On October 14, 1976, Chambliss hit one of baseball’s most dramatic home runs. His ninth-inning, Game Five shot off Mark Littell decided the Yankees-Royals LCS. It snapped a 6-6 tie, ended New York’s 12-year pennant drought, and made Yankee Stadium go wild. In that Series, Chambliss batted .524 and tied or broke five LCS records for hits and RBI.
Chambliss was twice drafted by the Reds, in 1967 and in 1969, but continued school and attended UCLA for a year. Signing with the Indians when he was drafted a third time in 1970, he led the American Association in hitting with a .342 mark at Wichita in 1970. He was the first player to lead the AA in batting in his first pro season, and is believed to be the first “rookie” to have won a Triple-A batting title. In only his second pro season, Chambliss was the 1971 AL Rookie of the Year, Cleveland’s second ever (Herb Score was the first). It was the first time a player won consecutive Rookie of the Year honors on the minor and major league levels. Called up that May, he batted .275 and played solid defense at first base. He led Indian regulars in batting the next two seasons.
On April 27, 1974, Chambliss was sent to the Yankees in a seven-player deal. After struggling that year, he became a key part of the potent New York offense. In 1975 he batted .304, but he was most productive for New York’s 1976-78 pennants. His consistent performance matched his temperament; he averaged 92 RBI over those years, and in 1978 won a Gold Glove as he led AL first basemen in fielding (.997). He was the quiet, steady exception on a loud and turbulent club.
Chambliss was traded to Toronto and on to Atlanta after the 1979 season. He prospered in the NL, hitting a career-high 20 HR in both 1982, when he helped the Braves to a division title, and 1983. After averaging 141 games in his first 14 seasons, he was switched primarily to bench duty in 1985, and in 1986 led the NL with 20 pinch hits. He was named the Yankee hitting coach for 1988 and was activated very briefly, striking out in his only at-bat. His cousin Jo-Jo White performed in the NBA.