Chambliss’s Shot Heard Around the Yankees World (Guest Post)
Chambliss’s Shot Heard Around the Yankees World
by John “MacMan” McGrath (from the North East Streaming Sports Network)
Guest to SSTN
March 28, 2022
It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since the Yankees have been in the World Series. It’s been a long time. Still, they have been competitive, playoff contenders. At least, as fans, we’ve been able to watch some meaningful games at the end of the year.
Let me take you back to a time where the Yankees were bad – a time when they didn’t have a shot at getting into the playoffs. The Yankees then were often not close, not that year, and not the following year. This was a time when the Orioles and Red Sox dominated the AL East.
New owner George Steinbrenner stepped in and began making moves to rebuild the Yankees into a World Series team. The Yankees seemed to become contenders right away with big signings, and big multi player trades. These were fun teams made of players who could not only play baseball but were very colorful characters. Good ol’ country boy Ace Pitcher “Catfish” Hunter, Shutdown Reliever “Sparky” Lyle, Steady Shortstop “Bucky” Dent, and so many others came to the Yankees to play great baseball. And they were not all…my friends and I called Graig Nettles a “vacuum.” And there was Mick “The Quick” Rivers, the in-your-face closer “Goose” Gossage, the rough and tough Captain Thurman Munson, and superstar right fielder “Mr. October” Reggie Jackson. This team was led by the fiery manager Billy Martin.
Three players on those teams stayed out of the headlines during this World Series era: Roy White, the left fielder, a steady ballplayer who was always on base and scoring runs, Willie Randolph who turned double plays like nobody’s business and led the teams in walks, and then there was Chris Chambliss the quiet, big, lefty first baseman.
As I look back, it seems that the colorful players seemed to be George Steinbrenner’s favorites. The jokesters the third baseman Graig Nettles the 2nd best in the AL, and a power hitter, Sparky Lyle, a Cy Young winning reliever with an unhittable slider, the no-nonsense catcher Thurman Munson – his toughness off set by his base hitting elegance that kept him at the .300 mark year-after-year. There are so many great memories, such as Mickey Rivers who played center field just behind second base daring you to try to hit it over his head and who flipped the bat around like a baton when entering the batters box. He also hit over 300 and scored over 100 runs a year. Then there was “Sweet” Lou Pinella the base hitting, fiery machine. The headline grabbing Reggie Jackson provided the Yanks with power and controversy seemingly always clashing with Billy Martin.
And, then there was Chris Chambliss.
Chris Chambliss was acquired from the Cleveland Indians. He was a great doubles hitter that George Steinbrenner thought would be hit around 30 home runs a year being a big lefty in Yankee Stadium. When Chambliss didn’t do this, Steinbrenner was not happy, and he let everyone know it.
What can’t be overlooked is the fact that Chambliss was a very good defensive first baseman, and a 280 hitter who hit around 15 to 20 home runs a year. This wasn’t what Steinbrenner imagined in his big trade, but one on memorable night, Chambliss became one of the biggest Yankee legends ever.
It was 1976. The Yankees were battling the World Series ready Kansas City Royals led by Manager Whitey Herzog and who had stars all over including George Brett, Hal McRae, Amos Otis, Frank White, and more.
In the last game of the playoffs, in a tie game, in the bottom of the 9th, the quiet first baseman, Chris Chambliss, made history. His homer valuted the Yankees into the 1976 World Series and eded years and years of frustration and losing seasons. His homer signaled that the Yankees were back!!!
Before there was Jim Leyritz, Scott Brosius, Bernie Williams, even before there was Reggie Jackson’s three homers on three pitches, there was Chris Chambliss. All those home runs were significant in Yankees history, but Chambliss’ homer was bigger than them all. To put it into perspective, that would be like a walk-off ALCS home run next year by DJ LeMahieu or Anthony Rizzo, to get the Yanks back into the World Series after 20 years.
There were other walk-offs for Chambliss but none as significant as the one he hit to send the Royals home and the Yankees to the October classic.
Years later, the great clutch hitting of those World Series teams of 1990s, teams with their own walk-off home run moments, had a special batting coach. His name was Chris Chambliss. Clutch always.
The great Chris Chambliss.