14 Back

Bucky takes Torrez deep.

There was nothing like baseball in the 70s.
The Big Red Machine, the great A’s teams, crazy uniforms, great mustaches and larger than life personalities: Reggie, Thurman, Hammering Hank, Tom Terrific, Pudge, Yaz, Billy and The Boss.
It was a special time.

A new documentary available on Amazon via Sports Illustrated TV brings it all back.

“14 Back” tells the story of the 1978 Yankees and the fierce and soul sucking rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox which burned hotter than ever in those days.

That ’78 season and that team were my all time favorites.

Ron Guidry was my favorite player, I followed the soap opera in the NY tabloids daily and I loved Nettles, Munson, Mickey Rivers and Willie Randolph.

The Yankees were a surreal drama in those days with personality disputes, brawls, insults and twists and turns that defied description.

And oh, they played baseball too— mounting an historic comeback from 14 games behind the  super talented Red Sox to force a tie and a winner take all one game playoff. I watched that game with my dad and grandfather on a small TV in Queens and we hung nervously on every pitch.

It was an amazing game with big hits, drama and even wind that played tricks and a blinding sun that played havoc with the vision of fielders.

The game was also full of personal stories with players trying to break ancient curses and overcome nagging doubts about their abilities.

This was the game that Bucky Dent hit his famous home run and forever became Bucky “Effing” Dent in New England. It was the game that broke Red Sox captain Carl Yastrzemski’s heart and it was the game that solidified Goose Gossage’s legend and reminded everyone of “the original sin”, the trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees which unleashed a curse that was very real and wasn’t exorcised until Johnny Damon slugged a grand slam at Yankee Stadium in 2004.

So if you love a good story well told, check out 14 Back.

The documentary also got me thinking about the local ties of some of the participants.
Here’s a few I can think of. I’m sure there are more.
The hero, Bucky Dent, ran a baseball school in Delray Beach for a long time with Larry Hoskin, a really great guy.
Bucky is still around and is also a great guy.

On the 25th anniversary of his famous home run, we reached out to him as a City Commission and prepared a proclamation honoring his achievement.
Bucky graciously agreed to come to Delray City Hall where I happily made the presentation. My colleague, a  Red Sox fan, Commissioner Bob Costin seized the moment by donning a Sox hat at the precise moment Bucky approached the commission dais. Bucky cracked up. We all did. Ya gotta love Bob Costin.

Years before, when Little Fenway was built at Miller Field (that’s right there’s a replica of Fenway right off Linton Boulevard), Bucky did the coronation by re-enacting his famous homer. It was 1989 and it cost $100,000 to build the replica Green Monster. Mickey Rivers showed up to stand in the on deck circle and Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez was gracious enough to serve up another home run pitch.
Pretty cool.
Contrary to press reports at the time, Torrez had no intention of throwing a brushback pitch.

“You can’t rewrite the history books,” said Torres “You live with it and you die with it. I agreed to do this for the sake of the kids who will be using the facility. A lot of the kids weren’t even born at the time so it’ll be something special for them.”

Indeed it has been a special place.

Speaking of Mickey Rivers, he would play in the one and done Senior Professional Baseball Association for the team based in West Palm. I was fortunate to interview Mick the Quick as a young reporter. He gave me his bat.

The legendary Red Sox captain “Yaz” would end up living in Highland Beach after living for a while in east Delray.. He could be seen from time to time at Boston’s on the Beach. How cool is that?

As for Boston’s on the Beach, I am told by someone who would know, that the “Spaceman” Bill Lee (who figures prominently in the 14 Back documentary) that a movie on his life features a scene at Boston’s in Delray Beach. Amazing.

But the hero of the piece is Bucky.

I still see him around town from time to time. For 30 plus years he has run a charity golf tournament at The Falls Club in Lake Worth which always attracts a slew of ball players.
The event benefits local charities, including those who care for cancer patients and their families.
He may not be loved in Boston, but he remains one of my all time favorites and a hero to Yankee fans everywhere.

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