Monthly Archives: February 2014

Baseball 101 – October 3, 1972

The Sox entered the second to last game of the year needing a win. The Tigers victory the night before put them a half game up with two to go. If the Sox lost this next game, that would be it, the Tigers would claim the division. With that in mind, the Sox sent Luis Tiant to the bump to face Woodie Fryman.

Going into this game Tiant was 15-5 with a stellar 1.88 ERA and Fryman was 13-13 with a 3.35 ERA. This was a bit misleading for Fryman. Fryman had been placed on waivers by the Phillies, who were pathetic in 1972 with a record of 34-61 when jettisoning Fryman. At the time of his release, Fryman was 4-10 with a 4.36 ERA. No great shakes.

I guess the Tigers and GM JIm Campbell saw something in Fryman, or were desperate for some pitching help, and decided to pick him up off waivers.* It was a fortuitous move. Fryman turned his season around with the Tigers. In fact, his first start for the Tigers was a complete game six hit shutout. After the Tigers picked him up he went 9-3 with a 2.21 ERA, before toeing the rubber against Tiant in this key game.

*Campbell also acquired catcher Duke Sims off waivers on August 5 and first baseman Frank Howard was purchased from the Rangers on August 31. Both helped the Tigers stretch run. 

What can I say about Luis Tiant. I loved the guy. Here’s a great picture of him.

800px-Luis_Tiant_1970s

What a contratst, eh? Tiant was just so cool. Still, to this day, when I play wiffle ball as an old man, my favorite wind up is an imitation of Tiant’s. There is just so much twirling joy in how he pitched.

In the month of August, leading up to his final regular season start against the Tigers, Tiant was 11-1. He had been amazing – eleven complete games with six shutouts. At one point, he’d thrown 40 scoreless innings.* He was on a roll and he gave the Sox a decent chance to extend the season one more game.

*Orel Hershisher holds the record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched by a starter at 59. In the history of the game there are 22 streaks of 40 innings or more of scoreless ball by starters. Tiant and Walter Johnson are the only names to appear twice. Tiant had a 40 and 41 inning stretch; Johnson’s two streaks were 40 and 55 2/3.

Before the game, Tiant was not nervous. “Me not nervous,” he said. “Ey, you win or lose. Nervous? No. Another game. Ey, what for be nervous.” What more could a Red Sox fan ask for.

The game started off well for the Red Sox. Tommy Harper led off with a single and stole second.  Aparicio grounded out to third and then Yaz walked to put men and first and second for Reggie Smith.  Smith hit grounder to short for what looked like an inning ending double play, but Dick McAuliffe dropped the throw from shortstop Eddie Brinkman. Harper scored on the error, Yaz was safe at second and Reggie Smith was safe at first. It looked like a big inning was in the making. Unfortunately, Petrocelli struck out looking and Fisk popped out to short right field. That would be the only run the Sox would score.

The Tigers tied the game in the sixth with a single run. Then, in the seventh, Dick McAuliffe doubled and Al Kaline drove him in with a single to left. The Tigers scored another run on an error and that was all they’d need. They won 3-1 and the season for Tiant, Yaz and the rest of the crew was over. Yaz, Pudge and Tiant all cried after the game. It was a bitter loss.

So, it was nice, over forty years later that the Sox asked Fisk and Tiant to throw out the first pitch of game six of the World Series last year. That story line ended much better with the Sox celebrating. It was sweet, as I can attest.

Advertisements

Baseball 101 – October 2, 1972

The season long battle came down to a three game series in Detroit. The first to win two games would be the AL East Champion. Here is what the matchups were for the series:

  1. Mickey Lolich (21-14) v. John Curtis (11-7)
  2. Luis Tiant (15-5) v. Woody Fryman (13-13)
  3. Marty Pattin (16-13) v. Joe Coleman (18-14)

Yaz reminded the press before the series that in 1967 the Sox also went into Detroit needing to win two games to stay in the pennant race. “We went in there in ’67 and needed two games and beat Lolich and won the next night, so we can do it again,” he said.

When the Tigers took the field in the top of the first, 51,518 fans cheered with vigor. Surprisingly, this was not the largest turn out of the year for the Tigers. That came on May 21 when 52,150 showed up to watch Mickey Lolich beat the Indians 5-0. When it came to big games, Lolich was no stranger.

In the 1968 World Series against the Cardinals, Lolich started three games and won all three, tossing three complete games. In 27 IP he allowed 20 hits, walked 6 and struck out 21.  He won games 2, 5 and 7, beating the great Bob Gibson in a game seven showdown. He was named the World Series MVP. Clearly, Lolich was battle tested.

He had a great stretch of pitching from 1967 to 1973 and was beloved by Tigers fans. In part, because he was a portly, everyman type dude. He said he was “the beer drinker’s idol.” Bottom’s up!

The Sox had their work cut out for them, putting a rookie up against Lolich. After the game, Curtis woud say “I didn’t embarrass myself.” Here’s how it went down.

The Tigers struck first. In the bottom of the first, hot hitting Al Kaline got a hold of a Curtis fastball and sent it into the seats. It was his third homer in three days. The 51,000 went nuts. But, the Sox had chances, which was the story all night long – squandered chances. In the top of the third, with runners on first and third, Yaz stroked a double over centerfielder Mickey Stanley’s head. The speedy Aparicio was on first and held up when he got to second to make sure Stanley did not catch the ball. Then Aparicio sped toward third  with Yaz close behind. Unfortunately, after rounding third Aparicio fell and had to scramble back to third. That gave Yaz no place to go and he was tagged out. Instead of up 2-1 with one out and a runner on third, it was 1-1 with two out and a runner on third. Reggie Smith then struck out to end the rally.

Then in the fifth, Aurelio Rodriguez led off with a homer to break the tie. He also knocked in single runs in the sixth and ninth to push the final score to 4-1 Tigers. Lolich went the distance, striking out 15. Later, he said that he felt he had his best stuff of the season that night.

The Sox manager, Eddie Kasko, remained confident. “I’m willing to take my chances with Tiant tomorrow,” said Kasko. “And I like Marty Pattin in the final game against Joe Coleman.” Unfortunately, as we shall see tomorrow, Luis could not twirl his team to victory and the Sox chances at the division would end in a crash.

 

Baseball 101 – October 1, 1972

October 1, 1972 

Milwaukee v. Detroit

The final game of a three game set between these two. The Tigers sent John Hiller to the mound and the Brewers countered with twenty-three year old Bill Parsons, a below average pitcher. Parsons would end the season 13-13 with an ERA+ of 77. Hiller, as mentioned yesterday, was returning from a year off after a heart attack. Before his heart attack, he’d been a solid pitcher making more relief appearances than starts and managing an ERA+ of 125 in 1967, 126 in 1968 and 124 in 1970. In the 1970 offseason he suffered a heart attack at age 27. Like many other pitchers of this era, he considered conditioning a four letter word and avoided it. Hiller gained weight and smoked and by the time his heart attack struck he weighed in at 220 pounds. When he left the hospital, after recovering, he was down to 145. He quit smoking, began working out and even had intestinal bypass surgery, an experimental procedure at the time. He came back in 1972 and was offered the job as an instructor with the Tigers and took it. Persistent, he bugged Tigers’ executives until they brought him up to the big club in July. The Tigers did not know what to expect but they’d seen good stuff from Hiller in the past so I suppose they were hopeful. Prior to his start in this game, Hiller had appeared in 23 games with an ERA of 2.29. He’d made only two short starts that year.  One on August 11 where he went three innings and the other on September 19, the second game of double header, in which he tossed four innings of two hit ball. I suspect the Tigers were hoping for five or six innings from Hiller in this outing against the Brewers.

They got better than that, much better. Hiller tossed a complete game five hitter allowing only  a single run in the ninth. The Tigers won the game 5-1 on Hiller’s arm, a three run homer by Aurelio Rodriguez, and solo blasts in the eighth by Dick McAuliffe and Al Kaline. The Tigers did what they needed to do and looked toward the scoreboard to see what had transpired in the Sox and O’s game.

Red Sox v. Orioles

The Sox had righty Lynn McGlothen on the mound against Mike Cuellar. Cuellar was the better pitcher and would finish his season at 18-12 with a 2.57 ERA. McGlothen was no slouch, he was, however, only twenty-two and in his rookie season. He would finish the year at 8-7 with a 3.41 ERA. McGlothen was drafted by the Sox in 1968 and after a good 1972 season in AAA where he went 9-2 with a 1.92 ERA he got the call to Boston. He made his debut on June 25 and pitched well for 7 1/3 innings against the Brewers but took the loss 2-0. The Sox ended up trading him and another young pitcher, John Curtis, to the Cardinals for Diego Segui and Reggie Cleveland. McGlothen would move around a bit after that and finish his career at the age of 32. Tragically, he died at the age of 34 in a mobile home fire in Louisiana.

On this day, the Sox needed McGlothen to out pitch a guy who won the Cy Young award in 1969. No small order. This is how it played out.

The O’s took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on a Boog Powell single to left that scored Davey Johnson from third. Johnny Oates tested Evans arm in left and was nailed going from first to third.

The Sox challenged in the fourth with a single from Aparicio, a check swing excuse me single by Reggie Smith and then a Rico Petrocelli infield hit loaded the bases. Fisk flied out and Dewey strode to the plate. He laced a 2-0 pitch down the third base line. The only problem? That territory was patrolled by Brooks Robinson, the human vacuum cleaner. He stabbed the rocket and managed to force Petrocelli at second, snuffing out the Red Sox rally.

“I never could imagine that it wasn’t a hit,” said Dewey. “I drilled it.” Dewey learned the hard way, you can fire a rifle down the line toward Brooks and he would still get a glove on it.

The Sox tied the game in the sixth on a two out single by Fisk that knocked in Reggie Smith.

Then, in the bottom of the frame, the O’s answered right back on a Bobby Grich blast to edge ahead 2-1. Cuellar set down the side in order in the seventh and the eighth.

Cuellar took the mound in the ninth and promptly got Fisk to ground out. Dewey then slapped a single to center and Doug Griffin followed with a single of his own. With runners at first and second and one down, Kasko sent Bob Montgomery to the plate. Monty had earlier in the month smashed a game winning homer off Sparky Lyle to beat the Yankees. I imagine Kasko sent him up hoping for some similar heroics. Monty tried. He smoked a shot toward center but it bounced once and ended up in the glove of shortstop Bobby Grich, who flipped the ball to Davey Johnson to start a game ending double play. The Sox lead was down to a half game.

This meant that whichever team won two of the next three games in the Detroit would be the division champ. And, the Tigers had their ace Mickey Lolich waiting. The Red Sox would turn to John Curtis.

One final note, on this day, Nina Kuscsik won the second NYC women’s marathon in 3:08:41.

 

 

 

 

Baseball 101 – September 30, 1972

Saturday, September 30, 1972: 

Before games are played this day, this is where the teams stood.

  1. Boston   84-67     –
  2. Detroit    83-69   1.5

Milwaukee v. Detroit 

The Tigers sent Joe Coleman to the mound to face off against Skip Lockwood. Coleman was a young pitcher in the middle of a terrific three year run with the Tigers. He had come to the Tigers in 1971 in one of the worst trades ever made by the Washington Senators. Afer the trade, this is what he did for the next three years with the Tigers:

  • 1971 – 20-9 with a 3.15 ERA
  • 1972 – 19-14 with a 2.80 ERA
  • 1973 – 23-15 with a 3.53 ERA

He tossed 280+ innings each of those three years encompassing his age 24-26 seasons.  He would slowly drop off after that and would be out of baseball at age 32 but really a shell of himself by age 28. This is another sad story of a stud young pitcher who, for whatever reason, flames out. Too many inning pitched? Bad luck? Bad genes? Anyway, it worked out for the Tigers for three years.

The Senators were not so lucky. They got Denny McLain in the deal. Now, McLain had been a great pitcher in 1968 and 1969 when he won 31 and 24 games. You read that right, he won 31 games in 1968, the last pitcher to win 30 games. McLain was a gifted pitcher for those two years ,but then his life went awry.

In 1970, Sports Illustrated published a story about McLain’s involvement with bookmaking activities. He was suspended for the first three months of the 1970 season by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. When he returned to the Tigers he did not pitch well and things continued to spiral downward. He would receive another suspension, this of the seven day variety for dumping a bucket of water on two Detroit sportswriters.  Then, when that suspsenion was up he was suspended for the rest of the season for carrying a gun on a team flight.  Sounds like trouble, doesn’t it?

On top of that, McLain, despite being the Tigers first $100,000 player, filed for bankruptcy. Despite all this baggage, the Senators figured they’d take a flyer on McLain and “buy low” as they say.  Unfortunatley for them it wasn’t really a buy low situation for the cost was one of their best young pitchers, far from a low cost. As Bowie Kuhn would later say, he thought it was a “foolish gamble.” On top of that, Senators manager Ted Williams, yep that Ted Williams, wanted nothing to do with McLain and his high living lifestyle. McLain spent the 1971 season feuding with Williams, trying to get him fired. He was a shell of himself and would go 10-22 with a 4.28 ERA for the Senators. He would be traded away the next year.

Fortunately for the Tigers, Coleman was no Denny McLain. A bit of background on Coleman. He grew up in Natick, MA. His father, Joe Coleman Sr., pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics for many years, finishing with a 52-76, 4.38 record.  Coleman  was the third overall pick by the Senators in the 1965 draft and was sent immediately to AA, where he struggled. But, the Senators still gave him a September call up. Coleman was all of 18 years old. As often happens, he surprised the world by promptly winning his first two starts, both complete game victories. He did not pitch again in the majors again until the end of the 1966 season. He then threw another complete game, beating the Sox 3-2. He was 19 and had won his first three major league starts, all complete games.* His whole life was spread out in front of him. I’m sure he could see the stardom in his future. Great things were possible. But, it  didn’t turn out that way for him.  While still pretty good through his age 26 season, he just didn’t make it to the superstar level. He had three great years and then not much else. This happens all too often. It is so hard to be a great ballplayer for an extended period of time.

*There have been only six pitchers that started their careers with 3 straight complete game wins. Coleman was the only one under the age of 20.

  1. John Whitehead
  2. Stu Miller
  3. Juan Marichal
  4. Dave Ferriss
  5. Joe Coleman
  6. Craig Chamberlain

In 1972, Coleman wasn’t even the best pitcher on his team. He played second fiddle to staff ace Mickey Lolich. This is evidenced by the fact that the Tiger rotation was set up so that Lolich would pitch the first game of the Boston series. Despite being the number two man, Coleman was a key figure for the Tigers and got the ball in the middle game of the Brewer series. And, importantly, he’d be the starter for the final game of the Boston series – the final game of the season for one of the two teams.

HIs opponent on this day was Skip Lockwood, another 25 year old but not quite of the same pedigree as Coleman.  Lockwood would end the year 8-15 with 3.60 ERA. His ERA+ was 84 so he was a below average pitcher. The Tigers made quick work of Lockwood, knocking him out in the first inning after he retired only two batters.  The killer blow was a three run homer by Tiger shortstop Ed Brinkman which put the Tigers up 6-0.  The Brewers clawed back a bit, scoring two in the 8th to close the gap to 8-4 but the Tigers were having none of this comeback stuff and rudely sent the Brewers on their way by scoring five runs in the bottom of the 8th to complete a 13-4 drubbing.  The Brewers did not put up much of a fight the first two games of this series, allowing 12 and 13 runs.

Sox fans could only hope that the Sunday finale would turn out better. The Tigers had tapped John Hiller as the series finale starter. Hiller had suffered a heart attack in 1971 and had not made the team out of spring training. Hiller started the 1972 season as a batting practice pitcher. He was recalled in July and had appeared in 22 games, making two other spot starts. Starts that lasted three and four innings each. Hiller had pitched well, but it looked as if the Tigers would need to get into their bullpen before the Sox series and tire some guys out. Sox fans were rooting for a Brewers offensive awakening.

On a final note, this Tigers win eliminated the Yankees from the pennant race.

Meanwhile ….

Boston v. Baltimore

Marty Pattin v. Pat Dobson

Another good pitching matchup. Dobson went 20-8 the year before. What was remarkable about that year was the three other Orioles who won 20+ games as well: Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally. That was a pitching staff. One of only two teams to have four twenty game winners.* In 1972, Dobson wasn’t that much different a pitcher than he was in 1971, but his record was worse. He ended the 1972 season at 16-18. His ’72 ERA+ was identical to ’71, his WHIP was lower, he allowed fewer hits per 9 innings, allowed fewer homers per nine. He walked a tad more per nine and struck out a tad less, but overall, he was pretty much the same pitcher. As many numbers people argue, wins shouldn’t be how we value a pitcher. Pat Dobson ’72 v. Pat Dobson ’71 is a prime example of this.

*The other? The 1920 White Sox.

The game started off on the right foot, or should I say, the left bat of Yaz, who clubbed a single to center to drive in Tommy Harper who had singled and stolen second to start the game. The O’s did not get to Pattin until the third. Light hitting Mark Belanger singled to left and Dobson bunted him to second. With two outs, Paul Blair lined a single to right and the speedy Belanger came in ahead of the throw from Reggie Smith in right. I guess Dewey had not by this point in his rookie year found his way into his rightful outfield spot.

The Sox came right back in the top of the fourth. Reggie Smith singled and stole second, Rico Petrocelli singled softly to right and Smith moved to third.  Fisk was walked and up came Dewey with the bases loaded and nobody out. Dewey grounded into a double play but Reggie Smith managed to score from third. That was all the Sox could eke out from the bases loaded situation. The game remained a tense one for Sox fans.

In the top of the 8th, Dobson was replaced by Grant Jackson, a decent lefty who had a productive 18 year career. Jackson was brought on to face Yaz and the switch hitting Reggie Smith. The move backfired. Yaz worked the count to 2-2. Jackson threw him a curveball that Yaz nearly chased but held up. The home plate umpire, Jim Odom, indicated that Yaz had indeed  checked his swing. Earl Weaver erupted from the bench. Spit flew as he went into a tirade with Odom. When Odom refused to consult with the third base umpire, Earl lost it and got himself tossed. Wouldn’t you know it, but the next pitch was a grooved fastball from Jackson and Yaz took it deep into the night to give the Sox a 3-1 lead.  Phew, time to breath easy Sox fans. But no, the excitement was not over.

Pattin started the ninth by giving up a hit to Brooks Robinson, who was replaced by pinch runner Al Bumbry. Bumbry was in his rookie season and had only been called up earlier that month. Just two years earlier, Bumbry was in Vietnam. While in college he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corp so that he would be assured of finishing school before being drafted to go to Vietnam. After his return from Vietnam, he started his baseball career but admitted it did not have the same significance to him after his war experience. On a more mundane note, he was known as the “fastest player in Oriole history.” His speed would get him in trouble this game.

Pattin then walked Bobby Grich and that was the end of his evening.  Two on and nobody out and only up by two. Ouch. Eddie Kasko, the Sox manager, called for Bob Veale to come on in relief. Veale got Johnny Oates to foul out on his third bunt attempt. One down. I must suggest here that Weaver must have been irate at the decision to have Oates sacrfice. Weaver hated giving up outs.  Next up was Davey Johnson*, pinch hitting for Mark Belanger.

*Oddly, both Oates and Johnson would go on to manage in the big leagues. And, both managed the Orioles for a time. Oates from 1991-1994 and Johnson from 1996-1997.

Johnson got behind in the count 1-2. Veale threw a strike over the inside part of the plate, and as he wound up, Bumbry broke for third.

“I was surprised,” said Rico Petrocelli the third baseman. As if in harmony, Fisk added, “I was surprised.” Surprised or not, Johnson was out on a called third strike (out number two) and Fisk took a short step to his right to get a good angle for his throw and to avoid Johnson. Fisk fired and Petrocelli received the ball knee high. “Perfect. I took the ball and swept it around and had the guy by a little bit. It was some throw and I’ve never seen a game end that way in my whole life,” said Petrocelli.

Another win for the Sox. They had managed to keep their meager 1.5 game lead over the Tigers. One more game with the O’s before heading of to Detroit. Up next, though, another tough O’s pitcher, Mike Cuellar, the Cy Young winner in 1969 and winner of 20+ games each of the previous three seasons.

A final note, Clemente got his 3,000th hit this day.

Tomorrow – Sunday, October 1, 1972.

Baseball 101 – September 29, 1972

I’ve been meaning to talk about the 1973 Red Sox but seem to get sidetracked. I’ll admit to an immediate sidetracking today. We are going to talk about the end of the 1972 season, the one where the Sox played 1 fewer game than the Tigers and finished a half a game out of first place. I suggested earlier that the Sox should have been able to make up that missing game. Maybe so, but as we shall see, the Sox had their chance to claim the division the final week of the ’72 season and could not come through.

To end the 1972 season, the Sox played two three game series, one against the Orioles and one against the Tigers. Yep, they ended their season against the eventual champion Tigers in Detroit. To show you what a big deal this final week was, the Sox owner Tom Yawkey, for the first time in twenty-two years, accompanied the team on the road trip to Baltimore and Detroit. The last time Yawkey saw the Sox in an away game was during the 1967 World Series and before that in 1950 when he flew to Detroit to fire manager Joe McCarthy.

A little more stage setting. In mid June the Tigers were battling with the Orioles for the top spot in the division, the Sox were six and a half games back. The Sox, though, roared back, playing .626 ball (20 games over .500) through September 28 to pull ahead of the Tigers with a week to go.

With six games left on the schedule, the Sox held a one and a half game lead over the Tigers, who were playing the Brewers at home before hosting the Red Sox. The Sox and Tigers split a four game series the week before at Fenway and the final week was a barn burner.  Here’s how the final week went down for the Sox and the Tigers.

The Tigers were on an emotional roller coaster their two games prior to their three game series with the Brew Crew. Two nights before they beat the Yankees, coming back from a 5-1 deficit in the bottom of the eighth. They scored three in the eighth of Yankee ace reliever Sparky Lyle (a former Red Sox who was traded in 1971 to the Yankees for Danny Cater) and then two more in the ninth to beat the Yankees 6-5.

The next night, the Tigers lost to the Yankees 3-2 in 12 innings. Mikey Lolich (who would end the year at 21-14) pitched all twelve inning for the Tigers. He took a 1-0 lead into the eighth, but the Yankees pushed the tying run across with a Thurman Munson blast to left center field. Lindy McDaniel held the Tigers scoreless in the bottom of the eighth.  Then, shockingly, the Yankee reliever – McDaniel – (remember the DH wouldn’t come about until next year) took Lolich deep to put the Yankees up 2-1.  Oh, my.*

*McDaniel hit only three home runs in his career. This was his third. Surprisingly, this was not the last homer by a pitcher before the DH came along. That honor goes to Roric Harrison of the O’s  who hit one on October 3, 1972. That is Harrison’s claim to fame for he was out of baseball by the age of 28, well almost, he missed two years and returned at age 31 for a nine game stint. Harrison had pretty good power though hitting six homers in his short career. Marty Pattin hit the last pre-DH homer by a Red Sox pitcher two days before McDaniel’s shot. It didn’t help the Sox, they lost to the Brewers 6-4. Sox pitchers hit 4 homers in 1972. Two by Pattin, one by Bill Lee and one by Sonny Siebert. In case you ever get some bizarre baseball quiz on this minutae you can thank me later.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the Tigers down one run, Kaline singled to center and then Tiger catcher Duke Sims (a lifetime .239 hitter but in 1972 he hit a career high .316 in limited playing time) grounded a single to right fielder Rusty Torres, who threw the ball away trying to toss Kaline out at third, allowing Kaline to score the tying run. Back and forth the teams would go. Until, with one out in the top of the 12th, Roy White belted a home run to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Sparky Lyle survived a first and third two out jam by striking out the final Tiger.

After that, the Tigers had little time to recover before facing off with the Brewers, who were just playing out the string. The Brewers were in last place, twenty-one games back. The stage is now set.

Friday, September 29, 1972:

Brewers v. Tigers 

The Tigers sent Woodie Fryman to the hill against now Brewer but former Sox star Jim Londborg.*

*Londborg, along with George “Boomer” Scott and others, was traded away by the Sox after the 1971 season to the Brewers for Tommy Harper and Marty Pattin. The trade was about even for the 1972 season. After that, it was arguably a loss for the Sox. In 1972, Londborg went 14-12 with a 2.83 ERA for the Brewers, The Boomer smacked 20 HRs, drove in 88 and had a slash line of .266/.321/.426. For the Sox, Pattin was 17-13 with a 3.24 ERA. Danny Cater (part of the Sparky Lyle trade) would man first for the Sox and hit 8 homers, drive in 39 and have a slash line of .237/.270/.372. He’d lose his job when Evans came up and Yaz took over first. Harper hit lead off for all but ten games, played centerfield and hit .254/.341/.388 with 14 homers and 25 stolen bases. I generously say this was a wash. Arguably, it was a bad trade for the Sox.

An afternoon rain fell in Detroit so neither team got batting practice before the game. That didn’t seem to bother the Tigers who erupted for three runs in the first, a run in the second and seven in the third. After the game, Tiger manager Billy Martin expressed some disgust with the Brewers. He was peeved that the Brewers had not pitched Londborg against the Red Sox, instead holding him back for the Tiger series.

“I guess that’s why we hit him so bad, because they saved him for us,” said Martin.

Londborg had his shortest outing of the year. He’d make one more start, against the Yankees, and would pitch a complete game 3 hit shutout. If only he’d done that against the Tigers.

Red Sox v. Orioles

In Baltimore, the Sox had Luis Tiant facing off against Jim Palmer. Ace against Ace. Both pitchers would be stellar this evening, going 10 innings each with Tiant pulling off the win in a stirring 4-2 triumph.  The loss would eliminate the O’s, the defending league champion each of the previous three seasons.

Tiant would end the season at 15-6 with a league leading 1.91 ERA. Palmer would finish out the ’72 campaign at 21-10 with a 2.07 ERA.  Tiant would finish 6th in Cy Young voting and Palmer 5th. Gaylord Perry for the Indians would eke out a win over Wilbur Wood for the Cy Young award. Both pitchers won 24 games that year but Perry’s 1.92 ERA was just a tad better then Wood’s 2.51 ERA.

Back to the game. Both teams scored in the first. Luis Aparicio homered off Palmer and in the bottom of the first Boog Powell doubled in Paul Blair, who was on base due to a botched double play grounder by Rico Petrocelli.

The O’s took a 2-1 lead in the sixth on a homer by Powell, that landed just out of the reach of Tommy Harper, who said, “I just did miss that thing.”

The Sox came right back in the seventh with a single by Carlton Fisk, a single by Dewey and then a double by Doug Griffin drove in Fisk. Tiant batted with two outs and lifted a pop fly to Belanger at short. The game would stayed tied at 2-2 until the top of the tenth.

With Palmer still on the mound, Tommy Harper laced a double to left center and moved over to third on the second out of the inning, a grounder by Aparicio to second.  Up came Yaz. Earl Weaver went to the mound to talk with Palmer.

“You want to walk him?” asked Weaver.

“No, I’ll pitch him high and outside,” said Palmer.

Indeed. With Weaver’s love of numbers you’d think he know that Yaz was on fire in September. Up to that point he’d launched 6 homers, driven in 20, and raised his batting average from .254 to .263. He was in a Yaz Zone. So, it should have come as no surprise when he took Palmer deep to left center. Paul Blair the O’s centerfield whiz raced back, timed his leap and just missed the ball. “I just felt it hit the end of my fingers,” said Blair after the game. The Sox went up 4-2.

Tiant took the mound in the bottom of the tenth, something you’d never see today. The inning would prove uneventful with a fly out, a strikeout and a ground out to second.  The Sox held serve and stayed a game and a half ahead of the Tigers. Tiant would go 11-1 from August until the end of the season. That one loss (spoiler alert)  would come four days later and end the Sox hopes for a title. But, there’s a lot to go before we get there.

Tomorrow – September 30, 1972.

Baseball 101 – More about 1973

We talked a bit about 1973, but lets get a bit more specific about the Red Sox in 1973. Well, that’s my plan at least. As you’ll see, I went awry again.

Big picture? They Sox finished second to the O’s, eight games back with a record of 89-73. The Sox played well against the O’s going 11-7 on the season. In April and May, the race was a tight one with all the AL East teams within six games of each other through the end of May. The Yankees had torrid June, going 19-10. From the second half of a double header on June 17 to the end of another double header on July 1, the Yankees went 13-3 and from 1.5 games behind to 4 games up. But, then the Sox came to Yankee stadium for a five game series (the teams were making one game up from an earlier rainout).

The teams split the first two games. The Sox, behind Ray Culp, Roger Moret and Bill Lee swept the final three games, 2-1, 1-0 and 9-4. The Yankees lead was down to 1.5 games, a tiny lead they would hold until they arrived in Boston for a four game series from July 30 to August 2. The Sox took three of four and the Bronx Bombers quickly fall out of the race. By the end of August, the Yankees were 9.5 games behind the O’s, thanks to a 9-18 record for the month.

The Orioles on the other hand, started slowly and picked up steam in June and July. In August they put the division to rest. On August 11 they lost to the Royals 9-4. They would not lose again until August 28 – a 14 game win streak that took them from 1.5 games behind to 5 games up. They never looked back. The O’s would fall though to the A’s in the AL Championship series.

The O’s, under their manager Earl Weaver, were known for good pitching and hitting the long ball. Weaver, who wrote a book on baseball strategy entitled “Weaver on Strategy” famously said “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Many people who think of baseball by the numbers appreciated Weaver way before the old time baseball people did. Tom Verducci, a bit over the top in this quote, explained it:

“Weaver was the Copernicus of baseball. Just as Copernicus understood heliocentric cosmology a full century before the invention of the telescope, Weaver understood smart baseball a generation before it was empirically demonstrated.”

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say Weaver = Copernicus, but you get the point. He was ahead of his time. He eschewed bunting and sacrificing. He hated giving up outs. And he, despite being a short guy, he was a mean cuss. Or maybe because he was a short guy he was a mean cuss. Ask Napoleon. “On my tombstone just write, ‘The sorest loser that ever lived.'” But, Weaver was also humble in an ornery way. “The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won’t hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game.”

I love quotes from managers. It’s like they don’t have a lot to do during the game but come up with quips about life, baseball, and whatever else comes to mind while dealing with keeping the twenty-five personalities that have to survive a 162 game season together and pulling as one. I can’t imagine how hard that is, what with answering baseball reporters questions and keeping players’ feelings from getting hurt. A tough job.

I’m not even sure the players need to respect the manager’s baseball pedigree for the manager to be successful. Most managers stunk at the game. Jim Palmer, one of Weaver’s best pitchers and a Hall of Famer said “the only thing Earl knows about big-league pitching is that he couldn’t hit it.” Quite an insult, but Palmer and Weaver, despite much publicized friction, had a long and rewarding relationship. They even wrote a book together – as I think I mentioned in my Jim Palmer post – Together We Were Eleven Foot Nine.

Palmer still gets choked up when he thinks about Weaver. Here is a wonderful story from the Baltimore Sun that Palmer tells to people about Weaver. One day in spring training, Weaver was sitting beside a young Mike Flanagan (a pitcher for the O’s who was just getting started with his career when this story is told). Palmer had just finished pitching five innings in a spring game and Palmer was out running sprints in the outfiled.

“You see that guy out there,” Weaver said.

“You mean Palmer,” Flanagan replied.

“Just do what he does and you’ll be fine.”

Sage advice, but that’s only half the story. Palmer ran into Weaver at one of the Hall of Fame induction weekends in Cooperstown, N.Y. a few years ago and recounted that anecdote, which Flanagan had shared with him during their many seasons together.

“I told Earl the story,” Palmer said. “I told him, ‘One of the biggest compliments you ever paid me was what you told Mike Flanagan.’ He said, ‘I didn’t just tell Mike Flanagan. I told everybody.'”

That’s what good managers do. They irk you but you love them. Unfortunately, managers have a hard time staying a successful manager. Maybe it has to do with age and relating to the players, maybe it’s about perspective and youth, maybe its about just being lucky and having a good team. Who knows. I do know that Weaver was done managing at the age of 55. Since I sit at 50, that doesn’t seem to old. But, when I think about trying to relate to 20 somethings, it seems very old. Or maybe its about shelf life. You get stale after a while with the same team.

Terry Francona held the Sox together for eight years before his time ran out. How long will John Farrell last? Lets hope he has a Francona like run with the Sox winning 90 or more games in six out of eight years. That would be a good run.

As usual, not much about what I wanted to talk about – the ’73 Sox. Maybe next time.

Baseball 101 – 1973, the DH and Paul Molitor.

For those of you born in the 80s or 90s or heaven forbid in the 21st century, you probably don’t have any idea that before 1973 there existed only one set of rules for baseball. These rules applied to both the American League and the National League. That is until 1973.

Now, 1973 and the few years before were not the first time the DH was discussed by baseball. Rumor has it that Cornelius McGillicuddy, Sr. (aka Connie Mack), the part-owner and manager for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-1954, brought up the idea of the DH around 1906 because he was tired of watching his pitchers flail around, looking pathetic. Nothing came of it though. The real push for the DH came from Charlie Finley, owner of the A’s (you’ll recall mention of him in the Catfish Hunter post). It is somewhat ironic that it was Athletics owners who pushed for the DH.  Finley managed to push the rule change through in the AL in January of 1973. The NL held off.

The first game in which a DH came to bat was on April 6, 1973. The Red Sox hosted the Yankees at Fenway Park and, my daughter’s new favorite pitcher, Luis Tiant faced off against Ron Bloomberg in the top of the first. Luis was struggling to get through the first. He allowed a lead off single that was then erased by a double play. But, then he gave up a double to Matty Alou, walked Bobby Murcer and then walked Greg Nettles to load the bases with two out.  That brought up Ron Bloomberg, the first DH in a major league game. Tiant walked Bloomberg to force in the first run of the game. Bloomberg got the first AB, walk and rbi as a DH. Luis then gave up a two run double to Felipe Alou (Matty’s brother … they had one other brother in the big leagues named Jesus … back in 1963 all three played in a game for the San Francisco Giants). Fortunately, that was it in the first for the Yankees. The Sox would end up trouncing the Yankees. They would score one in the first, four in the second, three in the third and four in the fourth en route to a 15-5 shellacking. Tiant would pitch a complete game. For the season, Tiant would go 20-13 with a 3.34 ERA and would lead the league in WHIP -1.085 – and have an ERA+ of 120.

Other notable DHs that day were Orlando Cepeda (for the Red Sox), Tony Oliva, and Gates Brown. The DH is something that most fans now just take as a given in AL parks. Despite the increase in hitting and attendance the AL received in 1973, the NL did not pass the DH and has not even voted on adopting the DH since 1980. I expect that debate is pretty much dead. Fans now expect both leagues to be different.

Most career HR as a DH:

  1. David Ortiz – 381
  2. Frank Thomas – 269
  3. Edgar Martinez – 243
  4. Harold Baines – 236
  5. Don Baylor – 219

Most career games as a DH:

  1. Harold Baines – 1643
  2. David Ortiz – 1622
  3. Hal McRae – 1426
  4. Edgar Martinez – 1403
  5. Frank Thomas – 1310

How many Hall of Famers are there with more then 1,000 ABs as a DH, you ask? Two. Frank Thomas, who will be inducted this summer, and Paul Molitor, inducted in 2004.

Paul Molitor is an interesting case. He was a jack of all trades. He played some first base (196 games), second base (396 games), third base (788 games), shortstop (57 games), and outfield (52 games). I always thought of him as a third baseman or first baseman. But, really, he was a DH. When I looked it up I was surprised to see that he played 1,171 games at DH. I am stunned by that. You always think of DHs as guys who really could not field or at least struggled in the field and were slow footed – think David Ortiz, Frank Thomas or Harold Baines. Molitor was nothing like that. He was smooth and fleet of foot. In fact, Molitor stole the most bases by a DH – 167. Don Baylor was a distant second with 81.

Molitor appreciated the DH. “Probably more than any player in the last 20 years, I have reaped benefits from the DH rule,” he said to Tim Kurkjian in a Sports Illustrated interview in 1996. But, it’s not like he was a slacker. He was a ball player who settled into the DH role after years in the field. “Maybe I incurred some injuries because I played so many positions,” he says. “You know, learning a new position, the change in throws. I wasn’t a Gold Glover, but I was decent defensively.” Indeed. I have no memory of Molitor as a below average fielder. Molitor finished his career with 3,319 hits, a magic mark for Hall of Fame admittance.

As I said in an earlier post (I think it was in my Roberto Clemente post) there have only been 25 guys to get 3,000 hits in the history of the game. They are all in the Hall of Fame except for Pete Rose (lifetime suspension for gambling), Craig Biggio (just barely missed this past year … some suggestion of steroid use but may likely get in next year) and Rafael Palmeiro (suspected of steroid use and thus may never get in) and Derek Jeter (still active).

Back to 1973.

Some odd things happened this year. Well, not some, but at least one. To start things off, George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees for $10 million dollars from CBS. Can you believe that?  10 million dollars? Oh, to have Marty McFly’s book and to go back in time. The Royals opened their new stadium and Roberto Clemente’s jersey was retired. There were five no hitters thrown that year. Steve Busby was the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter without coming to bat – remember, it’s the first year of the DH. Nolan Ryan threw two (he would throw seven in his career), Jim Bibby and Phil Neikro threw the others.

The Orioles would beat out the Sox for the division title, but would lose to the A’s in the AL Championship Series. The A’s would beat the Reds for their second of three straight World Series titles.

But, the oddest thing of the 1973 season happened that spring. Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich came to Yankees spring training and announced they had traded families. Yep, wives, two children each and even the family dogs. At some point during the 1972 season, Mike Kekich fell for Marilyn Peterson, and Fritz Peterson fell for Susanne Kekich.

“We didn’t do anything sneaky or lecherous,” said Susanne. “There isn’t anything smutty about this. … But you have to admit there are some funny aspects.”

Yep, some funny aspects. I’d agree with that assessment. How did it turn out? Fritz and Susanne lived happily ever after. Not so, Mike and Marilyn. They split after only a couple of months together. Can you imagine if that story came out today? There would be news trucks following the couples around 24/7 and they would probably have their own reality TV show.  We already have one called Wife Swap, I think, so it couldn’t be that. Jock Swap? Reverse Brady Bunch? Family Ties? You Start, I’ll Relieve? Oh, the fun we would have.

Who’d a thunk it.