On This Date in Sports October 21, 1976: Red October

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The Cincinnati Reds complete a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees with a 7-2 win in the Bronx. The Reds become the first team in the divisional play era to go undefeated in the postseason, having also swept the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. It is the second straight World Championship for Cincinnati's Big Red Machine. Johnny Bench hits two home runs in the clincher to win the World Series MVP. 

The Cincinnati Reds had been the dominant team in the National League West during the 1970s. They had won division titles three times in five years, reaching the World Series twice. However, they had not won the World Series until 1975, when they posted a record of 108-54 to win the West for the third straight season and fourth time in six years. Reaching the World Series again, they had won a thrilling seven-game series against the Boston Red Sox, overcoming Carlton Fisk's home run in Game 6. The Reds won the West again in 1976, posting a record of 102-60, as Joe Morgan was named MVP for the second straight season. The Reds swept the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS, rallying to win Game 3 at Riverfront Stadium 7-6 with three runs in the ninth. 

The New York Yankees were resurrected in 1976. After a decade of struggling after their 40-year dynasty, they returned to the World Series for the first time in 12 years. The Yankees also returned home to the Bronx in a renovated Yankee Stadium following two seasons at Shea Stadium. Managed by Billy Martin, the Yankees posted a record of 97-62, as Thurman Munson was named captain and won the American League MVP. The Yankees won the ALCS in five games, as Chris Chambliss hit a walk-off pennant-clinching home run to win the deciding game 7-6. 

The Yankees were forced to go with Doyle Alexander on the mound in Game 1, as Catfish Hunter needed an extra day of rest with a sore shoulder, while Don Gullet got the star for the Reds. Joe Morgan gave Cincinnati an early lead with a home run in the first inning, and New York answered as Lou Piniella scored on a sac-fly by Craig Nettles in the second. The Reds regained the lead in the third inning as Dave Concepcion tripled and scored on a sac-fly by Pete Rose. In the sixth, the Reds added to their lead as Ken Griffey Sr. scored on a single by Tony Perez. In the seventh, the Reds added two more runs as George Foster scored on a triple by Johnny Bench, while a Sparky Lyle wild pitch made the final score 5-1. The game is notable as the first World Series game to use the Designated Hitter, as all games in the 1976 World Series used the DH, beginning a decade in which the World Series alternated using the DH in even-numbered years.


Catfish Hunter took the mound for the Yankees in Game 2, while Fred Norman stated for the Reds. In the third, Cincinnati put three runs on the board. Hunter would settle down, allowing the Yankees to claw their way back in the game. Craig Nettles had an RBI single in the fourth, while Fred Stanley keyed a two-run rally in the seventh to tie the game 3-3. Catfish Hunter was still in the game in the ninth when Stanley committed a two-out error at shortstop. Ken Griffey Sr. reached second base. Following an intentional walk to Joe Morgan, Tony Perez had a walk-off single to give the Reds a 4-3 victory. 

Game 3 would see the World Series move to the Bronx, as Co-Rookie of the Year Pat Zachary started for the Reds, while Dock Ellis got the start for the Yankees. The Reds used their speed on the basepaths to score three runs in the second, as Dan Driessen and Cesar Geronimo each stole bases. Driessen homered in the fourth to make it 4-0 as it became clear that the Reds were unstoppable. Oscar Gamble singled in a run for the Yankees in the fourth, while Jim Mason homered in the seventh to make it 4-2. However, the Reds added two runs in the eighth to win the game 6-2. 

After a one-day rainout, the Reds went with Gary Nolan to complete the sweep, while Ed Figueroa started for the Yankees. The Yankees took their first lead of the series in the first inning as Chris Chambliss doubled home Thurman Munson. The Yankees catcher hit .475 in the series, going 4-for-4 in the finale. The Reds surged in front with three runs in the fourth as Georg Foster had an RBI single and Johnny Bench hit a two-run homer. Munson kept the Yankees in the game with a run-scoring single in the fifth. The score was 3-2 in the ninth when the Yankees unraveled. Figueroa was still on the mound in the ninth and walked the first two batters, as Billy Martin was ejected for throwing a ball out of the dugout. Johnny Bench would hit a three-run homer off Dick Tidrow to break the game open. The Reds added another run on back-to-back fan interference doubles and won the game 7-2.