BOSTON, JUNE 6 -- Manager Bucky Dent was fired by the last-place New York Yankees today, the 19th managerial change in the 17 years George Steinbrenner has had controlling interest of the team.

Dent was replaced by Stump Merrill, manager of the Yankees' Class AAA Columbus farm club. Merrill was New York's pitching coach numerous times, most recently in 1988 under Lou Piniella. Last year he joined the Yankees' Class A farm team, the Prince William Cannons, in midseason and led them to the Carolina League title.

Dent had been rumored to be in trouble almost from the start of the season as the Yankees struggled with a patchwork pitching staff and quickly sank to the bottom of the American League East. New York is 18-32, the worst record in baseball, after losing, 4-1, to the Red Sox tonight.

The dismissal came in a town where Dent enjoyed his finest moment as a player. It was at Fenway Park in 1978 that he hit an improbable three-run home run, rallying the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the East Division title. New York went on to win its second straight World Series.

Also fired were batting coach Champ Summers, third-base coach Joe Sparks and bullpen coach Gary Tuck.

The changes were announced by General Manager Harding "Pete" Peterson, who said Merrill will manage the rest of the season.

"Mr. Steinbrenner anguished long and hard about this decision," Peterson said. "We feel that the club is a better club than our won-loss record indicates."

"I have nothing to keep my head down about," Dent said. "I managed as hard as I could. There was nothing else I could do. . . . I had an indication last night. I called {Vice President George} Bradley to ask about pitching because I wanted to make a move, but I didn't get much of a response. Then I asked if Mr. Steinbrenner was thinking about a change, and he said he had been grumbling."

Dent was promoted from Columbus Aug. 18, replacing Dallas Green, and went 18-22 the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Merrill left Prince William for Columbus, now in first place.

"I think that I have achieved something, that if you had put it on an odds board, you would have won a lot of money," he said, meaning he was a long shot to get the Yankees' job.

Merrill said he is not familiar with the club's personnel.

"The timing of the lockout was bad for me because I didn't even go to spring training," he said.

"From watching them, it looked like a listless ballclub to me. I'm easygoing. Once they put that baseball hat on, it's business and business only. It took me 14 years to get to this point. The one thing I'm going to try to do is just have fun."

1973

Sept. 30: Ralph Houk resigned.

1974

Jan. 3: Bill Virdon named.

1975

Aug. 1: Virdon fired. Billy Martin named.

1978

July 24: Martin resigned. July 25: Bob Lemon named. July 29: Martin named for 1980.

1979

June 18: Lemon fired. Martin named. Oct. 28: Martin fired. Dick Howser named.

1980

Nov. 21: Howser resigned. Gene Michael named.

1981

Sept. 6: Michael fired. Lemon named.

1982

April 26: Lemon fired. Michael named. Aug. 3: Michael fired. Clyde King named interim manager.

1983

Jan. 11: Martin named. Dec. 16: Martin fired. Yogi Berra named.

1985

April 28: Berra fired. Martin named.

Oct. 27: Martin fired. Lou Piniella named.

1987

Oct. 19: Piniella promoted. Martin named.

1988

June 23: Martin fired. Piniella named.

Oct. 7: Piniella fired. Dallas Green named.

1989

Aug. 18: Green fired. Bucky Dent named.

1990

June 6: Dent fired. Stump Merrill named.