Bucky Dent proving old adage that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree

35 years after gaining fame, Dent is now watching two children succeed in sports
07/08/2013 9:40 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Bucky Dent has served the Yankees as a player and a manager.(New York Daily News)
There’s an old proverb that says “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” a statement that may urge Yankees fans uneasy about this season so far to look back on one of the most memorable teams of old.

Around this time back in 1978, the Yankees seemed on the verge of disaster, but were actually on the brink of an epic run to their second straight championship finish. On July 19 of that year, the defending World Series champions found themselves 14 games behind the rival Red Sox, and four days later, manager Billy Martin was fired and replaced with Bob Lemon – seemingly the final death knell for the “Bronx Zoo.”

And then, one of the most epic comebacks in sports history happened, with one man making his way into legend a few months later with an epic home run: shortstop Russell Earl Dent, or as those in Boston know him, “Bucky Bleeping Dent.”

This year, on the 35th anniversary of that masterpiece, Dent was one of several players from the Yankees’ 1978 team to return to the Bronx for Old-Timers’ Day, suiting up once again on June 23 to re-live the magic of an era that saw the Bombers reach four World Series in five years from 1977-81.

“Being here brings back a lot of memories, with people telling the old stories and bringing up things you may have forgotten about,” Dent said on Old-Timers’ Day. “We had a great time on the boat (cruise the night before the festivities); Lou Piniella started telling a bunch of stories, and we had a lot of laughs. It’s an excellent thing.”

Piniella was a part of that 1978 team, and like Dent, also served with the Yankees as a player, coach, and manager. Dent was a Bomber from 1977-82, and when his 12-year MLB career ended in 1984, he moved down the bench a bit; he became a manager in the Yankees’ Minor League system to start, would lead the Big Leaguers for parts of 1989 and 1990, and would coach or manage in four other organizations – including a stint under Joe Torre in St. Louis – between 1991 and 2007.

All that time in baseball, especially in pinstripes, makes an event like Old-Timers Day that much more special, according to Dent.

“It’s always awesome, coming back and seeing everybody – not just the guys you played with, but the guys you coached or coached against, guys you didn’t play with but may have followed…it’s a great feeling,” he said.

Dent has been “retired” since being released as the Reds’ bench coach in July 2007, but that hasn’t stopped his baseball legacy. “I’m doing a lot of different things, but mostly following my kids,” Dent said. “My son just got drafted by the Washington Nationals and my daughter graduated from North Carolina State, where she was a softball player, so I’ve been busy.”

On that note, Cody, who was a shortstop at the University of Florida, was selected in the 22nd round of the 2013 Draft by the Nationals and is now playing for their New York-Penn League affiliate in Auburn, N.Y., while daughter Caitlin just finished a career at NC State where she was a three-year starter in the outfield and helped the 2013 Wolfpack win a second straight ACC Title and reach the Regional Finals of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Looks like another old credo is coming true for the Dent family: the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

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