cover image The Greatest Game: The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff of '78

The Greatest Game: The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff of '78

Richard Bradley, . . Free Press, $25 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-3438-9

Major league baseball was vastly different 30 years ago when free agency and the designated hitter were relatively new concepts, and most games were not televised. But one thing was the same: the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox were fierce rivals. In the 1978 season, it all came down to a roller-coaster ride of a pennant race that culminated in one Monday afternoon playoff game to decide the winner of the American League East. Bradley (American Son: Portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr. ) scores a solid hit with his first baseball book, recounting the sudden-death game and the season leading up to it. He deftly staggers chapters, alternating a pitch-by-pitch account of the playoff innings with the backstory of the season and most of the players and coaches. Two of the many compelling plot threads include the dramatics of meddling Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the feisty, hard-drinking manager Billy Martin, and the touching son-finds-lost-father saga of Bucky Dent, the light-hitting infielder who hit a three-run home run that made him a hero. Many other heavyweight names in baseball lore move across these pages, including Lou Piniella, Don Zimmer, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Catfish Hunter, Mike Torrez, Ron Guidry and Thurman Munson. The latter chapters of the book are filled with vivid description, particularly of Dent's classic at bat and the slow advance of the evening shadow across the Fenway Park grass. (Mar.)