Finally. After 11 seasons and three crushing playoff losses, the Kansas City Royals advanced to the World Series, winning 4-2 in Yankee Stadium to earn a sweep of the ALCS and exorcise plenty of demons.
Nearly four years to the day after Chris Chambliss hit a walkoff home run in the decisive Game Five to give New York a win in the first playoff series between the two teams, and three years and one day after the Yankees scored three ninth-inning runs to win that decisive Game Five, Kansas City pulled off their own comeback with a clutch home run. This one came off the bat of third baseman George Brett, who had had a relatively quiet series but put an exclamation point on his historic season with a three-run shot in the seventh inning. That turned a 2-1 Yankees lead into a 4-2 Royals advantage.
Both starting pitchers, Kansas City’s Paul Splittorff and New York’s Tommy John, worked out of trouble in the first four innings, with each one managing just one perfect inning in those four frames. The Royals jumped on top when Frank White, who hit .545 for the series and captured MVP honors, slammed a one-out solo home run in the fifth.
But the Yankees came back in the sixth. With one out, Reggie Jackson doubled, and the Royals turned to relief ace Dan Quisenberry. Oscar Gamble hit a grounder up the middle. White, who had snared a line drive for the first out of the inning and ultimately saved a run, grabbed the ball but made an off-balance throw to third that soared over Brett’s head. That allowed Jackson to score the tying run and Gamble advanced to third. Rick Cerone singled and New York had a 2-1 lead.
John got the first two batters out in the seventh. But after Willie Wilson doubled to right, the Yankees turned to their closer, Rich Gossage, to preserve the lead. The first batter he faced, U L Washington, hit a high chopper over the mound. Second baseman Willie Randolph fired a strike to first, but Washington just beat the throw. The infield single kept the inning alive for Brett, who rocketed the first pitch he saw into the upper deck in right field. The three-run home run puit the Royals on top, 4-2. The Royals burst from their dugout as Brett circled the bases and 56,588 New Yorkers went quiet.
But the Yankees themselves would not go quietly. Quisenberry worked a perfect seventh inning but Bob Watson tripled to start the eighth. Quisenberry was normally a control pitcher, but here he lost the strike zone, walking Jackson and Gamble to load the bases. Rick Cerone hit a line drive towards left field, but Washington moved to his right a couple of steps and snared it. Jackson broke for third when the ball was hit, and although Washington’s momentum carried him toward third base, he was able to make a good throw back to second to double off Jackson. JIm Spencer grounded out, and the threat was over.
Quisenberry avoided any drama in the ninth, getting fly balls for the first two outs and then striking out Randolph looking to give Kansas City its first American League pennant.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA198010100.shtml
Bonus YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4usAlQkss0. This starts off with the WPIX broadcast but switches to ABC at some point, so you can hear Al Michaels’ call of the Brett home run, certainly the most memorable call Michaels would make in 1980.
1980 baseball news: In the NLCS, the Houston Astros picked up their second straight extra-inning win over Philadelphia, this one by a 1-0 score. Joe Morgan led off the 11th with a triple and scored the game’s only run as Denny Walling’s sacrifice fly gave the Astros a 2-1 lead in the series. Houston needed to win just one more game at home to advance to the World Series.
Today’s birthdays: None