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On This Date in Sports June 17, 1978: Louisiana Lightning in the Bronx

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Ron Guidry, who had been the New York Yankees bright spot through early-season struggles, pitches one of the best games in team history. Allowing just four hits in a 4-0 win over the California Angels, Guidry strikes out a franchise-record 18 Angels. Ron Guidry improves to 11-0 on the season with the win, dropping his ERA 1.45. He would go on to win the Cy Young Award.

Born August 28, 1950, in Lafayette, Louisiana, Ronald Ames Guidry was drafted by the New York Yankees in the third round of the 1971 Draft after playing at Southwestern Louisiana. After four years in the minors, the man nicknamed Gator and Louisiana Lightning made his debut with the Yankees in 1975. However, he had trouble sticking around, as he only made sporadic appearances in the majors in 1975 and 1976 as he was nearly traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Guidry finally made it up to stay in the majors in 1977. After starting the season in the bullpen, Gator went 16-7, with a 2.82 ERA. He earned the moniker Louisiana Lightning in the postseason, recording a win in the ALCS and World Series, as the Yankees won their 21st World Championship.

The start of the 1978 season was rough for the Yankees, as they dealt with a string of injuries and fell behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. Entering a Saturday Night Game against the California Angels at Yankee Stadium, New York was trailing the Red Sox by seven games while holding a 36-25 record. That deficit would have been considerably worse if not for Ron Guidry, who was 10-0 heading into the start against the Angels.

The California Angels, who recently made a managerial change from Dave Garcia to Jim Fregosi, sent Paul Hartzell to the mound to oppose Guidry in a game with an 8 PM start. The Angels got off to a good start as Bobby Grich led off the game with a double. However, he did not score as Guidry struck out Rick Miller and Joe Rudi while getting Dave Chalk to ground out. In the bottom of the first, the ss scored as the first three batters singled, with Gary Thomasson knocking home Roy White. In the second inning, Ron Guidry worked around a leadoff walk, striking out Brian Downing to end the inning. The Angels staged a two-out rally in the third, with base hits by Rick Miller and Dave Chalk. However, Louisiana began to find his groove, striking out three batters in the inning. The Yankees padded their lead in the bottom of the inning, chasing Hartzell from the game by scoring three times as Thomasson was key again with an RBI triple. Ken Brett would settle things down for the Halos, retiring Jim Spencer and Fred Stanley to end the inning. Holding a 4-0 lead, Ron Guidry struck out the side in the fourth. After Downing led off the fifth with a walk, Guidry added two more strikeouts before Rick Miller hit into a fielder’s choice. While Ken Brett was silencing the Yankees’ bats, Guidry continued his Saturday Night Fever, striking out the side in the sixth to reach 14, as people began to wonder if he had a chance at the single-game record with 19 strikeouts. Guidry would only record one strikeout in the seventh and one in the eighth to enter the ninth leading 4-0 while needing to strike out the side to match MLB's record of 19 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Ron Guidry got the first two fanning Chalk and Rudi before Don Baylor laced a two-out single. Ron Jackson would ground out to end the game, as Louisiana Lightning fell one short of the MLB record. However, the 18 strikeouts in a game established a team record that still stands for the Yankees.

Richard Drew. Shutterstock Images.

Ron Guidry would finish the 1978 season as perhaps the best pitching season for anyone ever to wear the pinstripes, posting a record of 25-3, with a 1.74 ERA and 208 strikeouts. Guidry would win the Cy Young and finished second in MVP voting, as the Yankees, who at one time fell 14 games behind Boston, staged one of baseball’s greatest comebacks and won a second straight World Series.