Monday, May 21, 2007

The Myths of 1978: The Real History

I am truly amazed they way some things that just aren't fact seem to become one. Take for instance what happened in the 1978 AL East pennant race. That race is being brought up more and more, especially by Yankee fans who are trying to comfort themselves that the AL East race this season isn't over for them. (You know, "The Red Sox blew it in 1978, and that can happen again. It's because they're the Red Sox!!" I guess these nitwits have collective amnesia about 2004. And they also conveniently forget the Red Sox beat out the Yankees, as well as everyone else, for the AL East titles in 1975, 1986, 1988, 1990 and 1995.)

A "sportswriter" named Joe LaPointe in the New York Times today gives me the perfect example of what I'm talking about. Once again, someone in the media gets it wrong about that season: "New England fans also have memories of the 1978 Red Sox, who led the AL East by 14 games in mid-July but lost the title in a one-game postseason playoff to the Yankees..."

Absolutely wrong, Lapointe. Let's get this straight once and for all. THE BOSTON RED SOX NEVER LED THE AL EAST BY 14 GAMES IN 1978 AT ANY POINT. The longest lead the Sox had that year was on July 6 at 10 games, over the Yankees who were in second. On July 19, New York fell to 14 back, BUT THEY WERE IN FOURTH PLACE, not second. Milwaukee was in second on that date, nine back. Somehow, this "14-game lead" myth took hold. Yes, the Yankees came from 14 back and it was a great comeback. But the Sox were never that far ahead OF EVERYONE. They ultimately did blow a large lead and of course, that was horrible. But the race didn't end once the Yankees got to first place in mid-September.

And there's one other myth that makes me angry: "The Yankees never blow late-season leads." Oh yes they have, and in 1978 of all years. On September 17, 1978, the Yankees led the Red Sox by 3 1/2 games with 14 to play in the season. They played each other at Yankee Stadium that day, with the Yankees ready to deliver the knockout punch. They couldn't do it and lost, 7-4, and the Red Sox got blazing hot, winning 11 of the last 14, the final 8 in a row, with four of the last six games being shutouts. And all the Yankees had to do on the final game of the season on October 1 was beat Cleveland at home to take the East. Again, they couldn't do it, as the Sox beat Toronto at Fenway. Another myth seems to go that it was the Yankees who caught the Sox, when in fact it was the other way around. THE RED SOX FORCED THE TIE, AS THE YANKEES LET THAT 3 1/2 GAME LEAD GO TO WASTE.

As they say, "history is written by the winners." But some of the history is totally confused and outright wrong (especially by so-called "writers" who don't seem to know their history). It leads to myths. The Red Sox had one of their best teams in 1978, but that seems to be lost to history. (They still have the most wins, 99, by any Sox team since the 1946 AL Champions.) That club seemingly will not be fondly remembered by even some of their loyalist fans, and it is a shame that their great comeback in the final two weeks seems to be totally forgotten.


Suldog said...

Yes, I hate it, too, when everyone forgets about the Sox comeback that year. It was a magnificent pennant race and both teams should be lionized for it.

The Omnipotent Q said...

Well said, Suldog. It was a classic pennant race, the type of which we will never see again.

Michael Leggett said...

The Yankees Fans are NOT into HISTORY:

Mythology & Astrology, but NOT History;

All that BS courtesy of 12 Beers by the top of the 3rd Inning!

Peter N said...

We definitely grew white hot the last half of September. Less stubborn teams would have folded like a Phillipine contortionist. (a Manila folder---sorry)