The 1976 World Series matched the defending champions Cincinnati Reds of the National League against the New York Yankees of the American League, with the Reds sweeping the Series to repeat, avenging their 1939 and 1961 World Series losses to the Yankees in the process. The 1976 Reds became --and remain – the only team to sweep an entire multi-tier postseason. The Reds are also the last National League team to win back-to-back World Series. It also marked the second time that the Yankees were swept in a World Series (the Los Angeles Dodgers were the first to sweep them in 1963).
The Cincinnati Reds won the National League West division by 10 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers then defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, three games to none, in the National League Championship Series. The New York Yankees won the American League East division by 10 1⁄2 games over the Baltimore Orioles then defeated the Kansas City Royals, three games to two, in the American League Championship Series.
This World Series was the first in which the designated hitter rule, which had been introduced in the American League three years prior, was in effect. The use of the DH wound up benefiting the Reds, who were able to get utility infielder Dan Driessen's bat in the lineup. Driessen hit .357 with one home run. Elliott Maddox, Carlos May, and Lou Piniella shared the role for the New York Yankees. Game 1, played at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, marked the first time the DH was used in a National League ballpark. Game 2, also at Riverfront Stadium, was the first World Series weekend game to be scheduled at night.
After spending the last two years sharing home field with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, the New York Yankees returned home to a rebuilt and modified Yankee Stadium. George Steinbrenner had now owned the team for three years, since 1973, with Billy Martin serving the first of his five stints as manager since 1975. General Manager Gabe Paul made numerous trades getting Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa from the Angels for Bobby Bonds; Willie Randolph and Dock Ellis from the Pirates for Doc Medich; and Doyle Alexander, Ken Holtzman, and Grant Jackson from the Orioles for Rudy May, Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor, and Rick Dempsey.
The heart of the team was Yankee captain, Thurman Munson, whose grit and determination were factors in his winning the 1976 American League MVP award. Third baseman, Graig Nettles, and first baseman, Chris Chambliss were the key run producers, while speedy outfielders Roy White and Rivers set the table for the power hitters. Super free agent Catfish Hunter headed the staff while reliever Sparky Lyle led the A.L. in saves with 23. The Yankees finished 10 1⁄2 ahead in the A.L. East advancing to the World Series by beating the Kansas City Royals in the fifth game of the playoffs on a ninth-inning walk-off home run by Chambliss.
The defending champion Cincinnati Reds were piloted by Sparky Anderson who had a star-studded lineup led by second baseman Joe Morgan. Catcher Johnny Bench, first baseman Tony Pérez, and outfielder George Foster provided enough power to drive in sparkplugs, Pete Rose, Ken Griffey and Morgan, who combined power (27 homers, 111 RBI) and speed (67 stolen bases) from the third-spot in the batting order. Morgan went on to win his second-straight National League Most Valuable Player award, outdistancing runner-up teammate Foster. But Foster would go on to win the 1977 MVP award, giving the Reds six MVPs in an eight-year stretch. Bench won MVP honors in 1970 & '72 while Rose took home the hardware in '73.
The Reds led the NL in every significant offensive category including runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and stolen bases.
On the mound, the Reds relied on left-handers Don Gullett and Fred Norman to pacify the Yankee hitters in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Gullett had come back from a mid-season injury to start Game 1 but had to leave the game in the eighth inning due to a twisted ankle while Norman out-pitched ace Hunter in Game 2. Game 3 in New York pitted effective 1976 NL Rookie of the Year Pat Zachry for the Reds against newly acquired Yankee, Dock Ellis. Ellis only lasted 3 1⁄3 innings, exiting in the fourth after a home run by Driessen. Game 4 was delayed a day due to rain, but the Reds were ready for the sweep. Bench's 2 run home run gave the Reds a 3–1 lead. In the bottom of the eighth, a frustrated Billy Martin threw a baseball from the dugout onto the field towards home plate umpire Bill Deegan, causing his ejection from the game. In the ninth, Bench's second home run followed by back-to-back doubles by César Gerónimo and Dave Concepción made the score 7–2 and essentially blew the game open. The Cincinnati Reds outscored the New York Yankees, 22–8, and became the first NL team to repeat as World Champions since the 1921–1922 New York Giants. The Reds did not make a single offensive or defensive substitution (save pitching changes) during the entire series. Bench would claim the MVP of the series hitting .533 with two home runs and six runs batted in. His catching counterpart, Thurman Munson, had nine hits, all singles, and a .529 batting average.
NL Cincinnati Reds (4) vs. AL New York Yankees (0)
†: postponed from October 20 due to rain
Joe Morgan got the Reds off to a booming start with a solo home run off Doyle Alexander. (Alexander had to start because Catfish Hunter had a sore arm and needed another day of rest). Tony Pérez had RBIs in the third and sixth innings and Johnny Bench had an RBI triple and then scored on a Sparky Lyle wild pitch in the seventh. The only bad news for the Reds was an injury to starting pitcher Don Gullett, who pulled a calf muscle in the eighth and would be unavailable for the remainder of the Series. It turned out to be Gullett's last appearance in a Reds uniform.
The Reds scored three runs in the second off Catfish Hunter on RBI singles by George Foster and Dave Concepción and a sacrifice fly by Ken Griffey. The Yankees got on the board on an RBI single by Graig Nettles in the fourth. In the seventh, the Yankees tied things up on an RBI double by Fred Stanley and an RBI groundout by Thurman Munson. Meanwhile, Hunter settled into a groove, pitching a complete game and shutting out the Reds until the ninth. With two outs, Ken Griffey reached second when Stanley threw wildly past first after fielding his slow bouncer. Joe Morgan was walked intentionally and Tony Pérez ended the game by driving in Griffey with a single.
The Sunday night contest was the first weekend World Series game to start after dark. MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn responded to criticism of the scheduling, which was done to accommodate NBC television, by attending the game without wearing an overcoat in spite of the cold nighttime weather.
As the Series moved to Yankee Stadium, the Reds struck first with three runs off starter Dock Ellis. An RBI double by George Foster, RBI force-out by César Gerónimo, and an RBI single by Dave Concepción provided the tallies. Dan Driessen smacked a solo homer in the fourth, and Joe Morgan had an RBI double and Foster an RBI single in the eighth. Yankee backup shortstop Jim Mason entered the game as a defensive replacement in the fifth inning, and in the seventh inning hit a solo homer, thus becoming the first player to hit a home run in his only World Series at-bat (the second being Geoff Blum). Also, in the seventh, Yankee left-handed reliever Grant Jackson provided a defensive gem by catching a hard-hit ground ball off the bat of Johnny Bench behind his back and retiring Bench, thereby robbing him of a base hit.
This was the first World Series game at Yankee Stadium to open with opera star Robert Merrill's famous rendition of the National Anthem.
The Yankees got on the board in the first (which would be their only lead in this Series) on a Thurman Munson single and a Chris Chambliss double. Munson would collect four hits in the game. In the fourth, Joe Morgan walked, stole second, and came home on a George Foster single. Johnny Bench followed with his first home run to give the Reds a 3–1 lead that they never relinquished. Bench would later add to his heroics with a three-run shot in the ninth, followed by consecutive doubles by César Gerónimo and Dave Concepción. Bench's performance earned him the Series MVP, while fellow catcher Munson had a fine Series himself with nine hits and a .529 average.
1976 World Series (4–0): Cincinnati Reds (N.L.) over New York Yankees (A.L.)
This was the last of 30 consecutive World Series telecasts by NBC, which had aired the event since 1947; under Major League Baseball's new television contract, Series coverage would now alternate between NBC (in even-numbered years) and rival network ABC (in odd-numbered years) each year; this arrangement would end after the 1989 World Series, and CBS would hold exclusive rights to MLB games for the next four years afterwards. (A similar setup occurred between 1996 and 2000, when Series telecasts would alternate between NBC and Fox.) It was also the last time that local announcers for the participating teams (the Reds' Marty Brennaman and the Yankees' Phil Rizzuto, in this case) would be regularly featured on the network telecast.
This was the first of 21 consecutive World Series to be broadcast by CBS Radio.