Sox 67

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.

Sox 67

As the 67 Sox approached the all-star break, they were in the midst of a losing streak, one of the few they had in the Impossible Dream season. Following two 4-3 defeats in California, the team traveled to Detroit and lost three more to the Tigers. Still only two games behind the first place White Sox despite the absence of Al Kaline, they dealt the Townies a heartbreaker, 5-4 in 11 innings in the series opener.

Gary Waslewski started for the Sox but was pulled after surrendering 4 hits and two runs in the first two frames. Reliever Bill Landis kept it at 2-0  with three shutout innings, but after the Sox cut the lead to one, Norm Cash homered off Galen Cisco for a 4-1 advantage.

Tiger starter Joe Sparma was one out away from a complete-game victory when Boston suddenly exploded. Tony Conigiaro smashed his 13th homer and George Scott and Rico Petrocelli singled. Rookie reliever Mike Marshall came in and was met by a Reggie Smith single and Jerry Adair double to tie it at 4. It remained tied until the 11th, when a Jim Northrup single and Bill Freehan double off John Wyatt produced the walkoff win

A year away from his fantastic 31-win season, Denny McLain was still a formidable hurler, shutting the Sox down 2-0 the next afternoon on only 4 hits. Former Soxer Lenny Green was the batting star with 3 hits, plating one run and scoring the other. Boston again threatened in the ninth with a Carl Yastrzemski single and Scott walk, but McLain bore down and easily retired Rico Petrocelli and Smith. Lee Stange was the hard-luck loser, allowing only one run in 6 innings.

There was a twinbill the next day, and things looked bad when Detroit handed the Bosox their fifth straight defeat, their longest of the year, in game 1. This one was over early, with the home squad jumping to a 9-3 lead after four on the way to a 10-4 final. Starter Gary Bell and long reliever Jose Santiago were both infeffective. Interestingly, Dick Williams pulled Scott in the second for not hustling and replaced him with George Thomas, but it mattered little. Detroit had 12 hits off four Boston hurlers. Earl Wilson came back to haunt his former team one more time, going 7 2/3 innings and fanning 7 before giving way to Marshall. It was Wilson’ 10th victory of the year.

I sometimes use an unscientific statistic- the certified stopper. I define it as a regular starter who has a .750 percentage and an ERA of at least 3.50. Jim Lonborg certainly was qualifying at 11-3, as he ended the streak in game 2, going 7 innings on a hot day, allowing 3 hits and not walking a batter in a 3-0 win. The Sox gave Lonnie all the runs he needed in the second on a Jerry Adair triple and Smith homer. Yaz, in his deepest slump of the year, connected with his 19th round tripper for an insurance tally in the eighth.

The All-Star game turned out to be the longest in history, a 15-inning 2-1 win by the NL, ended by a Tony Perez homer. Despite the length of the game, neither league ran out of pitchers, as would embarassingly happen years later. Catfish Hunter threw 5 innings and absorbed the loss.

Boston started the second half by splitting a day-night twinbill with Baltimore, winning 4-2 in the afternoon and falling 10-0 at night. The split left the Sox with a 42-40 record. Before they would lose again, history would be made-the birth of a Nation.

Sox 67

In early January of 1967, baseball in Boston was not a particularly hot topic. In world news, one headline announced: ” LBJ asks for 6% income surtax to offset war cost.” A later one says “He stakes future on moderate war”, whatever that meant.The football world was building up to the first Super Bowl (it was only called a “championshiip game” then) between the Packers and Chiefs. In boxing, Cassius Clay, not yet generally called Muhammed Ali, was trying to get his draft reclassification revoked. But also, new Sox manager Dick Williams was conducting a lengthy interview with Globe legend Will McDonough.

Williams, his wife and three children were living in an apartment building in Santa Anita, California. Things were already going his way. He recently had won $6000 in prizes on TV’s Hollywood Squares. “You’re in the wrong business,” said the writer. “I don’t think so,” Williams replied.

As a former Sox player, Dick had seen the casual, underachieving atmosphere around Boston locker rooms. “I could go through Red Sox records and point out where lack of teamwork has hurt. Our people have got to forget about individual statistics.They have to be willing to sacrifice something for the good of the team or they won’t play…..I don’t care if they all dislike me. We’ll get along great if they just do what I ask. If they don’t, I’ll rip them good.”
How many years had it been since a Sox manager talked like that? Fifty? Before the Bambino trade?

Williams then outlined his plans for the team. Joe Foy at third. Rico Petrocelli at short. Mike Andrews at second. A competition between George Scott and Tony Horton at first. An outfield of Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith, and Tony C. A definite accent on youth.

His starting rotation (they had only four pitchers in those days) would be Jim Lonborg, Jose Santiago, Darrell (Bucky) Brandon and Lee Stange. John Wyatt and Don McMahon would be the “stoppers”. He also mentioned longshot prospects like Dave Morehead, Pete Charton, and Jerry Stephenson, but declared frankly that he was not counting on them. Soon-to-be-famous Billy Rohr was also mentioned.

At spring training, “every day we’ll post a timetable for the players to follow. They’ll know what we expect of them every minute they are on the field, so there won’t be any time wasted.” Williams had earlier predicted that “we’ll win more than we lose.” Now, pressed by McDonough for a standings prediction, he replied “I’m an optimist. I don’t think fifth place is out of reach.”

Given what would happen, this remark seems to be a gross-but happy-understatement. But at the time it was considered almost unbelievable. No Sox team had finished higher than fifth since 1958, and just two years before, they had lost 100 games. Dick closed by saying “we’ll have to play over our heads in comparison to what we’ve done in other years.”

At least in what would come about during 1967, Williams turned out to be an incredible prophet.

Happy New Year to all.