As he signed bats, baseballs and photos for fans Monday at the Yankees Clubhouse on Fifth Avenue, Bucky Dent noted, below his signature, “78 W.S. M.V.P.”
The former Yankees shortstop’s claim to fame may be the seventh-inning home run he hit at Boston to send the Yankees to the playoffs, but the 59-year-old also starred during that 1978 postseason, driving his team to a championship over the L.A. Dodgers.
Dent, who appeared as part of Subway’s charitable Baseball DeSIGNS tour, talked baseball with amNewYork.
The home run at Boston in 1978 must be your greatest moment, but what is your No. 2 moment from your career? No. 1 is that. And then No. 2 is just putting on that Yankee uniform for the first time. That was a lifelong dream. ... When you walk in that clubhouse ... there [are] ghosts in there. It’s like an out-of-body experience putting that uniform on. It’s really, really, really special.
Are there ghosts at the new stadium? I hope they moved over there. [Laughs]
When did you put the uniform on? I got traded over there, walked in the locker room, put my bag down and — they had an off day that day — and as I started to get dressed it was like, ‘Wow.’ You start going like, ‘Mantle, Maris, Gehrig, Ruth.’ You start going through your mind all the great people that played there. Mantle’s my hero, so ...
Do you enjoy signing autographs after all these years? Yeah. I like meeting people, talking to people, seeing the kids and stuff like that. They don’t know who I am [the kids], but it’s still fun.
All three postseasons you played in were with the Yankees. Did you feel fortunate to come to a team that contended each year? Well, it was always my dream to come to New York and play for the Yankees. When it happened in ’77, I was really excited. I was playing on a last-place team in Chicago. I liked Chicago, but to be able to come to the Yankees — they had just played in the World Series in ’76 — and having an opportunity to win and go to a world championship in ’77 was like the dream come true.
What do you think about Derek Jeter still playing your old position at age 37? He’s been a great shortstop for a long time. First Yankee to get 3,000 hits. He’s been a guy that I really admire, watching him play over his career. I think he’s just been outstanding. People say, ‘Yeah, but he’s 37.’ Well, we all get old and we all slow down in a little bit, but he’s managed to keep himself in great condition and stay away from major injuries. He’s got another year or so in him. He’ll be fine.
Another year or so? Yeah, I think he’s got a couple more years. He’ll be fine. He’s 37 — depending on how well he keeps in shape and stuff like that, he’ll be OK for a couple more years.
What signs did you feel in your body before you stopped playing the position? Well, I injured my leg in Texas. ... I lost the feeling in my foot. But the older you get, the aches and pains, you start to slow down a little bit. You don’t move quite as quick as when you were younger. It happens to everybody. We all can’t slow time down. It just catches up to us. But he’s managed to keep himself in great shape. Plus, the offseason conditioning is so much different from when I played. We kind of went to spring training to get in shape. Today, they train year-round.
What did we learn from the Yankees-Red Sox series? They’ve kind of had their number this year. The Yankees played them really good. They just came out on the short end. You can lose the series over the course of the year, but when you get in the playoffs it’s a whole different ballgame. And the whole goal for the Yankees is to get in the playoffs. Anything can happen then. And they’re usually pretty good when they get in.
Do you think Sox-Yanks is the best rivalry in sports? Yeah, I do. It goes back all the way to Babe Ruth. It’s just tremendous rivalry. I don’t think anything matches it.
How did you from Russell Dent to Bucky? Oh man, my grandmother nicknamed me Bucky. I never, ever went by Russell. Ever. In school, if they called me Russell, I wouldn’t even raise my hand. It was like, ‘That’s not me.’