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Saturday, April 16, 2011

WHY GATOR HAD PRIDE FOR THE PINSTRIPES

I’ll mention a couple words and you tell me what Yankee comes to mind…

GATOR...okay, next word, LOUISIANA... Don't know? Time’s up! If you didn’t get it by now, you're reading the wrong blog.

True Yankee fans know I'm talking about the one, the only, Ron Guidry. Perhaps the most dominant Yankee lefty pitcher in my lifetime for sure. Again, I stress my lifetime. I am sure most older Yankee fans will argue that Whitey Ford was perhaps, not only the greatest Yankee lefty pitcher of all time, but one of the best left handed pitchers in MLB history, period! The younger generation will argue that Andy Pettitte is clearly the most dominant lefty we ever had on the Yankees. It would be hard to argue against either one of those guys. And maybe that’s a blog for another day. But I did not write this piece to argue over Ford, Guidry, and Pettitte, and who was the best of the three. For argument’s sake, let's just say as Yankee fans we were lucky to have three of the most dominant and clutch lefty pitchers ever. Am I right?

Okay, so why did I write a piece on the great Ron Guidry? Because he deserves alittle recognition. People tend to forget the great ones, and we're not about to here. If you never saw Ron Guidry pitch and you just looked at his final career stats, you would probably say they are above average looking. Certainly nothing to sneeze at, but probably not Hall of Fame caliber. And, you are probably right. I am not going to argue in this piece that Guidry should be in the Hall of Fame, although there are people that can make a solid argument that he should be. I respect that. What I did want to do was point out that, for a short period in Major League Baseball, Guidry was the most dominant pitcher in the game, hands down. There was a 2-3 year stretch (1977-1979) that Guidry was the most feared pitcher in baseball. Think about that for a moment…How many pitchers can say that during their career in in the Pros at some point they were the most feared pitcher on the mound... not many. He had a closer’s fastball that he could throw for 9 innings with a slider that literally made thousands of professional hitters look like little leaguers.

And of those games from 1977-1979, I want to specifically focus on the year 1978. In 1978 Guidry won the Cy Young Award with 100% of the writers votes. He put up numbers that will just blow you away. That season, he had one of the greatest single season pitching performances ever…EVER! Yankee fans, you know how you feel when we give the ball to Mo in the 9th inning of a 3-2 game? The game's basically over, right? Well, that is exactly how the Yankee fans felt in 1978 when it was Guidry’s turn in the rotation. Just look at these numbers:
  • 25 wins vs. only 3 losses:That’s a .893 winning percentage
  • 1.74 ERA: Under two runs for an entire season as a starting pitcher! His ERA alone in 1978 is among the top ten in baseball‘s modern era!
  • 9 shutouts
  • He had 248 strikeouts in 1978 and only allowed just over 6 hits per 9 innings and American League batters hit UNDER .200 against him!
  • On June 17, 1978, against the California Angels, Gator struck out 18 batters in a 9 inning game. At the time, it was a Major League Baseball record that has since been broken, but it is still a Yankee record.
I also wanted to point out this fun fact to the younger Yankee fans reading this: You know how Yankee fans stand and cheer and clap whenever an opposing batter has two strikes on him? Do you know when that tradition started? Yep, in the Bronx on that night of June 17, 1978. As Guidry started mowing down one Angel batter after another, the fans at Yankee Stadium began to stand and cheer and clap every time Guidry had two strikes. Now, of course, all stadiums copy this two strike cheer. So now you know, that is where that two strike chant started... by Yankees fans, of course. Compliments of a dominating Ron Guidry.

Guidry’s 25th win in 1978 was the most dramatic and significant of that brilliant season. He was the winning pitcher in the “Bucky Dent homerun” game as well. That homerun and that game will forever go down as the greatest Yankee game I've ever watched. I was very young at the time and remember watching the game with my older brother and I just remember him screaming when Dent hit that homerun but I also remember that night... It was Gator who got the win against the dreaded Red Sox. That was clutch. Think about the pressure on his shoulders for that game. He was wrapping up one of the most dominant seasons a pitcher ever had and now it all came down to that game.

Something else to remember about the Yankee vs. Red Sox rivalries in those days. We all know how we “hate” the dreaded Red Sox today. Well in 1978, the Yankee fans and Red Sox fans
genuinely hated each other, but more importantly, unlike today, the Yankee players and Red Sox players literary hated each other too. The pressure on Guidry’s shoulders for that game was probably equal to, if not more than a Game 7 of a World Series, and Louisiana Lightning came through! He wasn’t dominant that day, but he was clutch for sure.

After 1978, as we all know, the Yankees wouldn’t win another World Series until 1996. But Guidry continued to shine and build upon his Yankee legacy. After that 1978 season, Guidry continued to baffle hitter's with his rising fastball and his sick slider. In 1985, he led the AL in wins with 22, and he almost wrapped up his second Cy Young award but, unfortunately, he fell a few votes short to a rookie sensation named Bret Saberhagen. I always thought he should have won it that year, but then again, I am biased towards my Yanks, and you know it. In fact, in a nine year period, Guidry finished in the top ten voting for the Cy Young award six times. That’s pretty impressive!

Guidry hung ‘em up midway through the 1989 season after shoulder surgery basically did not work. The man retired from the game with dignity and class and from the team he made his legacy with, the New York Yankees! The Yankees gave Guidry the ultimate honor and retired his #49 in 2003, setting his place among the Yankee greats! Guidry is still involved with the Yankee organization. He heads to Tampa every Spring to work with our pitchers and makes appearance in the Bronx every Old Timer’s Day. He still gets one of the loudest ovations, and deservedly so. Ron Guidry was and is, to this day, a great Yankee!

Check out these facts about Gator:
  • Guidry was Yankees Co-Captain from 1985-86 along with Willie Randolph

  • Guidry was a 4 time All Star

  • Guidry went 4-0 in the postseason (1977 & ’78) with 3 complete games in 5 starts, allowing only nine earned runs in 37 1/3 innings pitched
  • Guidry only gave up one homerun to a lefty the entire 1978 season
  • All three of Guidry’s losses in 1978 were to left handed pitchers named “Mike” (weird, right?)
  • Guidry won the 1978 Cy Young and only finished 2nd in the AL MVP voting to Jim Rice.
  • In 1983 Guidry had 21 wins, all of his wins were complete games.
  • On August 7, 1984, Guidry struck out three batters on nine pitches in the ninth inning of a 7-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. Guidry became the eighth American League pitcher and the 20th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the so-called "immaculate inning." He was the first pitcher to do so in the 9th inning of a complete game, a feat which has since been matched only once.
  • Louisiana Lightning was the Yankees pitching coach from 2006-2007
  • Guidry won the Gold Glove 5 straight years.
Let's never forget the greats. Let's give a salute to Gator. He was a true Yankee. And a shoutout to @JeterFan_02 who is from Gator country. She gave me the idea.




--Mikey Blue, BYB Senior Writer




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3 comments:

  1. WOW!!! Such an amazing piece... Thank U for reminding me just how amazing he was... Its an Honor for me to share the State with a Yankee Legend!!! Kiley @JeterFan_02

    ReplyDelete

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