The best description in the Globe about The Weekend’s climax come from the literate and sometimes controversial writer Bud Collins: “As the ball came down in Rico Petrocelli’s glove for the last-and-final out, the town went up in the air like a beautiful balloon. Perhaps it will never come down….for an instant Petrocelli looked at the baseball. Then he began to run as though he were Chiang-Kai-Shek in Peking because he could hear the shreiking mob behind him. It was the Red Sox Guard charging across the Fenway playing field Sunday afternoon…These were zealots, thousands of them from the congregation of 35,770 at Fenway Park, which was packed tighter than the Black Hole of Calcutta. They leaped the fences and streamed onto the field, screaming the Red Sox Guard oath- ‘We’re No. 1’ and displaying their banners.”
The 100 to 1 shot had become the Impossible Dream, But Sunday’s heroics would not have been possible without a lot of luck-most of it going the Sox’ way.
Saturday’s contest, in which the Townies tied the Twins for the lead (91-70 records) featured red-hot Jose Santiago against Minnesota’s tough Jim Kaat, also his team’s hottest hurler. But in the third inning with a 1-0 lead, the big southpaw heard something pop in his arm. He was done for the day. Replacement Jim Perry, though a strong starter and reliever, was a huge comedown. In the fifth a Reggie Smith double and a series of misplays- one by Perry himself in a failure to cover first-put Boston ahead 2-1. The Twins would tie it, but George Scott’s homer in the sixth put the home squad in front again. And when in the seventh, after a botched double play ball by the Minnesota infield, Yaz smashed one into the bullpen in right with two on, the screaming coming out of my TV was the loudest I’d ever heard. Santiago went 7 frames, working out of several jams, before giving way to Gary Bell. Bell survived a Harmon Killebrew homer in the ninth as the crowd crazily celebrated a 6-4 victory and primed themselves for Sunday’s showdown.
Meanwhile in Detroit, the Tigers were playing the Angels in a twinbill. A sweep would put the Bengals in first place by half a game. However, after a Mickey Lolich shutout in game one, the Detroit bullpen collapsed in the nightcap, surrendering 6 in the eighth for an 8-6 Cal triumph. The Tigers remainded a half game behind, with another doubleheader scheduled the following day.
Sunday appeared to be the perfect matchup for the Twins. Four of ace Dean Chance’s 20 wins had come over the Sox. Jim Lonborg, on the other hand, was 0-3 versus Minnesota and 0-6 lifetime. Early, things seemed to be going according to plan. A wild throw by Scott allowed Killebrew to score a run in the first, and a rare miscue by Yaz in the third permitted Cesar Tovar to come around to make it 2-0. Was the dream slipping away? Then came the sixth.
Almost every Sox fan over 50 recalls the inning- Lonny surprise bunts to third, with no play for Tovar. Adair singles to center. Dalton Jones, after faking a bunt, lines one to left to load them up. Yaz-who else?-singles for two to tie it. Suddenly Minnesota was imploding. A Ken Harrelson bounder is foolishly thrown home by Zoilo Versalles as the lead run scores. By the time the inning ended, some wild pitches by reliever Al Worthington produces two more and a 5-2 lead.
Lonborg and the Sox would not be denied. In the eighth, after a fine double play on which Adair was injured and had to leave the game, Killebrew and Tony Oliva singled to plate a run and Bob Allison hit one into the left field corner. But Allison forgot that Miracle Man Yaz was out there. He went for a double and found Mike Andrews waiting to tag him out. It remained 5-3. ‘Finally, with two down in the ninth, Ken Coleman’s immortal words: “Looped toward shortstop. Petrocelli ‘s back-he’s got it! The Red Sox win! Pandemonium on the field!” The fans were totally crazy Lonny, Yaz and Rico were all carried on people’s shoulders. It took fifteen minutes for them to reach the dugout. “I was scared coming into the game”, Lonny remarked with a laugh to Coleman, “but I was more scared coming out.” There were two celebrations in the Sox clubhouse- the first about 30 minutes long (remember that they had only clinched a tie) and the second- four hours later- when the Angels again came through to eliminate Detroit in the twinbills’s second game. Needless to say, this party was much wilder.
“We won it,” bellowed Triple Crown Winner Yaz for everyone to hear, “because we wouldn’t quit. We played six weeks without one of the greatest players in the league- Tony Conigliaro- and still wouldn’t quit. We won it, with Jim Lonborg, the Cy Young Award winner. And we won it for Tom Yawkey. All of us wanted it for him more than anyone else.” And, of course, Carl himself. “If any player in baseball history, ” wrote the Globe’s Harold Kaese,” – Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, ever had a two week clutch production to equal Yastrzemski’s, let the historians bring him forth.”
There may have been days in other major league baseball cities like October 1, 1967, but none in Boston-before or since.