MLB Memory Lane: July 7, 1978

I went to a lot of baseball games before I started working in baseball.  MLB Memory Lane is a look back at some of those games.

This week, Larry Hisle beats Louisiana Lightning!

Larry Hisle’s 1978 baseball card.

He may have been TSN’s Player of the Year, but Larry Hisle and the Brewers got to him at County Stadium on July 7, 1978.

Date: July 7, 1978
Teams: New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers
Stadium: Milwaukee County Stadium
Seat Location: Upper Deck, Third base side
With: Friends

The 1978 Milwaukee Brewers baseball season was different in a two ways.

1.) That was the first season of this sweet logo:

You know they’ve done studies, and it truly is the greatest logo in the world.

2.) The Brewers were really, really good.

It all started with a five game winning streak to start the season.  This streak included three straight wins over the Baltimore Orioles by scores of 11-3, 16-3, and 13-5.

Offensively, the Brewers added Paul Molitor, a rookie who made his MLB debut on Opening Day of 1978, and Larry Hisle, a free agent from the Minnesota Twins.

Hisle had 119 RBI and 28 RBI, was an All-Star, and finished 12th in the MVP voting in his final season with the Twins.  He signed with the Brewers.  On Opening Day of 1978, he stepped in as Milwaukee’s left fielder and clean up batter and delivered a 2-for-3 day with three runs, a homer, and two RBI.

By the time July 7 had rolled around, Hisle was hitting .288 with 15 homers.

The Brewers were 45-35 on the season, but were in third place – 10-1/2 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox.  The Yankees were in second at 46-35.

It was going to be difficult for the Brewers to pass the Yankees on this warm summer night.  Yes, the Brewers had the best offense Milwaukee had seen on a baseball diamond since the Braves of the late 50’s.  But, Ron Guidry was the scheduled starting pitcher for the Yankees this night.

Louisiana Lightning had made 17 starts prior to this game at County Stadium.  He was 13-0.  Guidry had allowed four runs in a start one time.  In his other 16 starts he had allowed three or fewer runs.  And Guidry was not a Five and Dive pitcher.  He had six complete games and only once had he not made it to at least the seventh inning.

But, there was something different on this night.  Maybe it was the crowd of over 40,000 on this Friday night.

Mike Caldwell, no slouch on the mound, worked out of a jam in the top of the first.  Then, the Brewers offense went to work.

Here is how retrosheet.org records the first four Milwaukee batters in the bottom of the first:

BREWERS 1ST: Molitor struck out; Money doubled to left; Bando walked; Hisle homered [Money scored, Bando scored]

Think on that. It took just four batters for the Brewers to do something to Guidry that took almost entire games to do.

As a side note, yes, Don Money did bat second…a lot.

When I sat in the upper deck at County Stadium, I could almost never judge how far a ball would fly. Those high fly balls or line drives to the gap always looked like they were going to be a home run. Most would die well short of the warning track.

The ball that Larry Hisle hit in the first inning was not a problem. There is a sound of the ball hitting the bat just right. You know it when you hear it. That lazer of a home run by Hisle had that sound…and the crowd went wild.

The fans had a low buzz after that, but reached another crescendo when Caldwell struck out Reggie Jackson to end the top of the fourth inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, two of the most popular Brewers combined for a run. Sixto Lezcano doubled to start the inning. Robin Yount drove him home with a triple and it was 4-0 Brewers.

Hisle started the sixth inning with his second home run of the game. He had allowed four home runs ALL SEASON before this game. Guidry finished the inning, but he would be done for the game.

That homer made it 5-0 and Caldwell went into cruise control. He struck out Jackson again in a 1-2-3 seventh inning and got a double play to help him face the minimum in the eighth.

The final Brewers run of the game scored on a two-out solo home run in the eighth inning by Sixto Lezcano off Bob Kammeyer.

Caldwell closed out his 4-hit shutout with a perfect ninth inning and the Brewers moved into second place in the American League East.  Plus, they picked up a game on the Red Sox and were just 9-1/2 games back.

All was right and the future was looking very promising for baseball in Milwaukee.

NOTES:
A few years ago, Larry Hisle was a guest of the Timber Rattlers on a Brewers Sunday. After I introduced myself to him, I told him that I was at this game. He remembered everything about that game and he didn’t have to look it up on retrosheet.org or baseball-reference.com to jog his memory. For him, it was as if it had happened a few days ago.

If you never heard County Stadium PA Announcer Bob Betts announce Leczano’s name as Sixto walked to the plate for an at bat, it is something that can’t be recreated.  There was something so perfect about it.  The way both names were drawn out is – as the saying goes – often imitated, but never duplicated.  It really is a case of You had to be there.

Caldwell’s win was his eleventh complete game of the season.  He was on the way to a 22-9 record with 23 complete games.  He finished second in the AL Cy Young race.  Guidry, who finished 25-3, won the 1978 AL Cy Young and received all 28 first place votes.

This win started a streak of 12 wins in the next 14 games for the Brewers.  After a 17-8 win at Texas on July 23 – in which Hisle hit his 23rd home run of the season, Milwaukee was 57-37 and trailed the Red Sox by five games.

Guidry would get some revenge on Milwaukee later in the season.  On August 10 at Yankee Stadium, he shutout the Brewers on three hits and a walk with nine strikeouts in a 9-0 Yankees win.

That loss on August tenth dropped the Brewers to 61-49.  They were in third place and nine games behind Boston.  The Yankees were 64-49 and in second place.

Milwaukee recovered but wouldn’t catch Boston or New York.  They ended the season at a very successful 93-69, but that was six games behind the Red Sox and Yankees who tied for the AL East Pennant and needed a one game playoff to decide the winner.  A Brewers postseason spot was still a few years away.

July 7, 1978 Lineups:
New York Yankees
Mickey Rivers, cf
Roy White, lf
Thurman Munson, c
Lou Piniella, rf
Chris Chambliss, 1b
Reggie Jackson, dh
Graig Nettles, 3b
Bucky Dent, ss
Fred Stanley, 2b
Ron Guidry, p

Milwaukee Brewers
Paul Molitor, 2b
Don Money, 1b
Sal Bando, 3b
Larry Hisle, lf
Sixto Lezcano, rf
Dick Davis, dh
Jim Wohlford, cf
Robin Yount, ss
Charlie Moore, c
Mike Caldwell, p

Paul Molitor: 1-for-4
Robin Yount: 1-for-3, RBI, 3B
Reggie Jackson: 0-for-3, 2K

Retrosheet.org boxscore and play-by-play
Baseball-Reference WPA Chart
Google News Archive of Milwaukee Journal Article

Past MLB Memory Lane entries:
Rally against The Eck & Walkoff the A’s (1989)

Dennis Lamp near no-hitter (1981)

Teddy & Team Streak (1987)

Chester Marcol steals the show (1980)

Nolan Ryan at Wrigley (1987)

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