A 1978 World Series Cinderella Story
“One upon a time in a faraway land, there was a tiny kingdom, peaceful, prosperous, and rich in romance and tradition.” -Narrator at the beginning of Disney’s Cinderella.
The New York Yankee baseball club was not a tiny kingdom, nor peaceful. Instead, it was the Bronx Zoo, a moniker coined by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock! Our story is not about the zany pranks of the New York Yankees but instead the unlikely rise to prominence of a lesser-known Yankee.
Brian Reed Doyle was born on January 26, 1955 in Glasgow, Kentucky. He went on to become a professional baseball player and drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1972. As property of the Rangers, Brian traveled through the minors with stops at Geneva (NY), Gastonia (NC), Pittsfield (MA), Lynchburg (VA), San Antonio (TX) and Sacramento (CA). But before he could play a single inning for the Texas Rangers, he was traded to the New York Yankees, along with Greg Pryor for Sandy Alomar on February 17, 1977.
As property of the Yankees, Doyle went to Syracuse for the 1977 season. He played at Tacoma in 1978. While playing for the Tacoma Yankees, he was second string, behind Damaso Garcia. That was until Garcia was moved to shortstop. Brian spent the summer of 1978 shuttling between Tacoma, Washington and the Bronx. He was first called up on April 23rd, and made his debut on the April 30th. His first game was against the Twins. Doyle went 0-3, and was later sent back to Tacoma. Then he was brought back on June 15th, but returned to Tacoma on August 19th. When the Tacoma Yankees’ season finished, he arrived back to the Bronx on September 11th, this time for keeps.
When the regular season concluded, New York and Boston were tied for the lead in the eastern division of the American League. After 162 games, both teams had identical records of 99-63. No one could have pictured such a finish, especially when the Yankees were fourteen games behind on July 19. So the divisional title would be decided by a one game playoff in Boston on October 2, 1978. The day, the Yankees were down 2-0 going into the seventh inning until Bucky Dent launched a Mike Torrez slider into the left field net, putting the Yanks ahead 3-2!
With that victory, the Yankees advanced and beat the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS 3 games to 1. Brian appeared in three of the games, went 2-7 and collected his first RBI in the majors. The Yankees would be matched up with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the World Series.
Doyle was not made eligible for the World Series until minutes before the first game, when Randolph tested his ailing leg and couldn’t make it.
“Just a minute, you must understand this, at the stroke of twelve, the spell will be broken and everything will be as before.” -Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother before she left for the ball.
Brian Doyle played in all six World Series games, the first and fourth as a late inning replacement. But it was games five and six that both he and Dent’s stars shined.
Yanks’ manager, Bob Lemon said, “No one in Hollywood would have tried to produce a script that would end like this.” The Yankees were without Sparky Lyle, their Cy Young winning relief pitcher, their starting first baseman was hurting, Willie Randolph was out with a hamstring and their centerfielder had a bum leg.
Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent will never remembered in baseball history as a modern day Paul and Lloyd Waner. In fact, Reggie Jackson, who seemed to feel that the World Series was his private stage, had this to say, “We couldn’t have won it without them.” (Meaning Doyle and Dent). Dent went 10-24, 3 runs, and 7 RBIs and named the World Series MVP.
The biggest surprise t was Brian Doyle’s performance. During the regular season, Doyle played in 39 games for the Yankees, he shuttled between New York and Tacoma fives times, when he was the second string second baseman at Tacoma at the start of the season, an was not expected to play in the World Series until minutes before the series began.
Brian batted .192, scored six runs but no RBIs for the regular season. But during the six game series, he batted .438 by going 7-16, scored 4 runs and driving in two runs. Nor did he strike out or commit an error! He was runner up for the MVP honors. Ironically last year, he sold suits at Golden-Farley Haberdasher in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
After the series, Doyle blurted, “I feel like Cinderella. I wanted to prove I could play this game. I’m a little guy- only 166 pounds and had to scrape and try to out hustle everybody. I’ve always believed there is a spot in baseball for the little man.”
Brian Doyle would play two more seasons with the Yankees, one more with the Oakland A’s and bounce around the minors before retiring from professional baseball. Brian never batted above .200 for his entire major league career!
After his baseball career was over, Brian became an ordained Baptist minister. He serves as one for The First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale. He said that he found Christ while in the minors in 1977. After the 1978 World Series, he opened the Doyle Baseball Academy with his brothers Denny and Blake down in Winter Haven, Florida. Brian figures that 50 of their former campers have gone onto the major leagues, such as Bill Pulsipher, J. D. Drew, and Charles Johnson. Most recently he has been raising money for baseball and softball in Israel. His goal is to have 70 per cent of the national team to be comprised of native-born Israelis.
After informed his doctor after being diagnosed with Leukemia, Doyle responded, “Let’s go win, I firmly believe my life is not how you start, its how you finish. I want to be a good finisher.”