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THE BIG RED MACHINE – Part 4 – “This Is Some Kind of a Game, Ain’t It?”




If you thought the issue of the Ed Armbrister-Carlton Fisk collision was contentious after the game, the next day, in New England, it was discussed in the most hallowed halls of education. Two law professors at Harvard and another one at Yale were contacted by a reporter from the Associated Press to ask whether home plate umpire Larry Barnett had made the correct call in that key play in extra innings.


Harvard’s Professor Larry Liebman, who confessed that he is a massive Red Sox fan, said that “the consensus is that he (Barnett) did err.” Liebman continued, “In legal terms, the question is whether this is a case of absolute liability crime or a mens rea crime.” In an absolute liability crime, it’s not necessary to prove criminal intent. In a mens rea crime, criminal intent must be proven.


Alan Dershowitz was another Harvard Law professor who told the AP, “The majority view in my class is that it is not generally necessary to show intent in order to prove violations of sports regulations.” Over at Yale, law professor Ralph Winter said, “There is a prima facie case for interference.” Winter also said that he was a Red Sox fan and he added, “Up at Harvard, they’re very literal-minded about this, while we down at Yale are legal realists concerned with social implications – in this case, to be precise, with the fact that the Red Sox lost.”


There’s nothing like a bit of lawyerly humour when there’s some serious baseball going on!

For the Red Sox, they had to forget the night before and the ‘collision’. They had to focus on the matter at hand and that was the fourth game of the 1975 World Series. The Reds went with Fred Norman as their starting pitcher in this game. Boston would go with the man who had pitched so well in the first game of the series, Luis Tiant. More than 55,000 people jammed themselves into Riverfront Stadium.


Tiant’s career had been up and down since he broke into the majors in 1964 with Cleveland. He pitched with the Indians for seven years. In 1968, he was an American League all-star, winning 21 games and posting a league leading 1.60 earned run average. He also tossed nine shutouts and completed 19 games that season. He came in fifth in voting for the league’s Most Valuable Player.


But, the following year, 1969, his career took a complete about-face. He led the league in losses when he totalled 20 defeats against just 9 wins. In December of that year, he was dealt with another pitcher, Stan Williams, to Minnesota for four players including Dean Chance, Ted Uhlaender and a still-young third baseman named Graig Nettles. He was 29 years old and made 17 starts in 1970 winning seven games and losing three.


In Cleveland, he was a Cuban man in his 20s in a new country, pitching in the major leagues and enjoying life. He fancied himself quite the prankster. He would walk around the clubhouse and when another player was reading a newspaper, El Tiante would light a match and set fire to said paper, as he once did to Leon Wagner when the two played there together.


He enjoyed the life. There are reports that he would stand in front of the full-length mirror in the clubhouse and check himself out. He’d say things for the amusement of his teammates like “Six feet two, eyes of blue, blond hair, lookee like a movie star.” When he wanted to, he could pitch like a demon. But in his last year with Cleveland, and in the 1970 season with the Twins, he didn’t seem to want to grind like that enough.


At the end of training camp in March of 1971, the Twins released him. In mid-April, he was picked up by the Atlanta Braves. A month later, he was a free agent again. Two days later, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox. He started just ten games in 1971 with Boston. He came out of the bullpen another eleven times. His record was 1-7 and he owned a bloated ERA of 4.85.


But in 1972, his ERA was a league best 1.91. He posted a 15-6 record and got votes for the league MVP and the Cy Young Award. It wouldn’t be right to say he was back, but he was on his way. In 1973, he was a twenty-game winner again. In 1974, he collected 22 victories. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting and again, he garnered MVP selections. In 1975, he was 34 years old, and he was a serious pitcher. He still had his light heart and his good nature, but when it came to the game, he was all business.


That was evidenced in the first game of the series when the Red Sox blanked the Reds 6-0 behind the five-hit, complete game performance of El Tiante.


The game was scoreless as it entered the bottom half of the first inning. Pete Rose led things off for the Reds with a single. Ken Griffey followed Rose with a double to left-centre field. Rose, as he always did, hustled around the bases and before Boston had recorded an out in this game, Cincinnati had a 1-0 lead. As Rose was scoring though, Griffey got greedy and tried to get to third base. He was thrown out there.


Joe Morgan came up next and earned a base on balls. Tony Perez hit a roller to Burleson at shortstop and was thrown out at first. Morgan was now at second with two out. That was when Johnny Bench launched a ball to deep right-centre field that scored Morgan. At the end of the first inning, the Reds felt like they were beginning to solve Luis Tiant.


In the second and third innings, Norman kept Boston off the board and Tiant went one step better when he did not allow a Reds’ baserunner. The fourth inning was when it all came undone for the Reds’ journeyman pitcher.


Carlton Fisk batted first for the Red Sox. He hit a single to left-centre field. Fred Lynn came up next and he singled. Fisk advanced to second. Norman then got Rico Petrocelli to pop up to Concepcion. Dwight Evans followed him and Norman’s first delivery to the Sox’ right fielder was in the dirt and past Bench. Lynn and Fisk were now on second and third. After a triple to right by Evans, the game was tied and with only one out, Boston had a man on third.


Rick Burleson batted next for the visitors and on the first pitch from Norman, he hit a ball that got through the infield and allowed him to reach second. The score was now 3-2 for the Red Sox and Sparky Anderson was coming out to take the ball from his pitcher. Norman was done for the night, but the Boston bats were far from finished. They treated incoming pitcher Pedro Borbon just as discourteously as they had treated his predecessor.


The first man to step in against Borbon was the Red Sox’ pitcher, Luis Tiant. He notched his second base hit of the series and moved Burleson over to third. That brought the left fielder, Juan Beniquez to the plate. He hit a ground ball to Tony Perez that he couldn’t handle. Beniquez was safe at first on the error, Burleson scored, and Tiant was now standing at second.


Borbon got Denny Doyle to pop out to Rose in foul territory for the second out of the inning. But then Carl Yastrzemski singled to bring Tiant home with the fifth Boston run of the inning. After Fisk flied out to Geronimo in centre field, the inning was mercifully over for the Reds and their now-distraught fans. The home side was trailing by a score of 5-2.


In the bottom of the fourth, Tiant would be looking at the middle of the Reds’ order. But Tony Perez was in the midst of an awful slump, and he struck out swinging after working the count full. Bench took Tiant to a full count as well before hitting a flyball to left field that Beniquez tracked down. Tiant went to his third straight full count on George Foster, but this time, it was the Reds’ hitter that got the better of him. Foster singled and advanced to second after an error to Doyle.


Concepcion stepped in next against Tiant. He lofted a ball to left-centre field that scored Foster and when the play was over, the Reds’ shortstop was standing on second. Next up was Cesar Geronimo. He hammered a ball down the right field line. That scored Concepcion and Geronimo ended up with a triple. Now it was time for Borbon to hit. Anderson sent Terry Crowley to pinch hit. He went down swinging to end the inning.


With Borbon’s night over, Clay Carroll came in to pitch for Cincinnati. He got the Sox out without any damage. Tiant was back out there for the bottom of the fifth. He was facing the top of the Reds’ order. Once again, he was falling behind his hitters. Rose took a walk off him. Griffey hit a Tiant offering hard to right, but Evans snagged it. Then he walked Joe Morgan.


Perez’ slump continued as he grounded out to Doyle at second. Bench lofted a fly ball to Beniquez in left and the Reds’ inning was over. There was concern in the Boston camp that Tiant was feeling fatigued. Fisk certainly had those thoughts. But whatever anyone may have surmised, Tiant was back out there in the sixth.


Clay Carroll and then Rawly Eastwick posted zeroes for the Reds. Tiant continued to pitch for Boston. He blanked the Reds in the sixth, in the seventh and again in the eighth. Then came the ninth inning. Back when the Montreal Expos came into existence in 1969, their play-by-play man, Dave Van Horne used a term for the ninth inning whenever they had a lead. He called it the ‘Nervy Ninth’. For the Red Sox, this would be a ‘Nervy Ninth’.


Tiant had thrown 143 pitches over the first eight innings. He was working on three days rest. The Reds’ eighth-place hitter, Cesar Geronimo came to the plate. The count went to two balls and two strikes on the centre fielder. Geronimo singled to right. Anderson summoned Ed Armbrister to hit for Eastwick. He bunted. It was a better bunt this time than the one he had laid down the night before. Tiant picked this one up and had only one play. Geronimo was now at second.


Pete Rose came up next and walked on five pitches. Darrell Johnson called ‘Time’ and went out to talk to his pitcher. Ken Griffey was the next batter. This was the game right here. On the mound were Johnson, Fisk and Tiant. Johnson spoke to his pitcher. “You think you can get this guy?” Fisk interjected. “Let him get him.” Tiant quickly spoke. “Yah, let me.”


With that, Johnson made his way back to his dugout.


Griffey worked the count full. On the next pitch, he pounded it deep toward the wall in centre field. Lyn saw the ball’s trajectory and he ran to a point near the wall. In full stride, he made an over-the-shoulder catch a couple of steps from the wall. Carlton Fisk watched the flight of the ball and had some dread.


“I knew he (Griffey) crushed it. I just hoped it wouldn’t hit the wall because I knew if it didn’t, Freddie’s got it.” When he saw that Lynn had come up with the ball, he waited for it to come back into the infield and he called ‘Time’ again and slowly walked out to the mound. When he got there, he addressed his veteran pitcher. “If you ever busted it before, now is the time to do it.”


Joe Morgan was the next batter. He had walked twice earlier in this game. Tiant’s first pitch to him was a fastball and it missed the strike zone. He delivered another fastball and Morgan offered at it. The ball was hit high but not far. Yastrzemski moved to a point about ten feet in front of first base. The ball stayed in the air for what felt like forever. It landed securely in Yastrzemski’s big mitt and the game was over.


Boston had won 5-4 and tied the series. The Reds had won two games and Luis Tiant had won two games. There would be at least one more contest at Fenway Park in 1975.


Carlton Fisk spoke for all his teammates when he told reporters, “It was a great effort on his part. It was a tough situation to walk out of alive. He was really aggressive out there tonight,” Fisk said. When someone asked him what this victory meant for the Red Sox, he replied, “We’ve earned some respect from the Reds, I think.”


After the game, Tiant could have been excused if he had just sat at his locker and relaxed and savoured one of trademark nice cigars. He did not do that, however. According to United Press International’s Milton Richman, he was doing interviews in the clubhouse, in the hallway, he was incredibly available. He accommodated so many media members that he nearly missed the team bus that left the stadium two hours after the game ended.


There seemed to be an air of relief in the Red Sox’ clubhouse after this win. They would have less than 24 hours to enjoy it. The fifth game would take place the next evening.


***


There was no time for either team to spend thinking about the fourth game of the series. Both managers had to plan for the next match. Sparky Anderson tabbed Don Gullett to start the final game at Riverfront Stadium in 1975. Darrell Johnson pushed Bill Lee back and opted for Reggie Cleveland. Johnson went with Cleveland because he was a high ball pitcher and Lee threw sinkers. Johnson didn’t like ground balls on the artificial turf.


A lot of the talk after the fourth game of the series had to do with the Reds’ inability to hit. The team had been held to a .212 average and scored just eleven runs in the first four games of the series. “This is not the team I know,” Joe Morgan told the Associated Press. “You have to attribute some of it to their pitching staff.” It’s assumed that he was talking about Luis Tiant, the only Boston pitcher to earn a victory (actually, two) against Cincinnati in the series.


When pressed, Morgan spoke about Tiant. “I didn’t think he would beat us. Even as the game went on, I was waiting for us to explode. He’s something when he has to be. We made mistakes again and you can’t make mistakes against a good team.” When looking at the Reds’ roster, the man who had to be feeling the lowest at this point was Tony Perez. The Reds’ first baseman was 0-for 14 in the World Series after hitting .417 against Pittsburgh in the National League Championship Series. “I’m trying everything,” Perez told reporters.


Better things were to come for the man his teammates called ‘The Big Dog’. And it would be sooner rather than later. But first, the Red Sox had to make a statement. Or maybe an opening remark.


In the top of the first inning, after Juan Beniquez grounded out, Denny Doyle hit a triple to right field. Carl Yastrzemski then powered a fly ball to right. Ken Griffey caught it for the second out. That allowed Doyle to score. Don Gullett then got Carlton Fisk swinging. That Doyle triple was the last base hit that Boston would get in this game for quite a while.


Reggie Cleveland kept the Red Sox scoreless in the first inning despite allowing singles to Pete Rose and Joe Morgan. After that, Gullett was incredible. He retired the Red Sox in order in the second, third and fourth innings. Meanwhile, Cleveland was posting zeroes as well, not giving up a run in the Cincinnati second and third innings.


Tony Perez had struck out in the second extending his hitless streak in the World Series to fifteen at-bats. But in the fourth inning, he got off the ‘schneid’ by hitting a solo home run over the wall in left-centre field. In the fifth, Pete Rose doubled to score Gullett who had garnered a two-out single immediately before Rose stepped up to the plate.


In the sixth inning, after Morgan walked and Bench singled, Perez came to the plate again. The ‘Big Dog’ smashed Cleveland’s 1-2 pitch over the wall and very close to where he hit his first home run of the evening. Cincinnati was now leading 5-1 and it certainly appeared that Perez’ slump was now behind him. After the game, he explained how he tried to get out of his bad stretch. It involved his wife and his manager, Sparky Anderson.


Perez’ wife, Juana (or, as Tony referred to her, Pituka) was quite superstitious and she suggested a couple of things. One of which was for Tony to drive a different way to the stadium for the fifth game of the Series. What she did though was to take him shopping. She wanted to get his mind on to something else other than baseball. So, she made him “spend money” to do that.


Sparky Anderson tried to use some sarcasm to disarm his first baseman. He told Perez that if he continued on the path he was on, he would set a record for the longest hitless streak in a World Series. “I don’t want that record,” Perez told writers after the fifth game. For his part, Anderson told the reporters, “It got to be ridiculous. I had to lighten things up with a little joke. I’ve seen what slumps can do to power hitters.”


“Our power boys, like Tony and Johnny Bench, are either red hot or ice cold,” Anderson said. “They’re streak hitters, and when they start streaking, watch out!” Perez wasn’t really worried about the slump, but, for him, it was happening at, perhaps, the worst time. “I’ve hit a lot worse, but in a World Series, everyone knows about it.”


The Reds drummed out eight hits in a 6-2 win over Boston. After eight innings, Gullett had allowed just two Red Sox hits. The visitors managed three more safeties in the ninth off the Cincinnati starter, and he went 8 2/3 innings to earn the victory before leaving the game. Reggie Cleveland took the loss. The sixth game was scheduled for Fenway Park two days later. But the weather would play a role in when it would actually be contested.


The Reds had pushed a run across in the bottom of the eighth. The inning took a while to play and Gullett noticed, when he went back out to pitch, that he just didn’t have the same jump to his pitches. “I lost a little bit in the ninth. I asked Shep (pitching coach Larry Shepard) if I should go down and throw in the bottom of the eighth to keep warm, but the bottom of the order was coming up, so I couldn’t.”


Anderson wanted to let Gullett finish the game. In the top of the ninth, Juan Beniquez struck out swinging. Denny Doyle grounded out to Joe Morgan at second. But consecutive singles to Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk brought Anderson out of the dugout. Gullett told the press how it went down.


“Sparky came out and said, ‘You’re not going anywhere. There’s two outs,’ Anderson told me. He wanted me to work from the windup because I have better stuff that way, but I didn’t.” Immediately after the mound visit, Gullett gave up a run-scoring double to Fred Lynn. That was the end of his night. Rawly Eastwick came on to face Rico Petrocelli and he got him out swinging on three straight pitches to nail the win down.


Bench assessed Gullett’s effort as one of his best. And it happened right when his team needed it. “I’ve never seen him throw any better. He was just super. In my opinion, he pitched as well as anyone can possibly pitch. We were a relaxed ballclub out there tonight. We were joking before the game, but it was a cautious type of kidding. That’s what happens when you know Gullett is pitching.”


The Red Sox knew they didn’t give their best effort, but there wasn’t really anything they could have done differently. Carl Yastrzemski summed up the night for his team. “They outplayed us – hitting, pitching, making all the plays. We didn’t play our best. That’s all.” If they were to get back into this series, they would have to do it at home. The sixth game was scheduled for the following Saturday, October 18 at 1 pm.


Scheduled to pitch on Saturday afternoon were Bill Lee for Boston and Jack Billingham for Cincinnati. Everyone was waiting in intense anticipation. The only problem was that the National Weather Service was predicting a 100 percent chance of rain on Saturday and an 80 percent chance of the wet stuff on Sunday. There were some at NBC, the network that was broadcasting the Series, that feared having a game on Monday night and being forced to go up against ABC’s Monday Night Football.


Bill Lee was perhaps open to the idea of playing in a deluge. “I don’t think those guys (the Reds) can hit in a blinding rainstorm,” Lee said, “but I can pitch in one.” There were many who figured that any delay might be beneficial to the Reds in that their pitching staff would get some rest. Given that Don Gullett had pitched in the fifth game and the original schedule, Gullett was unlikely to see any more action in the series.


Darrell Johnson was one of those. “If it rains (Saturday), it would favour the Reds. Their pitchers have been getting some heavy work. I really don’t want any rainouts.” But, Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson seemed to feel that the day of the eventual next game, whether it was Saturday, Sunday, or whenever, was inconsequential. “I don’t care if it rains. I’ll just catch up on my sleep. But it would mean that I’d be nearer to using Gullett again.”


“If it rains two days and we lose on Monday, then I’d move everybody out of there for my Big Hammer and go with Gullett on Tuesday,” continued Anderson. “But for the immediate future, this is what would happen. It’s Billingham and Gary Nolan starting the next two games if it doesn’t rain, or if it rains only one day. But it’s Nolan and Gullett if it rains two.”


If the game was washed out on Saturday, Johnson still had Lee pencilled in for Sunday. “If we lose tomorrow (if it rained Saturday), though, Lee will pitch Sunday in his regular turn and Tiant the day after that. If it rains two days? I refuse to come to that bridge now. If you’re speculating that I might move Luis up to Game Six if we got weathered out for a couple of days, the answer is no. Luis Tiant will pitch the seventh game, if there is a seventh game.”


Alas, the sixth game was cancelled because of rain on the Saturday and postponed to the Sunday. On Sunday, the rains had not yet abated, and the game was pushed back to the Monday. Once word came down about the Sunday stoppage, the Reds decided to head to Tufts University, in Medford, Mass., about ten miles outside of Boston, just to find a gym and keep loose. The only problem was that the man driving their bus didn’t know how to get there.


He got lost a couple of times. The first time, he pulled into a service station to get some directions. Sparky Anderson jumped out of the bus and, given that the team, and Anderson, were wearing their game gear, they did attract some attention to themselves. “You should have seen the owner’s jaw drop when I walked out,” Anderson told a reporter from the Associated Press. “We were all wearing our uniforms. ‘You’re the Cincinnati Reds!’” Anderson quoted the station proprietor as saying.


Johnny Bench chimed in, “The guy’s got to be looking for the Candid Camera,” in reference to a television show from the time. While in the gym there, the Reds were able to hit balls into a large net. Tufts students learned the Reds were there and they gathered around to watch the team work out. Some of the kids were able to get autographs.


Before the Reds even got into the gym, however, Bench met an old friend. Jeff Ruby had been a semi-professional football player and he and the Reds’ catcher had known each other from way back. They engaged in some roughhousing in the locker room. In the process, they did knock over some furniture. “We were just playing football,” Ruby laughed. “John tried to run through me, and I stopped him with just a six-yard gain. He didn’t get the first down.”


No ball players were injured in the working out at Tufts University. Oh, and the rescheduled game for the Monday was rained out as well. It looked like Tuesday would be a ‘go’ though with no prospect of rain and temperatures in the 60s (Fahrenheit, of course) for the day. The natural grass field would not be as ‘fast’ as the artificial turf in Cincinnati – right field was not good at all and there were spots around the infield that were very soggy -- but it would, at least, be playable.


And it would be a classic.


***


It had been five days since the Reds had defeated the Red Sox in the fifth game of the 1975 World Series. The players had been chomping at the bit to get on to the field in real action. “I’m edgy to play,” Dwight Evans told the Associated Press. “It (the field) was awfully wet,” Evans cautioned. “Pop flies might fall in because fielders can’t get to them. You might need a spoon to get the baseball out of the ground.”


With the weather, a bug had been going through the Red Sox clubhouse. Among those fighting a cold was Luis Tiant, who was named as the starter by Darrell Johnson. “I’m ready,” Tiant told reporters. Evans had been dealing with a cold as well. “I’ve played with sickness before. It’s really nothing new. You have to play sick if you’re a baseball player. You do the best you can. You can’t call in and say, ‘I won’t be in today, I’m sick.’ That’s what I get paid for – playing.”


Tiant would be starting for the Red Sox and Gary Nolan would be on the mound for Cincinnati. One thing that was interesting was the fact that a Boston reporter approached Cincinnati second baseman Joe Morgan and asked him which league was superior. Morgan was fairly agitated by the question. “Ask Bobby Murcer or Bobby Bonds. They’ll tell you which league is superior.”


From 1970 to 1974, the American League had won four of the five World Series. But Morgan would not be moved. “I don’t think that other league is as good as ours. I figured we’d beat Boston in five games. And I don’t care where we play – on turf or asphalt – we’re the better team.” When Morgan was reminded that his Reds team had lost to the Oakland A’s in 1972, he credited that Athletics’ team. “They were an exceptional team. They were more like a National League Team.”


When asked what the difference was between the two leagues, Morgan had a ready answer. “American League pitchers use the breaking ball to set up their fastball. Our league uses the fastball to set up the breaking ball.”


The delay in getting to this sixth game was weighing on everyone. Morgan was concerned that the long wait between games could hurt his team. “We’ve had more time to think about it. I’m not that confident right now. We’re going to be playing on a wet field and that takes away some of our edge. But we’ve got more ways to beat you than anybody.”


Well, the time to see whether that was true or not was at hand.


El Tiante had been unbeatable to this point in the postseason. Nolan had yet to post a victory or a loss. The presence of the two men spoke to the argument that Joe Morgan was trying to make. Except that it made an argument against what the great Reds’ second baseman was saying. Tiant had matured mentally and emotionally, and he knew that he was great. His swagger preceded him. Nolan was very good, but……


In the top of the first inning, the Reds came up after the long, long wait for this sixth game, and on one pitch, Luis Tiant got Pete Rose to hit a fly ball for the first out of the game. But Ken Griffey worked the Red Sox ace to a full count and then, a walk. But then Joe Morgan popped out to Fisk. And Johnny Bench struck out on three pitches. The full house at Fenway and every Red Sox fan watching on television all over the world were standing up and shouting.


Nolan came out to face the Red Sox in the bottom of the first. He got Cecil Cooper out on an 0-2 fly ball to Cesar Geronimo. Denny Doyle hit a ground ball to Tony Perez that he tossed to Nolan who covered at the bag for the second out. But then Carl Yastrzemski labored against Nolan to get a 3-1 count and then, when Nolan had to get a strike across, Yaz singled to right.


That brought Carlton Fisk up. He hit a liner to left and suddenly, there were men on first and second. It was Fred Lynn’s turn to bat now. Nolan’s first pitch missed the zone. His second pitch was hit over the fence in right-centre. Boston had a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Nolan got Rico Petrocelli to hit a fly ball to left-centre. Geronimo had to travel a bit to get it, but he got it. New Englanders were in absolute heaven.


In the top of the second, Tiant used twelve pitches to get rid of the Cincinnati batters. Nolan was equally efficient in retiring the bottom third of the Boston batting order in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the third, it would be the 8-9-1 hitters for the Reds. Sparky Anderson must have been feeling a sense of urgency because he sent Darrel Chaney in to hit for Gary Nolan. Cincy got nothing in their turn at bat.


Fred Norman came in to pitch the Red Sox’ third. He did manage to get a couple of outs but he loaded the bases as well. With two out in the inning, Jack Billingham came in to relieve him. He got Rico Petrocelli to strike out to end the inning. Tiant and Billingham traded zeroes in the fourth inning, but neither man had an easy time. That said, it was still 3-0 for the Sox.


On Tiant’s first pitch of the fifth to Cesar Geronimo, he got the Reds’ centre fielder to loft a fly ball to Dwight Evans. It was now Jack Billingham’s turn to bat. Anderson sent Ed Armbrister to pinch-hit for the pitcher. Armbrister drew a walk. It was now Pete Rose’s turn to face Tiant. He took the count full before he lined a ball out to centre field. Armbrister made it to third on the play.


Ken Griffey was the next man up. When the count was two balls and two strikes, Griffey launched a ball to the centre field wall. By the time everything stopped, Griffey was standing on third and Armbrister and Rose had scored. After a Joe Morgan pop up and a Johnny Bench single, the score was tied. Tiant got Tony Perez to swing and miss on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. The fans in Boston who had been standing and screaming a few innings ago were now grabbing a Sam Adams for some strength.


Clay Carroll was now on the bump for Cincinnati. He was facing the heart of the Red Sox order in the bottom of the fifth. Yastrzemski was up to lead things off. He singled off the reliever. But Carroll got Fisk to hit into a fielder’s choice, he got Lynn to fly out to left and he got Petrocelli to hit a ground ball to Concepcion. It was Tiant’s turn to pitch again.


The Boston right hander quickly got George Foster and Dave Concepcion out. But the eighth-place hitter, Cesar Geronimo, singled. Terry Crowley pinch hit for Carroll, and he singled as well. But Tiant battled and he got Pete Rose to hit a roller to Burleson who stepped on the bag at second to end the inning. Anderson got Pedro Borbon to pitch to the Boston hitters in the bottom of the sixth.


Borbon allowed a one-out walk to Burleson, but got through the inning unscathed, otherwise. In the top of the seventh, Tiant would be facing Cincinnati’s 2-3-4 hitters. Griffey and Morgan both singled. There were runners on first and second for Johnny Bench. He hit a ball to left that Yastrzemski caught for the first out. Tony Perez was up next and hit a ball to Evans in right. He put it away for the fly out, but Griffey was able to advance to third on the play.


With two out, George Foster hammered a double to centre that scored both Griffey and Morgan. The inning ended with the National League team leading 5-3. Borbon was dealing and he used eight pitches to retire the Red Sox in order in the bottom of the seventh. After Cesar Geronimo homered to lead off the Reds’ eighth inning, Luis Tiant’s night was over and due to the circumstances, so many Boston Red Sox fans must have felt that their season was done as well.


Roger Moret came in to relieve Tiant and he got the Reds out in order. Pedro Borbon was entering his third inning of work. He’d be facing Fred Lynn, Rico Petrocelli and Dwight Evans – the 5-6-7 batters of the Boston lineup. After Lynn singled off Borbon’s leg on the first pitch and Petrocelli worked a full count walk, Anderson came out to take the ball from Borbon and hand it to his closer, Rawly Eastwick.


Evans stood in against Eastwick. He worked the count full before swinging and missing on the final pitch of the at-bat. The next batter was Rick Burleson. He hit a line drive to left field that George Foster was positioned perfectly for. The pitcher’s spot was due up next. Johnson sent Bernie Carbo up to hit for Roger Moret.


On the first few pitches, Carbo looked horribly overmatched. With the count at two balls and two strikes, Eastwick delivered a ball up in the zone. Carbo got around and put the barrel of his bat on it. The ball soared and headed toward deep centre field. When it landed, it was in the bleachers. Carbo flew around the bases and when he was running down the third base line, his arms were out, and his teammates met him at the plate. In the blink of an eye, the score was tied at 6-6.


Dick Drago was out to pitch the Cincinnati ninth for Boston. He retired the 3-4-5 batters for the Reds on ten pitches. In the bottom of the ninth, Eastwick looked like the tired pitcher in walking Denny Doyle and allowing Yastrzemski to single. With no one out for Boston, Anderson summoned Will McEnaney to mop up for his closer.


Carlton Fisk was the first batter that McEnaney faced. He intentionally walked the Red Sox’ catcher. The next batter was Fred Lynn. He hit a fly ball to left field that George Foster had to chase down on the left field foul line close to the seats. Doyle was at third and when Foster caught the ball, he took off for home. Foster’s throw was perfect, and Bench was able to make the tag on Doyle for the second out that kept the Reds in the game. Petrocelli grounded out to Rose at third for the third out of the inning.


In the top of the tenth, Drago was able to pitch around a Davey Concepcion single and stolen base to get the Reds out. Pat Darcy got the Red Sox three-up-three-down in the bottom of the tenth. He got Carbo on strikes to finish the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Darcy got the Boston hitters in order. It went back and forth into the twelfth.


Drago had pitched the eleventh and left the game after Rick Miller pinch hit for him in the bottom of the inning. Pete Rose led off the inning. As he strode to the plate, he turned to the Red Sox’ catcher Fisk and said, “This is some kind of game, ain’t it.” Rose was hit by the 1-2 pitch from Drago. Griffey came up and tried to bunt Rose over to second, but Fisk was able to pick up the bunted ball and fire to second for the force. That brought Joe Morgan up. He hit a ball to deep right field. Dwight Evans hustled back and made a great catch on it before running into the short wall. Griffey had taken off on the play and was doubled off.

Darcy got the Red Sox out in their half of the eleventh on thirteen pitches. Rick Wise came in to pitch for Boston in the top of the twelfth. He managed to get Johnny Bench to pop out to Fisk. But then, Tony Perez and George Foster both singled. With runners on first and second, Concepcion flew out to Evans in right and Geronimo went down on strikes.


Cue the drama.


I have always loved how essayist and author Roger Angell described Carlton Fisk on Ken Burns’ Baseball series on PBS. “I think of him as a Roman, I think of him wearing a toga. He walks in a classical manner. There is something Doric about him. We’ve learned his wonderful mannerisms. And when he stands in to bat, at the last moment when he looks at the bat as if he’s examining it for termites or something like that. These mannerisms have gone on year after year. He really has been noble.”


Darcy was still on the mound for Cincinnati. The first man up for Boston was Fisk. It was 12:31 in the morning on the east coast by this time. Darcy’s first pitch to Fisk was high. Fisk stepped back briefly and looked at his bat in the manner that Angell described. Darcy’s next delivery split the plate at the bottom of the strike zone. Fisk swung mightily and sent the ball on a trajectory that would take it out of the park.


The only thing that everyone had to wait for was whether it would be fair or foul. Fisk stood on the first base line watching the flight of the ball waving his arms together as if to try to will the ball fair. It hit the screening on the foul pole. It was a home run. The game was over. As Fisk rounded the bases, the crowd was in delirium. Fans flooded on to the field to run the bases with the Boston catcher. Fisk needed help from police and stadium security to push through the people to get to the plate and to the dugout. The Fenway Park organist broke into the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus. Church bells pealed throughout New England.


“That game was like a Russian novel,” said writer Daniel Okrent on Ken Burns’ Baseball. “It had character development. It had history behind it. It had a plot moving forward. It had twists near the end. And then the spectacular, spectacular conclusion. And the seventh game, which people underrate, which was decided in the ninth inning was the exquisite literary denouement for it.”


Someone asked Fisk if he had experienced any trouble getting through all the fans who, in their excitement, jumped on to the field to bask in the jubilation. “Don’t worry about that,” Fisk told the reporter. “I was making sure I touched every base – every little white thing I saw. I was going to touch them all, even if I had to straight-arm somebody out of the way.”


As he was walking toward the plate before his game-winning blast, Fisk scanned the flags around the stadium to try to get a read on what the wind was doing. He took a look down the left field line to see if he could get some assistance from a wayward breeze. “I looked at the flag, but it wasn’t doing anything. I think it was wrapped around the pole.”


Pat Darcy spoke with the press after the game about the ultimate hit. “I have no excuses. I tried to get the ball low and it sailed up. I guess that’s where he likes them.” As the ball flew toward the foul pole, everyone waited to see where the thing would land. “I thought it was going to be foul.” Then he hesitated and said in a low voice, “It hit the foul pole.”


But, like Pete Rose in his batter’s box remarks to Fisk earlier in the game, the Red Sox’ hero was well aware of the quality of the game in which he had just played. “That probably had to be one of the best-played – not just World Series games, but one of the best-played games I’ve ever seen.”


The Reds’ clubhouse was quiet after the game. But there were a couple of Reds’ players who would speak with reporters. Pete Rose expressed his thoughts on the marathon contest that evening (and early morning). “I couldn’t believe it. If there has ever been a more exciting game, I’ve never seen it. That was the only way that game could end. Boston had magnets in their gloves all night.”


Joe Morgan wouldn’t concede anything after the extra-inning loss. “We didn’t do it today, now we have to do it tomorrow. We’ve got a Don Gullett going and they don’t have another Luis Tiant. I think we’re the best team and I think we’ll prove it. We’re not down.” He referred to his opponents as “a good ball club. Never quits and I’ll give ’em that.”


In the seventh and final game of the Series, the pitchers were to be Don Gullett for Cincinnati and Bill Lee for Boston. Years later, Bill Lee told an interviewer, “Sparky Anderson says that ‘no matter what happens in this game, my pitcher will be going to the Hall of Fame’. And I told people that no matter what happens in this game, I’ll be going to the Eliot Lounge.” The Eliot Lounge was an iconic Boston bar.


Let’s see what all the hubbub was about…..


***


Howie’s new book MORE Crazy Days & Wild Nights, eleven new stories of outlandish and wild events that occurred in sports over the last fifty years, is available on Amazon. It’s the follow-up to his first book of 2023, Crazy Days & Wild Nights! If you love sports and sports history, you need these books!


You can hear Howie and his co-host Shawn Lavigne talk sports history on The Sports Lunatics Show, a podcast, on the FiredUp Network, thesportslunatics.com and on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio and Google Podcasts and on 212 different platforms. Check out The Sports Lunatics Show on YouTube too! Please like and subscribe so others can find us more easily after you.


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