Best known for his dramatic pennant winning home run for the New York Yankees against Mike Torrez and the Boston Red Sox in game 163 of the 1978 season, Bucky Dent didn’t stop there, as he led the Yankees to the 1978 World Championship with a .417 average for which he was named World Series MVP. Bucky was the Yankees’ shortstop from 1977-1982. He was acquired from the Chicago White Sox, where he had played from 1973-1976. Bucky earned two World Series rings with the Yankees (1977 and 1978) and was an A.L. All-Star 3 times in his career (1975, 1980 and 1981). Despite his big home run, he was known more for his steady fielding than his hitting (he only hit 40 career HRs). Bucky was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1982 for former New York Mets star Lee Mazzilli, and he played for the Rangers in 1982 and 1983 before closing out his career with the Kansas City Royals in 1984. Bucky managed the Yankees in 1989 and 1990 and coached for multiple major league teams thereafter. Here are his Opening Day memories.
“Well, my first Opening Day with the White Sox in 1974 was quite a thrill because it was everything I ever worked and dreamed for. We opened up at home against the Angels and Nolan Ryan. It was a real cold, windy day and I remember Dick Allen crushing a ball that looked like it was going over the roof and the wind knocked it back down on the warning track. I remember Ken Henderson hitting a ball with the bases loaded to dead center field and Mickey Rivers running back to the fence like it was going to go over and the wind just blew it back in and it landed like half way in center field. That’s how hard the wind was blowing that day. I remember my first at bat off of Ryan. It was like, here I am, nervous as heck, facing this guy who throws a hundred miles an hour on my first opening day and it’s about 30° with the wind blowing about 40 miles an hour.
My first Opening Day with the Yankees also was really special. I got traded to the team I wanted to go to on the last day of Spring Training in 1977. I had always dreamed of being a Yankee and they were coming out of the World Series. I remember we were playing Milwaukee, and I was uptight and thinking about all the great players that have played there, and then when Bob Sheppard announced my name, it was like the ultimate. I also remember 1978 as being really special, because we had just won the World Series in 1977 and we were coming back as World Champions. The other one I remember was 1981 because I hit a home run off of Jon Matlack and another off of Fergie Jenkins the next day.
Thanks Bucky for your memories and especially for the homer.
See you in two. Richie