Sox 67

Two important wins in June 67 seemed to propel the team forward. The first was a walkoff two-run homer by Tony Conigliaro in the eleventh inning at Fenway to defeat the White Sox 2-1. Chicago had broken open a scoreless game in the top half on a Ken Berry single to plate rookie Walt Williams. In one of the most exciting moments in Tony’s all-too-short career, he stepped to the plate with two outs and Joe Foy on first base. On a 3-2 count, Conig smashed one into the screen off reliever John Buzhardt for the victory. According to Will McDonough, “the crowd reacted like it meant the pennant, and so did Tony’s teammates as everybody poured out of the dugout to mob Conigliaro at the plate.” Rookie Gary Waslewski, a Connecticut native who would later start game 6 of the World Series, hurled 9 shutout innings, allowing just 6 hits and walking 2.

The second milestone contest involved a brawl with the struggling Yankees in New York, involving hit batsmen by Jim Lonborg and the Yanks’ Thad Tillotson. Already behind 4-0 in the second inning, Tillotson threw three high, inside pitches to the hot-hitting Foy. The third hit Joe on the left temple. The count was up to 5-0 when Tillotson came up in the bottom half and Lonnie’s first pitch struck him between the shoulder blades. It was Gentleman Jim’s ninth hit batter of the year. After Tillotson motioned and headed for first, Foy crossed the field from third and said “If you want to fight, fight me.” Both benches emptied, and soon some fighting developed. The main combatants were fellow New Yorkers Rico Petrocelli and Joe Pepiton, who claimed they were “just kidding”. Tillotson was reportedly thrown to the ground by Reggie Smith. Globe writers Clif Keane and Ray Fitzgerald did not mention any ejections, though Yankee skipper Ralph Houk was later thrown out for protesting a pitch. Boston eased to an 8-1 victory, bringing Lonny’s record to 9-2. Conig and Carl Yastrzemski had 6 hits and 7 rbi’s between them. The late, great announcer Ned Martin referred to the incident in 67 jargon as “the happening.”

All was not sweetness for the Sox. however. Two days after Tony’s blast against Chicago, the team was swept in a twinbill by the last-place Senators in Washington by scores of 1-0 and 4-3. Starter Darrell Brandon carried a 3-0 advantage into the ninth inning of the nightcap, but some infield misplays helped the Nats to 4 runs, only 2 earned. John Wyatt, the second of three relievers,took the loss. Dick Williams was not happy, remarking that Brandon had pitched “a hell of a game-for 8 innings.”

Also around this time, the Sox took 2 of 3 from Cleveland at Fenway. Oddly, two of the Tribe’s losses went to future Sox Luis Tiant and Sonny Siebert. Tiant would come to the Sox in 71 and become El Tiante, racking up three 20-win seasons and two World Series victories, becoming arguably the team’s first black hero. Siebert would be traded to Boston in 69 and have some moderately good years in the early 70’s.

The Sox were not through making deals. Erratic hurler Dennis Bennett was sent to the Mets for a minor leaguer, and April hero Billy Rohr was optioned to Toronto. Still optimistic, Rohr assured the fans he would be back. He would, but only briefly. Rohr had 17 relief appearences and a 1-0 mark for the Indians in 1968 before disappearing from the majors.

Also in June, a rather ominous story would appear. It quoted owner Tom Yawkey as thinking about moving the team since he was losing millions, partly because of Fenway’s small size. Asked whether the Sox would be playing in the Fens in 5 years, he simply replied “no”.  However, all talk about moves to Oakland and new stadiums in East Boston or Weston would soon disappear. As the third-place Sox headed out on a 14-game road trip, no one could imagine that within a short time, what we now call Red Sox Nation would be born.