Saturday, July 27, 2019

let's "play ball" to see what might have been in game 3 of the 1978 world series

in the 1978 world series, the dodgers won the first two games against the yankees, and this young fan was certain that they would complete their revenge against the team that had denied them a championship the year before.  i've mentioned many times that the 1977 world series is really my first baseball watching memory, and i was all-in for the 1978 season.  game 1 of the series was a bit of a blowout, and game 2 had ended with the dramatic bob welch strikeout of mr. october, and as the series shifted to new york i was confident.

the yankees took an early lead on a roy white solo home run off of don sutton, and extended their lead to 2-0 on a groundout by bucky dent.  the dodgers cut the lead in half in the top of the third thanks to a bill russell rbi single.  the score stayed that way until the bottom of the 7th when the yankees scored three times, and that was pretty much the game. the next day, reggie jackson stuck his hip out and the dodgers lost in 10 innings.  after that, the series was over, and the yankees closed it out by winning games 5 and 6.

i'd like to see what would have happened if the bottom of the 7th and top of the 8th innings of game 3 had played out the way topps intended.  i have not done this before, so i don't know how it will turn out.

1978 topps was the first set that i collected and completed. i opened a ton of packs that year, my first as a collector.  it just so happened that that was the year that topps eschewed the cartoons on the backs of their cards and instead printed different plays from a game, with the idea that you could play a game using the card backs. robin yount
will present the rules:
i remember playing games using cards with my neighborhood friends a few times, and my yankee collecting friend seemed to have paul blair batting first for a leadoff home run
each time.  i was suspicious. anyway, let's find out what happens.

don sutton
was pitching for the dodgers.

the aforementioned dent
led off the bottom of the 7th.  here's the back of his card:
ground out - one away.  in the actual game, dent singled to left. next up was mickey rivers,
who also singled in real life.
he singles here, too.  one on, one away, and that brings up roy white, who happens to have a fantastic 1978 topps card.
i should note that paul blair
will not bat in this inning, as he replaces rivers on the base paths just as he did in the actual game.  turns out, it doesn't matter.
ding dong. two-run jack.  white hits a dramatic home run here, too. white had grounded in to a force out against sutton in the actual game, but here gets his second homer of the game.  so now it's 4-1, yankees. still just one out, with thurman munson
coming up.
he walks (he had singled to drive in the first run of the inning in real life) to bring up reggie jackson.
i don't like where this is heading.  this is where i take sutton out, just as lasorda did, and replace him with lance rautzhan.
here's the pitch:
yes, i recall reggie's back is a single. my neighbor friend was disappointed at the time that it wasn't a home run.  anyway, reggie also singled in the actual game (driving in a run, too).  now there are two on and still only one out. next up is lou piniella.

i once ran in to piniella in the minneapolis skyway when the devil rays were in town. he was getting his shoes shined. seemed like a nice guy, but i was not a fan when i was a kid thanks to his yankee status.
uncle lou doubles. i'll say that munson scores and it's second and third with one out, and the score is 5-1 yankees. sound familiar?  piniella had an rbi groundout in the real game, by the way.  graig nettles
is up now.
ground out. i'm going to say the dodgers had the infield in and so no run scored.  nettles flew out to end the 7th in the real game, but here we have only two out, two on with chris chambliss
(who did not bat in the 7th inning of the real game 3) coming up.
rautzhan records the strikeout to end the inning.  three runs on four hits. 5-1, yankees. just like the actual game.

ron guidry
pitched a complete game for the yankees, so he was obviously still pitching. the dodgers' lead-off batter in the top of the 8th was dusty baker
who had singled that night.
not today. one up, one down.

lee lacy was up next.
back in 1978, he erased baker by grounding in to a double play. let's see if he can start a rally.
nope. two outs.

that brings up bill north,
who was an athletic in the 1978 topps set.  let's see if he can do better than the groundout that he hit in the real game.
well, at least he's consistent.

for the record, the dodgers had joe ferguson,
davey lopes,
and bill russell
batting in the 9th. i'm not going to check to see what the yankees would have done in the bottom of the 8th, but that part of the dodger lineup would have
doubled (he struck out in real life)
doubled (he grounded out)
walked (just as it was in the real game 3). that would bring up reggie smith
who struck out to end the game back then, but
grounds out here.  now, in my simulation, it's one out with one run in (lopes' double drove in ferguson) and runners on second and third, as i believe reggie's ground out was actually a hot smash that nettles dove to stop and only had a play at first.  hey, that's fairly close to reality!

next up for the dodgers would have been steve garvey.
don't get excited, i know what the back of his card is.
at least i'll say it was an rbi ground out.  5-3 yankees, two outs, bill russell is on third and ron cey
coming up.
i'll pretend that he took guidry to the warning track, at least.

so, it appears that the dodgers were destined to lose game 3 and the series.  i have a theory that they will beat the yankees this year, though.  that's because the teams that the dodgers have beat in the fall classic are:

yankees (1955)
white sox (1959)
yankees (1963)
twins (1965)
yankees (1981)
a's (1988)

notice a pattern? they can't beat any other team until they beat the bronx bombers.  we'll see.

by the way, this post will be my entry in to it's like having my own card shop's contest, under the 'put together an entire inning of a baseball game just using baseball cards' category.


  1. Great post! Thanks for entering my contest. Loved following along. Sorry your Dodgers weren't able to pull out the victory!

  2. Creative post! I wonder what percentage of kids who bought 78T packs back in the day played the game.

    P.S. Those Yankees action shots are fantastic!

  3. What a cool idea! Like Daniel mentioned, it was fun following along with your play-by-play.