The New York Yankee's 1978 championship season was marked by confusion, conflict and chaos. In his new and controversial book, "The Bronx Zoo," relief pitcher Sparky Lyle, now with the Texas Rangers, describes the season's proceedings with candor and humor. Here is an excerpt from the book.
Thursday, April 13, New York
WE WON our home opener in the first inning when Reggie (Jackson) came up and hit one of his line shots into the rightfield seats for a three-run home run. I hadn't known it, but each of the 40,000 fans who showed up were given free Reggie Bars, the candy bar Reggie finally convinced somebody to name after him....
Ever since George signed Reggie, Reggie's been bragging that he's so great someone will name a candy bar after him, and somebody finally broke down and did it. After Reggie hit the home run, he was trotting around the bases, and I saw two of these orange Reggie Bars come flying out of the stands and land near the plate. It took the rest of the fans about ten seconds to realize the beauty of that act, and from the bleachers, from the mezzanine, from the upper deck, from the box seats came thousands of these Reggie Bars flying onto the field. It was a hailstorm of Reggie Bars. They covered the outfield and the home plate area like a lawn overgrown with dandelions. The umps had to call time while the ground crew went out to pick up the candy bars, and they would still be out there except that a dozen or so kids jumped out of the stands and gathered Reggie Bars piled high in their arms. At twenty-five cents each, they did pretty well for themselves.
A few of the candy bars being thrown from the bleachers fell into the bullpen. Ken Holtzman retrieved one, unwrapped it, and took a bite out of it. He said it tasted like cowflop.
Tuesday, April 18, New York
I got the win in the ninth when Reggie homered into the right field stands off Tippy Martinez. Reggie later came over and said. "We picked up right where we left off last year." It was funny, but last year when I came in to pitch, even if Reggie had been O for something, he'd get up and get the game-winning hit. We were talking about that. He said "When you pitch, I hit." I said, "you just keep doing that."
Reggie was talking to reporters after the game. That's something you can count on. Reggie once said that the only people he can relate to are the writers. That's because they're the only ones who benefit from hearing his crap. Today after the game, he told them, "When I get up in a pressure situation, I swell up with confidence and relaxness. It's like everyone is saying 'Reggie's up. Everything's going to be OK."
Only Reggie would say something like that. I never would, and none of the other guys on our club would either. Not one. There are steadier guys than he is who would never say a thing like that.
Catfish Hunter had Reggie pegged perfectly. He was making jokes about the Reggie Bars. Cat said, "Don't ever put a Reggie Bar in your pocket or you'll get mustard all over your pants." Cat also said, "When you unwrap a Reggie Bar, It tells you how good it is."
Cat was telling me that when someone asked Reggie if he was going to that charity luncheon Friday, Reggie said, "Of course, I'm coming. Everybody's coming to see me. What the hell would it be if Reggie Jackson wasn't there?"
Thursday, April 27, New York
We beat the Mets in extra innings in the Mayor's Trophy game tonight. Catfish (Hunter); who's had a painful pitching arm, started and really threw well. We ended up having to go into extra innings, and nobody wanted to play extra innings because we were leaving after the game to go on the road. In fact, nobody wanted to play the game at all.
In the dugout, (Graig) Nettles said to me, "If I get a ball hit to me, I'm going to let it beat against my chest, and I'm going to throw it into the stands." I listened to this, and I really didn't think he would. One thing about Graig, if he makes a bad throw, it's always in the dirt. So we're in extra innings, and the ball was hit to Graig, and he bobbles it just like he said he would, and he threw it straight into the stands, a good ten feet over Chambliss's head. The batter ended up on second. And you know, (they) still couldn't score! This kid, Brian Doyle, who we brought up from Tacoma because Mickey Klutts broke his hand, was playing second base, and the game would have been over, thanks to Graig, except Doyle made a tremendous play on a ground ball to get the final out and save the run. Everyone was (annoyed) at the kid. They were mumbling, "Goddamn it, what are you trying to do out there?" The kid didn't know what was going on. Here he made a great play, and everyone was mad at him. We ended up winning the game anyway.
Saturday, April 29, Bloomington
Mickey Rivers didn't play tonight because of his knee. On this day it apparently acted up over a card game. It seems that besides baseball, there are only two things Mickey likes: going to the track and playing cards. Nothing else.
We have a rule, no card playing in the clubhouse before the game unless it's raining, and yesterday Mickey and Holtzman and a couple of others were playing cards, and they played right through infield practice, which really (annoyed) Billy (Martin). Today before the game, Mickey asked our clubhouse boy for a deck of cards, and the clubhouse boy told him no. Mickey said, "What do you mean, no? He was really mad.
The clubhouse boy said, "Billy told me no more card playing at all." So Mickey said, "Screw it. I ain't playing." And it was at that point that his leg started hurting him real bad.
Monday, May 1, New York
We hired a kid who got released from "A" ball to catch the pitchers warming up in the bullpen. They hired him just to warm us up, and I guess he's going to go on the road with us too. All I know about him is his name is Dominick. Today he walked up to me and said, "Hi. I'm Dominick." I didn't know who he was. I said, "You want me to kiss your ring?"
Since Klutts broke his thumb, Cliff Johnson has been refusing to come out to the bullpen to catch. He flat-ass refuses, and the times he does come out there, he won't catch unless two pitchers are warming up, which annoys Fran Healy because since we got Cliff not only does Healy not get to play anymore, all he does is warm up pitchers. Even before that, Healy wouldn't warm up pitchers unless he absolutely had to.
Ellie Howard sometimes has to do it, but he shouldn't because he has a bad knee.
When he crouches for a long period of time, he has to have it drained.
Tonight they made Cliff go out to the bullpen. Out there were Cliff and Fran and Dominick. The phones were ringing in the bullpen for guys to warm up, and Fran wouldn't move off the bench, and neither would Cliff. Dominick, who was catching everybody, was getting his blessed hand knocked off out there. Ellie told Fran and Cliff, "Goddamn it, you guys are out here to catch. You're gonna have to take turns. That's the way it's gonna be." Fran just stood there with his hands on his hips staring at ellie. Ellie was pleading with Fran, saying, "Goddamn it, you can't let this kid warm everybody up." Fran didn't move an inch. Ellie looked over at Cliff, and Cliff was sitting on the bench with his hat over his eyes dropping sunflower seeds into his mouth.
This stuff has been going on all year in the bullpen. You'd never guess this was the big leagues, the Yankees, the World Champions.
Tuesday, May 2, New York
After the game Mickey Rivers was standing in the clubhouse wearing a chest protector strapped to his back. Mickey said it's supposed to protect him as he runs into the wall chasing the missiles hit off Cat. As Mickey pranced around the room, Cat sat in his locker smiling.
Then Cat and Piniella started ripping each other. Piniella was complaining of wall burns from running into walls going after Cat's home-run balls. He told Cat, "The next time you pitch I'm going to buy a seat in the bleachers. I have a better chance of catching the ball." Cat said, "Oh yeah, well anyone who loses his job to Jim Wohlford has no place criticizing anybody. Wohlford took Lou's job at Kansas City after the Royals traded him here. "Imagine," Cat said, "losing your job to Jim Wohlford." As Cat kept giving it to Lou, Mickey Rivers, the scorekeeper, was hollering, "Farmer Catfish one hundred and ten, Cuban Piniella twenty-two." Finally when everything got real quiet Lou said. "Why don't you give yourself a shot and settle down for a while."
Tuesday, May 23, New York
Yogi's supposed to have said a lot of funny things, but I don't know how anyone hears all the things he says because he doesn't talk. (Berra's also the most frugal guy I've ever seen, but last year I fixed him good. All last year he kept using my toothpaste. He'd walk over to my locker and take it. I guess he wasn't about to buy any. I said to myself, I'm going to fix him." So I took White Heat, the burning hot stuff you put on your arm to take the tightness out of your muscles, and I injected some of this stuff with a syringe into my tube of Ultrabrite.
I'm sitting there in my locker in the clubhouse, and Yogi comes walking over with his toothbrush. He squeezes out some of the toothpaste, goes into the john, and brushes his teeth. I'm in the shower, and everybody knows what's going on, and as Yogi comes walking into the shower room, he's blowing on his hands. "My gums. Whooooooooooo. My gums are on fire," Yogi says. And they were. They were smoking. The next day he cut all my shotlaces. I pulled my laces tight, and they came off in my hands. This year, I've been using Yogi's toothpaste.
Friday, June 2, Oakland
I heard that after the game Cliff walked up to Reggie and told him that another player said Reggie had been making fun of the way he batted. Cliff should be sensitive about it. He's 1 for 32 and hitting lower than .200. Reggie said, "I wasn't doing anything of the sort." Cliff said, "I heard you did." Reggie said, "Whoever said that is a Goddamn liar."
Saturday, June 3, Oakland
Minutes before the game was to start today, Mickey Rivers walked up to Reggie and he screamed at him, "You can call me anything you want to, but don't you dare call me a Goddamn liar." Mickey was so angry he liked to have ripped Reggie apart. Tidrow had a solid hold of Mickey and almost couldn't hold him. A few more guys moved in to hold him, but he was still almost getting to Reggie . . .
During the game Reggie took Mickey's glove out to him just like nothing had ever happened. CAPTION: Picture, Sparky Lyle