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Ultimate Yankee Series II: Game Four

By Mike Whiteman 1/4/2021

Lineups: 1978 (Visitor) Mickey Rivers CF, Willie Randolph 2B, Thurman Munson C, Reggie Jackson RF, Chris Chambliss 1B, Graig Nettles 3B, Roy White LF, Bucky Dent SS, Ron Guidry P

1961 (Home) Bobby Richardson 2B, Tony Kubek SS, Mickey Mantle CF, Elston Howard C, Roger Maris RF, Bill Skowron 1B, Bob Cerv LF, Clete Boyer 3B. Rollie Sheldon P

Starting Pitchers: Ron Guidry (25-3, 1.74) looks to repeat his dominant Game One performance (13 strikeouts complete game) against Rollie Sheldon of the ‘61s (11-5, 3.60).

Summary: With it “getting late early”, manager Semendinger came back with Guidry three days rest. During his epic 1978 season, Gator pitched with at least four days’ rest every start until the September pennant crunch, when we made his last three starts on three days’ rest. The results: 3-0, 1.11. Oh, for real pennant races again!

Without the urgency of the ‘78s, manager Whiteman ran the rookie Sheldon to the hill, saving ace Whitey Ford for Game Five. Not that Whitey wasn’t accustomed to going on three days’ rest – he was 20-2 on three days rest during the 1961 season. Being a game ahead, the thinking was that if the ‘61s could steal a game here, then they would have Ford available to close it out in Game Five.

As has been the pattern, the ‘78s got onto the board first, when Roy White’s RBI single drove in Graig Nettles. The ‘61s came right back to tie on a Moose Skowron home run in the bottom of the frame, the first of the Series for the ‘61s. This was the only hit allowed by Guidry until the bottom of the fifth when with two outs Sheldon (.096 career hitter) stuck his bat in the strike zone and met a Guidry heater, flaring it over the infield for a single. Bobby Richardson then doubled and both were driven in on a Tony Kubek single.

After seemingly recovering and setting the ‘61s down in order in the sixth Guidry yielded a leadoff homer to Clete Boyer in the seventh and his day was over. Dick Tidrow came on and like previous games, the ‘78s bullpen work was lacking. The ‘61s chipped away at “Dirt”, with four hits and a walk, and came away with a 6-1 lead after seven.

As for Sheldon, he just got stronger, holding the ‘78s hitless for the next six innings after the second inning dustup.

The ‘78s opened the ninth with singles from Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson. With Sheldon tiring and ace Luis Arroyo in the pen heating up, the rookie dug deep made a clutch pitch, inducing Chris Chambliss to ground into a 3-6-3 double play. He then struck out Nettles to close it out.

1961 Yankees 6 1978 Yankees 1. The 1961 team leads the Series three games to one.

What went right: The ‘61s finally found their power, homering twice in the contest…Tony Kubek continued to be a thorn in manager Semendinger’s side, reaching base three times, driving in two runs, and playing flawlessly in the field.

What went wrong: Was Guidry unnerved by Sheldon’s single in the fifth? He certainly wasn’t the same afterwards…The top four of the ‘78s lineup had two singles in sixteen at bats…The 61s still haven’t heard anything from Mantle and Maris…’78s bullpen has a 4.84 ERA in the Series.

Player of the game: Sheldon’s masterpiece sets the ‘61s up nicely. Their Hall-of Famer ace is ready to go to clinch in Game Five with their relief stopper Arroyo (15-5, 2.19, 29 saves) fully rested.

Final Thought: This was as close to a must win as there can be for the ‘78s.

Looking Ahead: Last game of the series in “Yankee Stadium I”: The ‘78s bring back Ed Figueroa (20-9, 2.99, Game Two loser) against Ford (25-4, 3.21, Game One Loser)

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