watching the completion of his historic AB from the dugout. The Pirates sweep the doubleheader from the Mets to move within a game of the 1st place Phils, which split a twinbill against the Cards.

9/5/78 – The Expos beat the Cubs 10–8 in a 9-inning game that has the participation of a major-league record 45 players.

9/8/78 – In a 5–3 win at Wrigley, Philadelphia’s Bake McBride handles 11 chances, tying the National League mark for right fielders. It was last matched by the Cubs’ Swish Nicholson, in 1945, at the same park.

9/12/78 – The Pirates break a 5 game losing streak by beating the Phils, 5–1, to split the 2-game series with their state rivals. Philadelphia’s lead in the division drops to 4 games.

9/14/78 – Jim Bouton, 38, who had retired from pro baseball, earns a 4–1 win for the Braves over the Giants. It is Bouton's first ML victory since 1970, and the last of his career. “The Bulldog” gives up just three hits in six innings. With a loss the following day, the Giants will have gone 1-10 over their past eleven games, losing 8 games in the standings to the Dodgers and bowing out of the race.

9/15/78 – The Dodgers become the first team ever to draw three million fans. Jay Blood is the historic three millionth spectator as the Dodgers shut out the Braves 5–0. The victory is dampened, however, as coach Jim Gilliam suffers a brain hemorrhage. At Candlestick, Tom Seaver pitches a 2-hitter to give the Reds a 6–1 win over the Giants. A single and a Darrell Evans homer are the only safeties. Out east, Phil Garner hits his 2nd grand slam in two days as the Pirates beat the Expos 6–1. Garner is the first NL player to have slams in consecutive games since Jimmy Sheckard (23-4 September,1901) and the first major leaguer since Brooks Robinson, in 1962. The Bucs are 3 games back of the Phils.

9/17/78 – Alan Alda hosts the Emmys in Pasadena, CA. Winners include Fred Astaire, Edward Asner, Carroll O’Connor, Joanne Woodward, and Gilda Radner.

9/19/78 – During a 12–11 win over the Cubs, the Pirates' 38-year-old, lead-footed Willie Stargell attempts to steal 2B. The Cubs' SS waits with the ball as Stargell slides 10 feet short of the base, signaling “time-out.” The Pirates led 11–2 in the 7th, but the Cubs rally and tie it in the 9th. Dave Parker homers in 11th off Bruce Sutter to give the Bucs their 7th straight win and 30th in their last 38 since August 12. Besides the 2 dingers, Parker adds 2 RBI singles. Meanwhile, the Phils, 19-18 since August 12, lose to Montreal, 5–2, and now lead the Pirates by one game with 12 to play. Rookie Scott Sanders stops the Quakers.

9/21/78 – The Cubs tie a NL record by using 27 players during a 14-inning 3–2 loss to the Pirates. Pittsburgh's margin comes when Rennie Stennett walks in the 14th and pinch runner Matt Alexander steals 2B. When C Doug Rader's throw goes into CF, Alexander heads for 3B where the center fielder's throw hits him in the back, allowing him to score. The Pirates are now 1.5 games behind the Phils.

9/23/78 – The Dodgers clinch the division, as the Reds drop to 7.5 games back with seven games left.

9/29/78 – The Pirates find themselves 3.5 games behind the Phillies with a four-game set at home to close the season. Day one of the series features Pittsburgh's Kent Tekulve sinking the Phillies twice, winning both games in relief. He pitches two innings in the opener and pitches 1 1/3 in the nightcap, winning in the 10th. The Pirates are only 1.5 games back with two left to play.

9/30/78 – Willie Stargell hits a 1st inning grand slam, but pitcher Randy Lerch contributes 2 home runs to his cause, and the Phillies hold on to beat the Pirates 10–8 and finally clinch the National League East title. The loss snaps the Pirates’ streak of 24 straight wins at Three Rivers.

            October

10/1/78 – With an 8–3 lead over the Braves, Reds manager Sparky Anderson pulls Pete Rose in the 8th. Atlanta scores five runs in the 9th to tie, and the Reds win in 14 innings, 10–8. Rose thus ends the season with 198 hits, and Sparky's move deprives him of reaching his annual 200 hit total. Johnny Bench has a grand slam and the Braves hand out an National League record 16 walks in the game. Reds pitchers strike out 19. Speaking of milestones, the Dodgers’ Joe Simpson is Gaylord Perry’s 3,000th strikeout victim. Perry and Sutton are the only members of the club to never lead the league in strikeouts. The Expos’ Ross Grimsley is the 1st and only Montreal pitcher to win 20 games.

This marked the first time since the National League moved to a two-division format in which no team finished with a winning record above .600 or with a losing record below .400.

The Post-Season

10/4/78 – Steve Garvey smashes two home runs and a triple to pace the Dodgers to a 9–5 win over the Phillies in the opener of the NLCS. Davey Lopes and Steve Yeager also homer at the Vet.

10/5/78 – Tommy John notches a 4-hit shutout to beat the Phils 4–0, as Davey Lopes homers and drives in three runs. The Dodgers lead two games to none.

10/6/78 – The Phillies stay alive with a 9–4 win in the National League game, led by the pitching and hitting (HR, single, four RBI) of Steve Carlton.

10/7/78 – The Dodgers win 4–3 as Bill Russell's 10th-inning 2-out single scores Ron Cey. Dusty Baker collects four hits for Los Angeles. A walk to Cey and a routine liner that Garry Maddox muffs in CF sets up Russell's game-winner. LA wins the NLCS 3-1. Garvey (389 AVG, 389/1222/1611, 4 HR, 7 RBI) is voted the MVP. Tommy LaSorda becomes the 2nd NL manager to win pennants in his first 2 seasons. The best team in the league won, as LA led in runs, hitting, on-base percentage, slugging, home runs, and ERA.

10/8/78 – Dodgers coach Jim Gilliam (a two-time All-Star) dies aged 49. His number 19 is retired.

10/10/78 – Davey Lopes collects two home runs and five RBI to lead the Dodgers to an 11–5 victory over the Yankees in Game One of the World Series.

10/11/78 – The Dodgers go two games up with a 4–3 win in game 2. Ron Cey drives in all the Dodger runs and Reggie Jackson does the same for the Yankees. Bob Welch saves Burt Hooton's win in dramatic fashion by striking out Jackson in the 9th inning.

10/13/78 – Graig Nettles's spectacular defense at 3B highlights the Yankees' first World Series win 5–1. Ron Guidry goes nine innings and gets the victory.

10/14/78 – Lou Piniella's 10th-inning single scores Roy White with the winning run as New York evens the Series with a 4–3 win.

10/15/78 – The Yankees pummel the Dodgers with 18 hits to win the 5th game 12–2. Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, and Brian Doyle have three hits each.

10/16/78 – John Paul II became Pope – the first non-Italian since 1522.

10/17/78 – The Yanks win their 4th straight game 7–2 to clinch their 2nd consecutive World Series over the Dodgers as Doyle and Series MVP Dent have three hits apiece.

The Off-Season

10/24/78 – The Cincinnati Reds leave on an exhibition tour of Japan. They will play 17 games, finishing with a 14–2-1 record.

10/25/78 – Gaylord Perry wins the Cy Young Award. At 40 years of age, he’s the oldest pitcher to win the award and the first to win it in both leagues, receiving 116 of a possible 120 pts. When asked about his weight, he replied “I don’t pitch with my stomach.” The best pitcher in the league (and by a healthy margin), however, was Phil Niekro of the last place Braves. The other top 10 vote receivers are Burt Hooton, Vida Blue, J.R. Richard, Kent Tekulve,  Niekro, Ross Grimsley, Rollie Fingers, Tommy John, and Don Robinson.

            November

11/15/78 – Dave Parker wins the MVP Award, with 320 out of a possible 336 points. He leads the league in hitting, slugging, OPS, RCAA, and is one of the top fielders. The other top 10 finishers are Steve Garvey, Larry Bowa, Reggie Smith, Jack Clark, George Foster, Greg Luzinski, Gaylord Perry, Willie Stargell, and Dave Winfield.

11/21/78 – Bob Horner wins the Rookie of the Year Award, receiving 12 out of 24 votes, and beating out Ozzie Smith and Don Robinson. Sportswriter Dick Young would later say “the Braves’ Bob Horner is on the disabled list more often than eggs are on a grocery list.”

11/22/78 – Ex-Dodger pitcher Tommy John signs with Yankees. Meanwhile, the Ford Motor Credit Company purchases holdings of the General Electric Credit Company, thereby acquiring 100 percent interest in the Houston Astros.

11/27/78 – Jimmy Rollins is born.

11/28/78 – The Reds fire manager Sparky Anderson after nine years, during which the club averaged 96 wins per season and won five divisional titles, four league pennants, and two World Championships. The surprise move comes six days after the Reds return from Japan. Anderson has one year left on a contract and had no idea he'd be fired.

            December

12/2/78 – The Gold Glove winners are announced: Phil Niekro (ending Jim Kaat’s 16-yr run), Bob Boone, Keith Hernandez, Davey Lopes, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Garry Maddox, Dave Parker, and Ellis Valentine.

12/5/78 – A week after Sparky Anderson leaves the Reds, free agent Pete Rose signs a 4-year, $3.2 million contract with the Phillies, temporarily making him the highest-paid athlete in team sports.

Epilogue

On the surface, the 1978 National League was very similar to the 1977 season. The standings were virtually unchanged (Houston in the West and St Louis in the East both dropped from 3rd to 5th), as the top two teams in each division were the same, and even the post-season featured the same result – the Dodgers beating the Phillies, then losing to the Bronx Bombers in the World Series. However, although the ends were the same, the means were different. The summer of 1978 featured an exciting three-way pennant race out West in which the Giants had the Dodgers’ and Reds’ number through August. In the East, the Phillies seemed to run away with the division again, but an incredible run by the Pirates took the decision into the final series of the year. The following season, things would not be the same, as free agency and the promise of bigger paychecks began to take its toll on team’s identities.

Return to Guest Contributions