Louisiana native Ron Guidry's performance with the New York Yankees in the 1978 season stands decades later as one of the greatest pitching achievements in modern baseball history.
Throughout a fourteen-year career with the New York Yankees, Lafayette native Ronald Ames Guidry was one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League. Nicknamed “Gator” by his New York teammates and known as “Louisiana Lightning” to baseball fans across the country, Guidry anchored a pitching staff that helped the Yankees of the late 1970s and early 1980s win four league championships and two World Series in a six-year span. A four-time All-Star, Guidry won the Cy Young Award as the American League’s best pitcher in 1978; his record that year of twenty-five wins and only three losses, with an earned run average of 1.74, stands decades later as one of the greatest pitching achievements in modern baseball history. Guidry’s uniform number, 49, was retired by the Yankees on Ron Guidry Day, August 23, 2003, and a bronze plaque honoring him was placed in Yankee Stadium’s famous Monument Park alongside those of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and other Yankee greats.
Born August 28, 1950, Guidry attended Northside High School in Lafayette and later enrolled in the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette). His baseball career began in center field during high school, and he alternated between the outfield and the pitching mound in college. His coaches believed his pitching arm was something special and gradually moved him to the mound full-time.
He was drafted by the New York Yankees in the third round of the 1971 amateur draft and worked his way through the team’s farm system. He made his major-league debut on July 27, 1975, pitching two innings in relief in a losing effort to the rival Boston Red Sox.
Guidry’s breakout season came in 1977, when he posted a record of sixteen wins against seven losses. He followed up that performance with his twenty-five-win season in 1978, earning his first All-Star team honor, walking away with the Cy Young Award, and finishing second in the Most Valuable Player balloting. The Yankees won the World Series both years, and Guidry won playoff and World Series games in each of those championship seasons. His success allowed him to renegotiate his salary with volatile Yankees owner George Steinbrenner from $47,000 in 1978 to $233,790 in 1979.
For the next seven seasons, from 1979 to 1985, Guidry was a consistent winner for the Yankees. The 1985 season was one of his best, with a league-leading twenty-two wins against six losses. During his career he won five Gold Glove awards for his fielding prowess. Although he was a fierce competitor on the field, Guidry avoided the limelight off it, steering clear of the media circus that Steinbrenner, on-again/off-again manager Billy Martin, and high-profile teammates, such as Reggie Jackson, seemed to crave. For his leadership Guidry was named the Yankee team captain in 1986; he held the position until his retirement in 1988. His final game was on September 27, 1988.
He became an instructor at Yankee training camps and joined the Yankees’ coaching staff for two seasons (2006 and 2007) under manager Joe Torre. Thereafter, he continued to work with the Yankees as a spring-training instructor. Guidry is involved in community causes in and around Lafayette, including an annual golf tournament to support his Winning Pitch Foundation, which supports local charities such as the Acadiana Outreach Center and the Miles Perret Center.