Posted June 18, 2013

Watch: Casey at the Bat, the Bob Welch-Reggie Jackson version

Bob Welch, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Reggie Jackson, World Series

Bob Welch striking out Reggie Jackson to seal Game 2 of the 1978 World Series is an indelible cornerstone of my baseball fandom, not to mention one of my earliest steps down the path that led me to this space at SI.com. Though I had been exposed to baseball prior to 1978, that was the year the sport moved beyond my own backyard games of catch and whiffle ball. At eight years old, I began collecting cards, learned to read a box score and followed the pennant races in the daily standings.

The Dodgers were my team, an inheritance from my Brooklyn-born grandfather and my father. By the time of the World Series, I knew the lineup from top to bottom. I have vivid memories of the Series opener in which Davey Lopes crushed two home runs and paid tribute to deceased coach Jim Gilliam, but it’s Game 2 that stuck with me to an even greater degree. With two men on and a one-run lead in the ninth inning, Tommy Lasorda summoned Welch, a not-quite-22-year-old rookie, from the bullpen to quell the Yankees’ potential rally.

The Yankees, of course, had beaten the Dodgers in the World Series the year before, capped by Jackson’s three-homer Game 6 showing. But Jackson wouldn’t play the hero on this night, as Welch matched power with power. The video above comes from MLB’s official World Series film, released as part of a cool DVD box set by A&E back in 2006.

The showdown has remained etched in my mind because the next morning’s paper featured AP special correspondent Jules Loh’s updated take on the immortal poem “Casey At the Bat,” which I clipped from the newspaper; to this day, it remains tacked to the bulletin board in my childhood bedroom in Salt Lake City. I first put it online in 2001 at my Futility Infielder site, where I explored the complexity of being raised a Dodgers fan who was brought back to the game after moving to New York in the mid-1990s. I present it again here to share it with a wider audience:

Destiny, Ah Fate, Mighty Reggie has Struck Out!
by Jules Loh, AP Special Correspondent, 1978

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Yankees in L.A.
The score stood 4-3, two out, one inning left to play.
But when Dent slid safe at second and Blair got on at first
Every screaming Dodger fan had cause to fear the worst.
For there before the multitude — Ah destiny! Ah fate!
Reggie Jackson, mighty Reggie, was advancing to the plate.

Reggie, whose three home runs had won the year before,
Reggie, whose big bat tonight fetched every Yankee score.
On the mound to face him stood the rookie, young Bob Welch.
A kid with a red hot fastball — Reggie’s pitch — and nothing else.
Fifty-thousand voices cheered as Welch gripped ball in mitt.
One hundred thousand eyes watched Reggie rub his bat and spit.

“Throw your best pitch, kid, and duck,” Reggie seemed to say.
The kid just glared. He must have known this wasn’t Reggie’s day.
His fist pitch was a blazer. Reggie missed it clean
Fifty-thousand throats responded with a Dodger scream.
They squared off, Reggie and the kid, each knew what he must do.
And seven fastballs later, the count was three and two.

No shootout on a dusty street out here in the Far West
Could match the scene: A famous bat, a kid put to the test.
One final pitch. The kid reared back and let a fastball fly.
Fifty-thousand Dodger fans gave forth one final cry…
Ah, the lights still shine on Broadway, but there isn’t any doubt
The Big Apple has no joy left. Mighty Reggie has struck out.

Alas, Game 2 would be the last one won by the Dodgers in the series; they lost the next three in New York — the third thanks to some outstanding defense by Graig Nettles — and then the finale back home. Jackson exacted some revenge upon Welch in the finale, clouting a two-run homer in the seventh inning to seal a 7-2 win. The Dodgers would have to wait until 1981, when Fernando Valenzuela came along, to get their own revenge by beating the Yankees in a World Series.

1 comments
JeffreyLosey
JeffreyLosey

1977 was the first year I remember watching some baseball and after crying following The Series (I was 8 years old) I followed the 1978 season game for game - as I did the next several years.  I lived in suburban LA and spent every game that was on televised, glued to my radio listening to Vinny.  Bob Welch was called up mid-way through the season to pitch in an important series with the great Cincinnati Reds - he did real well and I followed him the rest of the season, but after this instance, when he took down the hated, but amazing Reggie in the World Series, he became my favorite player, even when we traded him the Oakland in 1987 where he won a Cy Young.  Thanks for posting this....