In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The New York Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals for the second straight season in the ALCS, winning Game 5 at Royals Stadium 5-3. The game was intense from the start with a bench-clearing brawl in the first inning after George Brett slid hard into Graig Nettles at third. The Royals held a 3-2 in the ninth before the Yankees rallied to take the lead as Freddy Patek hit into a double play to end the game and stayed in the dugout long after the game in tears.
With the New York Yankees resurgence in 1976 came a new rivalry that quickly developed into one of the most intense in baseball. The Yankees had a long history with Kansas City, as it was one the site of their top farm club. When the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955, some suggested it remained the Yankees top farm club, with the A’s making several trades with the Yankees that helped keep the Yankees dynasty going. This includes a deal that sent Roger Marris to New York in 1960. In addition, Kansas City was one of the smallest television markets in baseball, while New York was the largest creating a little guy against the big bully aura that revolved around the Royals franchise. The Yankees first showdown with the Royals came in 1976 when the two teams battled to a decisive fifth game in the American League Championship Series. The Royals fought the Yankees to the bitter end when Chris Chambliss won the series with a walk-off home run in the ninth inning against Mark Littell.
Things started off well for the Royals in the rematch as they won Game 1 at Yankee Stadium 7-2, as they got home runs from Hal McRae, John Mayberry, and Al Cowens as Don Gullett struggled in his first postseason start for the Yankees, while Paul Splittorff earned the win for Kansas City. Ron Guidry carried the Yankees to victory in Game 2, pitching a complete game as the Yankees won the game 6-2 to even the series. In Kansas City for Game 3, it was Dennis Leonard going the distance for the Royals who regained control of the series with a 6-2 win. In Game 4, it was all about the bullpens, as Yankees closer Sparky Lyle allowed just two hits in five and third innings to get the win as the Yankees forced Game 5, with a 6-4 win.
Game 5 had Ron Guidry facing off against Paul Splittorff. The left-hander was especially tough on Reggie Jackson, leading Yankees Manager Billy Martin to bench his star slugger, raising more than a few eyebrows back in New York. George Brett got the Royals off to a quick start with a run-scoring triple. While sliding into third, Brett and Graig Nettles got into a fight that cleared both benches. Despite the brawl, nobody was ejected as Brett scored on an Al Cowens ground ball. Thurman Munson got the Yankees on the board with a RBI single in the third inning. The Royals quickly answered with a RBI single by Cowens in the bottom of the inning. The Royals 3-1 lead would stand until the eighth inning when Willie Randolph led off with a single to chase Splittorff who was holding the Yankees at bay once again. With Doug Bird in the game, Reggie Jackson was called on to pinch-hit and got the Yankees closer with a single to center field. Clinging to a 3-2 lead, Royals Manager called on Dennis Leonard to close the game. However, Leonard not used to pitching out of the bullpen gave up a single to Paul Blair to lead off the inning and walk to Roy White before being replaced by Larry Gura. Mickey Rivers would tie the game on a single to right field, as Mark Littell came on to try and save the season for Kansas City after the Yankees had rallied to tie the game. Littell got Willie Randolph to fly out to center field, but Roy White scored to put the Yankees in front 4-3. The Yankees would add an insurance run as Brett booted a grounder off that bat of Lou Piniella. In the ninth inning, the Yankees looked for Sparky Lyle who came on in the eighth inning to get the final three outs. After a Darrell Porter fly out, Frank White gave the Royals a glimmer of hope with a single up the middle. However, Freddy Patek hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the game and send the Yankees to the World Series. After the game, a despondent Patek stayed in the dugout in tears long after the Yankees went into the clubhouse to spray champagne.
The Yankees would go on to win the World Series. The Royals and Yankees would stage a third straight meeting in the ALCS in 1978, with the Yankees winning again in four games on the way to a second straight World Championship. After both teams failed to win the division in 1979, the Yankees and Royals met again in 1980. This time the Royals finally got the best of New York, winning in three straight.