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Chambliss' Iconic Moment

Chris Chambliss Authored One of the Yankees' Most Iconic Moments

By Sal Maiorana

February 2024

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Sal Maiorana, a friend of the site, shares some of his thoughts on the Yankees.


For honest, unfiltered analysis on the New York Yankees, you can subscribe to Sal Maiorana's free Pinstripe People Newsletter at https://salmaiorana.beehiiv.com/subscribe.

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NEW YORK (Oct. 14, 1976) - You don’t see scenes like this anymore in baseball, not in these scary and troubling times we now live where heightened security is prevalent everywhere from airports, to ballparks, to elementary schools.


But times were different in 1976, so when Chris Chambliss’ iconic home run in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series - which clinched the Yankees’ first pennant and World Series appearance since 1964 - cleared the short porch at Yankee Stadium, here came a flood of humanity pouring over the barrier walls and onto the field.


It was complete chaos in the Bronx, a dangerously wild, out-of-control celebration fueled by 12 years of frustration for Yankees fans, at least for the ones old enough to remember the multiple Yankee dynasties that encompassed four decades, fans who once considered pennants and World Series titles their birthright.


Of course, most of those fans weren’t among those who stormed the field and caused $100,000 in damage to the ballpark and field that had just re-opened for the 1976 season after a two-year refurbishing. It was mostly young and probably drunk hooligans who overwhelmed the NYPD and turned Yankee Stadium into a facsimile of the prison yard during the Attica uprising five years earlier.


For Chambliss, his moment of glory in delivering to the Yankees a never-to-be-forgotten 7-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals became a matter of survival as he tried to make his way around the bases.


“That was wild; it was a jubilant time and then it turned into a fearful time,” Chambliss said many years later. “I touched first and second, and I tripped right after I touched second base.


I was on one knee for a minute and I got up. I think I was afraid that if I was on the ground, then people started jumping on you, and I would have been buried. So I pretty much took a bee-line to our dugout. Once I came around third base, all I wanted was our dugout because that was safety. Because it was really a mob of people everywhere.”


There have been so many incredible moments in the history of the Yankees, dwarfing any other MLB franchise and arguably any sports franchise in the world. That comes with the territory of winning 27 World Series in the past 100 years, and the Chambliss home run ranks right near the top of the most memorable when you consider the context.


Following their 1964 pennant and subsequent loss to the Cardinals in the World Series, the Yankees entered what would become the darkest period in their history since the years before World War I. In the last four seasons before divisional play was introduced in 1969, the Yankees finished sixth, 10th, ninth and fifth in the 10-team AL. And when the six-team AL East was created, they finished fifth, second, fourth, fourth, fourth, second and third.


Add it up and it was 11 consecutive years out of the postseason before 1976 when Billy Martin - having taken over as manager late in 1975 when Bill Virdon was fired - drove the Yankees to their first division crown.


They won 97 games and beat out the Orioles - the team that had dominated the division in the late 1960s and early 1970 - by 10.5 games behind the hitting of Chambliss, Thurman Munson, Willie Randolph, Graig Nettles, Roy White and Mickey Rivers, and the pitching of Catfish Hunter, Ed Figueroa, Dock Ellis, and Sparky Lyle.


Lined up in front of them were the Kansas City Royals, a team like the Yankees that had been wandering in the wilderness until 1975 when Whitey Herzog replaced Jack McKeon as manager midway through that season and won 41 of the 66 games Herzog was in charge for, finishing with a record of 91-71.


Most of the young Royals core returned in 1976 including George Brett, John Mayberry, Frank White, and Al Cowens, mixed with veterans Hal McRae, Amos Otis and Freddie Patek. And on the mound, the Royals featured a rotation of Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff, and Al Fitzmorris, along with closer Mark Littell.


This would be the start of a five-year epoch where the Yankees met the Royals four times in the ALCS and it became a rivalry hotter than any the Yankees had, second only to the forever hostilities with the Red Sox.


"There was real hatred between us. We looked forward to playing them, beginning in spring training. There was no love lost between us. It was so much fun going to New York. The fans despised us. It was as good as it got.”

George Brett on the rivalry with the Yankees


Throughout this series, Brett and Martin exchanged verbal barbs, not only in the papers but from each other’s dugouts, a contentiousness that fueled the rivalry between the two teams. Between those two, Brett held a grudge against Martin because the manager had promised not to trade Brett’s brother, pitcher Ken Brett, and then did so a couple days later to the White Sox in May 1976.


Also, there was former Yankee pitcher Larry Gura, who had been traded to the Royals on the same day as Ken Brett went to Chicago. Gura was none too pleased and charged that Martin hadn’t given him a proper chance to pitch.


The series began in Kansas City and the teams split the first two, the Yankees taking the opener 4-1 behind Hunter’s complete game five-hitter. They scored two runs in the first off Gura when Brett made a throwing error with the bases loaded that allowed two runs to score, and then their final two on White’s double in the eighth. Throughout the game, the sniping from the dugout was intense, a portend of things to come over the next five years.


Kansas City pulled even with a 7-3 victory, and then the series shifted to the Bronx for the final three. The Royals jumped on Ellis for three runs in the first inning of Game 3 and then never scored again as Ellis followed with seven great innings and the Yankees rallied behind a two-run homer by Chambliss in the fourth and a three-run sixth.


With a chance to close it out, Martin gave the ball to Hunter and he didn’t have it in Game 4, driven out in the fourth inning of what became a 7-4 loss. So it came down to a deciding fifth game, one that dripped with drama from start to electrifying finish.


Mayberry’s two-run homer off Figueroa in the first was answered by two Yankee runs in the bottom half, during which Royals starter Leonard was given a shocking, inexplicable quick hook by Herzog. The Royals went up 3-2 in the second, and then the Yankees took the lead in the third on an RBI single by Munson off Splittorff, and an RBI grounder by Chambliss.


The Yankees extended their lead to 6-3 in the sixth on a Munson RBI single and a two-out error by Brett that allowed a run to score. But Brett would atone as he came up in the eighth and launched a crowd silencing and tying three-run homer off Grant Jackson, who had just relieved Figueroa.


Then in the ninth, the Royals thought they were on the brink of taking the lead. With two outs, Buck Martinez singled and Cowens walked against Dick Tidrow. Jim Wohlford then hit a slow grounder to Nettles at third and he threw to second for the force. Cowens was ruled out, but TV replays - in a time before there was instant replay reviews - showed that he was safe. It should have been bases loaded with Brett coming to the plate.


Instead, the game ended several minutes later - after a short delay to clear the field of bottles that had been thrown at Royals right fielder Hal McRae - when Chambliss drove Littell’s first pitch into the night and over the fence.


“It was my best pitch and you have to give him credit, he hit it out,” said Littell, a rookie who had allowed just one home run all season.


“I’ve hit some where you do know, but their right fielder was acting like he was camped under it. It barely went over, just enough,” Chambliss said of the home run.


After the game, Herzog explained why he didn’t argue the call at second. “I didn’t come out for two reasons; first, I knew they weren’t going to change the call. Second, the crowd had been throwing bottles and other things all night. I got hit my a tomato during pre-game introductions. I didn’t want to go out there and get killed.”


Chambliss could relate to that.


Once he knew the ball was out, he thrust his arms into the air on his way to first, but then saw what was happening and realized the challenge he was about to face.


“Home plate was completely covered with people,” said Chambliss. “I wasn’t sure if I tagged it or not. I came in the clubhouse and all the players were talking about whether I got it. I wasn’t sure, so I went back out.


“I put a jacket on and took a couple cops with me and we made our way back on the field. We went through the crowd, there were people everywhere. We walked up to home plate and looked down and it was gone. I took my foot and hit it in that area, in the dirt. So technically I did it. The umpires told me later that under those circumstances, that was a home run, legally, as soon as you hit it, whether you touched the base or not.”

5件のコメント


Chris Dederick
Chris Dederick
2月09日

I was there !!! Wow, what a great game!!! Chambliss is Mr clutch..

C. J. Dederick

いいね!

etbkarate
2月07日

I remember it very well. I only wish the mojo carried on into the World Series!

いいね!

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
2月07日

I was there with my Dad, one of the best baseball-related memories I have of him. Upper Deck, left field, nose bleed seats, but we were there. I remember feeling like the Yankees were cruising with a three-run lead in the 8th, and then Brett tied it with the homer off Jackson -- I now tip my hat to him for doing it off a tough lefty who had had a really good half-year for the Yankees after coming over from Baltimore as part of that blockbuster trade. At the time, though, I was feeling less than charitable, and only my Dad's presence next to me kept the swearing silently in my head.


Then it was nerve-wracking for the bottom…

いいね!

Lincoln Mitchell
Lincoln Mitchell
2月07日

Thanks for this. This was the moment that made me a lifelong Yankees fan. My brother and I were growing up in San Francisco, but were from New York. We were raised by a single mother who had been born and raised in New York and was a Yankees fan. We were just getting into baseball. I was 8 and he was 11 during that series. We rooted intensely for the Yankees in that series because it gave us a connection to our family and to New York, from where we had moved to San Francisco only five years earlier. I still remember that Chambliss home run. I have blocked out much of that 1976 World Series.

いいね!

yankeerudy
2月07日

I remember this day. Amazing way to cap a season. Too bad they didn't have anything left in the tank for the Big Red Machine.

いいね!
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