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On This Date in Sports June 18, 1977: Billy vs Reggie

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The bad blood between New York Yankees Manager Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson boils over as they need to be separated in the visiting dugout at Fenway Park. Martin removed Jackson after he casually went after a baseball in right field in the sixth inning on a double by Jim Rice. The Yankees would lose the game to the Boston Red Sox 10-4 missing a chance to take over first place.

The New York Yankees had a resurgence in 1976, as Yankee Stadium reopened after a two-year renovation. The Yankees who had struggled the dynasty came to an end, won their first pennant since 1964 but were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Not satisfied, Owner George Steinbrenner was aggressive in the first full off-season during free agency, signing Reggie Jackson to a five-year deal. Jackson was an established star, a former MVP and a key member of the Oakland Athletics team that won three straight World Series.

Reggie Jackson may have been a star, but he had a reputation for being outspoken and a self-promoter. Something that did not sit well with Yankees skipper Billy Martin. When Spring Training began, Jackson angered Martin and several other Yankees, by calling himself, “The Straw that Stirs the Drink”. It was seen a particular slap to Captain Thurman Munson, who won the American League MVP in 1976. Munson was a particular favorite of the Yankees feisty manager.

Reggie Jackson struggled in the early part of his first season with the Yankees. As the Yankees entered a Nationally Televised game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Yankees were in second place with a record of 36-27, tied with the Baltimore Orioles a half-game back of the Red Sox. The Yankees had Mike Torrez on the mound that Saturday Afternoon, while Boston Don Zimmer manager had Reggie Cleveland making the start.

The Yankees got off a fast start, as Mickey Rivers singled and Willie Randolph doubled. Both would come into score as Rivers scored on a grounder by Thurman Munson and Randolph scored on a wild pitch. The Red Sox quickly answered as Carl Yastrzemski hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. In the fourth inning, the Red Sox added on with a leadoff homer from Bernie Carbo. Butch Hobson followed with a single and scored on a triple by Denny Doyle. He would score on a sac fly by Fred Lynn. Carlos May scored a run for the Yankees in the fifth, as Carlton Fisk mishandled a bunt single from Rivers. The Red Sox though got the run back right away as Carbo homered again to make it 7-3 after five.

In the sixth, the Yankees drew closer as Reggie Jackson scored on a double by Roy White but could not add more as Bill Campbell came in limited the damage. Fred Lynn struck a one-out single in the sixth, he was followed by Jim Rice who blooped in a double in front of Reggie Jackson in right. In the dugout, Billy Martin fumed that Jackson did not hustle to field the ball and came out to change pitchers and sent Paul Blair to right to replace Jackson. When he got to the dugout Jackson began yelling at his manager, leading to things heating up as players and coaches needed to separate the two as things began to get physical. Sparky Lyle got out of the jam without allowing further damage. However, he would give up a solo shot to George Scott in the seventh and a two-run shot to Yastrzemski in the eighth as the Red Sox won the game 10-4.

The dugout incident became headline news and was a low point in the Yankees tumultuous season. However, they would battle through and overcome the adversity to win the American League East with a record of 100-62. They would go on to win the World Series with Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, mending the relationship between the manager and the right fielder at least temporarily.