1977 On Deck for 2010 Release
By Glenn Guzzo
A season of upheaval and pivotal importance like few others, 1977 will be the next historic baseball season produced in super-advanced format by Strat-O-Matic.
The ’77 season, popular in an online poll of Strat-O-Matic gamers, is expected to be released when the 2009 season is ready in early 2010. Originally produced as a two-sided set with basic and advanced features, the updated 1977 season will add ballpark effects, clutch hitting, pitcher hold ratings and other features that are staples of Strat-O-Matic’s contemporary super-advanced game.
So much changed in 1977 that it is legitimately called the beginning of an era:
n The New York Yankees returned to power, winning their first World Series since 1962.
n This was the first full off-season of free agency, 20 players changed teams, and the Yankees were major beneficiaries, signing Reggie Jackson, who led the team with 32 homers and 110 RBIs, and lefty Don Gullett, who went 14-4, the best winning percentage on the team.
n This season also marked the emergence of young Yankees lefty Ron Guidry, who became New York’s big winner of ’77 by earning the first 16 wins of his career.
n But this also was the Bronx-Zoo, Bronx-is-Burning Yankees, with Jackson at odds with fiery manager Billy Martin and owner George Steinbrenner.
n The Yankees were far from the only team with open dissension in this wild season. In Texas, player Lenny Randle punched out his manager, Frank Lucchesi, in spring training. Lucchesi turned out to be but the first of four Rangers managers. The team was under .500 when skipper No. 4, Billy Hunter, was hired, then went 60-33 to finish second in the AL West behind Kansas City.
n After the fist work, Randle was shipped to the National League’s New York Mets, who had plenty of their own turmoil. It led to the trade of star pitcher Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman. Controversy didn’t work so well for the Mets, who lost 98 games and finished last in the NL East.
n After going 7-3 for the Mets, Seaver was 14-3, 2.35 for Cincinnati, but the Big Red Machine, winners of the past two World Series, could not repeat as NL champs, despite George Foster’s career year (.320-52-149). He was the last 50-homer man until the homer-heavy 1990s.
n That honor belonged to Los Angeles, which had four 30-homer men: 1B Steve Garvey, 3B Ron Cey, LF Dusty Baker and RF Reggie Smith. The Dodgers started 17-3 in Tom Lasorda’s first full season as manager and finished 10 games ahead of the Reds, and then whipped Philadelphia in the NL Championship Series.
n This was the first season for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. The fourth Major League expansion in 17 seasons, it would be the last for 16 years. While Toronto dutifully finished last in the AL East, Seattle escaped the cellar in the AL West by beating out the recently dynastic Oakland A’s, unrecognizable after losing Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and others.
n In expansion seasons, stars shine. Minnesota’s AL MVP Rod Carew had the best season of his Hall-of-Fame career, hitting .388, the highest average in the majors since Ted Williams’ .406 in 1941. Carew also had 38 doubles, a league-best 16 triples, 14 home runs, a league-best 128 runs scored, 100 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
n Other big seasons included those by future Hall of Famers Jim Rice (.320-39-114), Nolan Ryan (19 wins, 341 strikeouts, 2.77 ERA), NL Cy Young winner Steve Carlton (23-10, 2.64) and Jim Palmer (20-11, 2.91). Pittsburgh’s John Candelaria was nearly unbeatable (20-5, with a 2.34 ERA, best in the majors). Strat-O-Matic player Ken Singleton hit .328-24-99 with 107 walks. The rookies of the year turned out to be baseball greats: Baltimore’s Eddie Murray and Montreal’s Andre Dawson.
n Yes, 1977 was as bizarre as it was great. The season’s three no-hitters were pitched by Cleveland’s Dennis Eckersley, Texas’ Bert Blyleven and Kansas City’s Jim Colborn. Eckersley and Blyleven were traded at the end of the season. Colborn was traded in early ’78 and was out of baseball by the start of 1979.