April 7, 1977: New York Yankees 3, Milwaukee Brewers 0

Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

Mission accomplished.

When Reggie Jackson signed with the New York Yankees four days after Thanksgiving, 1976, he declared, “I didn’t come to New York to be a star, I brought my star with me.”

Against the Milwaukee Brewers, the six-time All Star backed up his statement with two hits and two runs scored in the Yankees’ 3-0 Opening Day victory at Yankee Stadium in 1977.  Catfish Hunter—who had tied with four other pitchers for #8 in victories in the 1976 American League—allowed three hits over seven innings. Sparky Lyle, #1 in the AL and #2 in Major League Baseball for saves in ’76, preserved the three-run lead and gave up two hits.

Jackson had a stellar opportunity in the bottom of the first.

Jim Wynn marked the first Yankee tally with a solo blast rocketing 440 feet off Brewers southpaw Bill Travers in the bottom of the second inning.[1]  It was his debut as a Designated Hitter.  Travers had led the ’76 Brewers with 15 victories; his 16 losses also topped the team’s pitching staff.

Jackson and Graig Nettles led off the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back singles, putting pinstripes at the corners.  After Travers retired Wynn, Jackson scored on Willie Randolph’s sacrifice bunt attempt—a fielder’s choice resulting in Randolph arriving on first base safely when Brewers catcher Charlie Moore lost his footing.

Milwaukee Sentinel sports writer Lou Chapman opined that Travers would have had a better chance of throwing to Moore.  But the backstop ignored the “charging Travers” and “slipped on his way back in a vain attempt to tag Jackson, who made a perfect slide hooking away from the catcher.”[2]  Travers concurred.[3]

Nettles moved to second base; Bucky Dent’s ground ball to Brewers second baseman Don Money advanced both runners; and Mickey Rivers’s groundout to Travers ceased the Yankees rally.

Jackson’s second hit came when he led off the bottom of the sixth with a single.  Travers got out Nettles, then gave up a single to Wynn.  Randolph’s grounder to shortstop Robin Yount resulted in a force out of Wynn at second base and moved Jackson to third base.  Randolph’s steal of second base gave the Yankees two runners in scoring position with Dent coming to bat.  Jackson scored the third Yankees run on a wild pitch; Dent grounded out.

Travers left the game with two outs in the eighth inning.  Bill Castro replaced him.

Milwaukee showed some verve in the top of the ninth.  Von Joshua began with a single, his third base hit of the game; he had singled in the first inning and doubled in the third.  After Yount’s fly ball to Jackson in right field, Cecil Cooper advanced Joshua to second base with a single.  But the runners remained there as Lyle retired Sal Bando and Sixto Lezcano to end the game.

Although the Hunter-Lyle tandem limited the Milwaukee squad to a quintet of hits, that effort contradicted the highly significant prowess of the visiting batsmen.  When they connected with the ball, it often was a line drive indicating a clean, level swing.  Brewers skipper Alex Grammas, lamented the output that ended with the balls in the Yankees’ gloves.  “Boy, I’d like to know we can hit that many line drives every time we play.  Hold the Yankees to three runs and hit those line drives.  We hit so many.  It got sickening after a while.”[4]

Travers agreed, attributing the Yankees’ defense to “a little angel.”  Further, he explained, “They got some cheap hits.  We hit the ball twice as hard as they did.  Only they didn’t fall in.  If they did fall in, it would be a runaway.”[5]

The home team pounded Travers for 11 hits and limited the lefty to one strikeout—Randolph’s whiff after Wynn’s home run in the bottom of the second.

Wynn’s moment in the spotlight began what he hoped would be a joyous season with the Yankees.  “This is going to be fun for me,” said the veteran slugger of his new role as a designated hitter.  “This is going to be a beautiful year.”[6] But his time in the Big Apple got truncated; the Yankees released Wynn in mid-July.  Milwaukee signed him a couple of weeks later; Wynn played a total of 66 games in 1977, then got released after the season.  It was his last.  He retired after a 15-year career with a .250 career average, 291 home runs, and 1,665 hits.

Besides Jackson, another future Hall of Famer made his debut in pinstripes.  Before joining Martin’s coaching staff, Bobby Cox had managed the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs from 1971 to 1976 and led the Triple-A club to two International League championships.[7]  In the offseason, Cox took the managerial job for the Atlanta Braves.

Jackson stood strong against those tongue-wagging quarters of the press looking for salacious material about potential dissension on the Yankees.  But dedication to their craft was paramount.  “I think that will overrule any conflicts that anyone may try to find on our ballclub,” surmised Jackson after the game.  “These guys are too smart for that.  I know they’re not going to get me into that sort of thing.”[8]




[1] Lou Chapman, “Brewers Baffled, 3-0, in Opener,” Milwaukee Sentinel, April 8, 1977: Sports, Page 1.

[2] Chapman.

[3] “Jackson broke late.  When Charlie picked up the ball, he was halfway down the line.  With me coming in, I had him if Charlie stops there.  But either way he’d been out if Charlie hadn’t slipped.” Chapman.

[4] Mike Gonring, “Brewers Do Well, but Not Well Enough,” Milwaukee Journal, April 8, 1977: Part 2, Page 6.

[5] Chapman.

[6] Henry Hecht, “Death Valley for Brewers,” New York Post, April 8, 1977: 58.

[7] Phil Pepe, “Wynn Gets Yanks Going; Cat Injured,” Daily News (New York), April 8, 1977: 59.

[8] Gonring.