Yankees send sympathies after 1977-78 World Series champion lefty passes away

New York Yankees
New York Yankees / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Though left-hander Don Gullett's career ended sooner than it should have, as his shoulder succumbed to rotator cuff issues, he still managed to be part of a remarkable number of Fall Classics during his nine-year tenure in the bigs.

One of MLB's first free agents, Gullett bounced from the World Champion Reds following the 1976 season to join the team his Reds had defeated, the New York Yankees. After signing with George Steinbrenner, Gullett and the Yankees captured back-to-back titles in 1977 and '78, the last two active seasons of his career.

Gullett's arm had already betrayed him before that second pinstriped ring; he sat out the '78 World Series with a series of injuries, and never pitched again at the big-league level. While he was rendered unable to contribute further, what he'd already done was markedly impressive. Over nine seasons, Gullett's teams played in six World Series (he participated in five). They won four titles, which came in four consecutive years from 1975-78. That also means he helped defeat Carlton Fisk and the Red Sox (18.2 innings in three starts in '75), making him a true Yankee before he ever buttoned up the uniform.

Gullett passed away this week at the age of 73, and well-wishes sprung forth on Valentine's Day evening, when the Yankees organization sent their condolences.

Yankees left-hander Don Gullett passes away at 73

Gullett will always, first and foremost, be remembered as a Red. He's a Cincinnati Hall of Famer. He was the young buck from Kentucky who rose to prominence with the rest of the Big Red Machine, making sure Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and the gang didn't always just have to out-slug their opponent. They could win tight games, too.

He was the Reds' pitching coach from 1993-2005, settling in Cincinnati despite finishing in New York.

While his career will be recalled with a pointed "C" matted against a shade of red atop his head, Gullett was a pioneer in choosing the Yankees in free agency, one of the very first players to make the landmark decision to try something new. He was a contributor to a pair of title teams, the last ones Steinbrenner would win before an extended drought. He was a competitor 'til the end, someone who hung around in 1979 and 1980 unable to pitch, refusing to have his flame extinguished. He will be remembered as a nearly annual champion.