Many times in their history Red Sox squads have missed postseason play by failing to win games against inferior teams. This was not happening in early September 67, as the Cardiac Kids swept through the Senators, Yankees and Athletics to stay near the top of the AL’s four-team race. Behind the success, however, came ominous signs about the medical condition of one of their most beloved players.
A Labor Day twinbill in Washington saw the Bosox rally for a split in game 2 by a 6-4 score. Aging Camilo Pascual went 7 innings in a 5-2 first contest win, permitting just 4 hits and 1 earned run. Both starter Dave Morehead and reliever Dan Osinski were hit hard, with Senators slugger Frank Howard contributing a homer in a 3-for-4 performance. Ever the bold one, Dick Williams completely shuffled his lineup in game 2 and it paid off, with Boston rallying from a 4-2 deficit with a 4-run sixth. Big plays included a Mike Ryan bunt to force a throwing error and a two-run single by supersub Jerry Adair. Jerry Stephenson went 5 innings for a rather lucky win; Sparky Lyle and John Wyatt provided strong relief.
As Channel 5 announced that they were adding 5 televised games to their schedule, the Sox eased to an 8-2 victory the next night behind homers 37 and 38 from Carl Yastrzemski and a fine complete game effort by Gary Bell. Clif Keane’s story mentioned that Carl was leading the AL not only in homers and rbi’s but also in total bases, slugging percentage, hits, runs, and extra-base hits. Perhaps not since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had any batter dominated so much.
All was not well in Sox Nation, however. A number of Globe articles during the week were casting doubts on the condition of Tony Congiliaro’s left eye. Doctors found his vision there to be 20/200 and were concerned with problems in his retina. It was the first time that the possiblity of permanent eye damage appeared.
The team, meanwhile, continued to keep pace, taking 3 of 4 from the Yanks at Fenway. Jim Lonborg hurled a three-hitter with 10 K’s for his 19th win, again besting Mel Stottlemyre. Two days later, substitute starter Morehead put down the New Yorkers 7-1 with 7 strong innings and backed by homers from Yaz and Rico Petrocelli. Bell completed the series with a 9-1 four-hitter, bringing his mark to 11-6 since coming from Cleveland in June. The only Yankee victory was a 5-2 triumph behind former Sox ace Bill Monbouquette of Medford, who was finishing his career in New York.
Lonny seemed unstoppable. Two nights later he won number 20 over the A’s 3-1, backed by three double plays. Again helping himself, Jim tripled in the third run as the KC outfield failed to communicate on his line drive.
Though the Sox were routinely drawing crowds of 30,000 for night and weekend games, their season ticket base was still small. On a Wednesday afternoon before a little over 12,000 fans, the Kids rallied for a two-game sweep of the A’s by a 4-2 score. Petrocelli broke a 1-1 deadlock in the eighth with a two-run double which bounced over the head of centerfielder and former Soxer Jim Gosger. Reggie Smith then singled in an insurance tally and Wyatt survived a somewhat shaky ninth to pick up his 9th win against 6 losses.
Boston and Minnesota were now in a flat-footed tie for the top with 84-63 records. The Tigers were 1 behind, the White Sox 2 1/2. But as the Sox prepared to entertain the disappointing Orioles, an alarming headline appeared: “Conig to Sit Out Rest of Season”. The Globe article by Bob Sales mentioned that the results of an impromptu batting drill by Tony at Fenway were disapppointing-his left eye still had blurry vision. Even on the old LP disk “The Impossible Dream” the late Ken Coleman said in rather guarded language: “
The doctors say he’ll be OK….but he won’t be back this year.”
No one could take Conig’s place, but his injury seemed to rally the team. For the first time in many years, a Sox team in September was concentrating only on winning.