For some reason, the 67 World Series occupies a small space on the “Impossible Dream” 33 1/3 disk. But the seven-game showdown was anything but anticlimactic. Sox fans did not want to stop with a pennant-they wanted to be World Champions. Even then, it had been a long time-49 years to be exact- since a Boston team had ruled the baseball world. Their opponents would be the St Louis Cardinals-the same squad that had upset the Ted Williams-led Sox in 7 games in 1946.
Every front page of the morning Globe during the series was headlined by a Sox story. Wednesday October 4 screamed “After 21 Years…Today’s the Day.” The Cards had won 101 contests and topped the NL by 10 1/2 games. They were installed as 6-5 favorites, but newly-born Sox Nation was optimistic. Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski, through his ghostwriter, picked the Sox in six, but regretted the absence of Tony C.
In those unsophisticated days, World Series games were all played in the afternoon, and the Sox were everywhere- on TV’s and portable radios in homes, stores and offices, even on loudspeakers in some schools. The first contest pitted unheralded Jose Santiago against superstar hurler Bob Gibson (Jim Lonborg had pitched three days before). Despite hitting a surprise homer for Boston’s only run, Santiago fell to Gibson 2-1. Leadoff hitter Lou Brock had 4 of the Cards’ 10 safeties and scored both runs , following hits in the third and seventh. Both tallies were knocked in on infield outs produced by former Yankee slugger Roger Maris, contentedly finishing his career in St Louis. Santiago went 7 innings, working his way out of several jams. Gibson, however, was blinding-fanning 10, including Rico Petrocelli three times and permitting 6 hits, only one for extra bases.
Boston, however, had their own superstar pitcher in Lonborg, and Lonny did not disappoint the next afternoon. Coming within 4 outs of a no-hitter, he blanked the Cardinals 5-0. The righthander mowed down the first 19 St Louis batters before walking Curt Flood with one out in the seventh. His bid for immortality ended on an eighth-inning single by Julian Javier, the team’s only hit. By that time the Sox were comfortably ahead. Yaz-now as much a superstar as any of the Cardinal sluggers- homered off rookie starter Dick Hughes in the third, and a costly error by third baseman Mike Shannon led to Petrocelli’s sac fly and a 2-0 advantage. Then in the seventh after a Jose Tartabull walk and Jerry Adair single, Carl settled it with a 430-foot blast to right behind the bullpen off lefty reliever Joe Horner. As Lonny completed his one-hitter-only the fourth in World Series history- Sox Nation had lots of hope to cap of the season with a World Series title. Friday’s Globe headline read: “Take That (Zip!) and That (Pow!)- THE ARM: Lonborg’s One-Hitter Ties Series AND HAMMER: Yaz Raps 2 Homers, 4 RBI’s.” The article quoted Yaz as saying “what an arm” and Jim calling Carl “the perfect hitter.”
Word battles were also going on. Brock praised Lonborg but stated that he was “no (Juan) Marichal”. Flood, who later would be one of the first to challenge baseball’s reserve clause, was much stronger. Concerning a brushback pitch in the first to Brock, he remarked: “Tell the Red Sox we can play it too. And we’re not going to get Petrocelli or Adair or anybody like that. We’ll get Yastrzemski. That Lonborg’s bush.” Flood was not the first to complain about Gentleman Jim’s inside throws.
The afterglow of Yaz and Lonny’s performances would be the high point of the series for Sox Nation. As the teams headed for three in St Louis, the Sox prepared to face a formidable third starter in Nelson Briles, while Boston countered with Cleveland refugee Gary Bell. Bell admitted that his big league career up to that time had been “mediocre”, and he was right- a record barely over .500. The Cards also had Gibson ready in Game 4. Sox Series fortunes would get worse before they got better.