June 2005

From The Little Town to the Big Apple

I spend most of my time in Cooperstown, where I’ve lived since 1996. It’s a small town of 2,500 fulltime residents, so it’s always a bit of culture shock when my wife and I make the four-hour trek to New York City–the largest city in North America (and probably the world, but I’m terrible at questions of geography).

We’ll be heading down to Manhattan this morning to take part in an evening booksigning for Tales From The Mets Dugout at the Mid-Manhattan Library, located on 455 Fifth Avenue. Most of the signings I participate in take place at large bookstore chains, so doing a library signing will be a nice change-of-pace. The signing will begin at 6:30 pm, and will feature a reading of a few selections from Tales From The Mets Dugout. If you have a chance, stop by and say hi; you don’t even have to buy a book.

And for those who frequent the Baseball Primer website, there’s a possibility that the legendary "Repoz" (in real life, he’s baseball expert Darren Viola) will be making an appearance. Darren is a terrific historian of baseball, both in terms of the larger issues and the smallest details. I’ll try to get Darren to give a short talk–just as an added bonus!

We hope to see you there.

The Death of “Dick” Dietz

Former major leaguer “Dick” Dietz died on Monday night. While his name might not be familiar to younger generations of fans, he was certainly a recognizable player to those who grew up with baseball in the 1960s and seventies. For one season, Dietz was just about the best catcher in the National League–playing at a level that put him in company with a Hall of Famer named Johnny Bench.

In 1970, Dietz batted an even .300 for the San Francisco Giants while compiling 22 home runs, 109 RBIs, and 84 runs scored. Even more impressively, Dietz drew 104 walks, a remarkable total for a catcher, who generally plays fewer games than most other position players. Although Dietz’ home run and RBI totals didn’t come close to matching those of Bench, his high walk total gave him a remarkable on-base percentage of .430–a 79-point advantage over Bench (.351.) On the way to producing such numbers, Dietz earned a berth in the All-Star Game and came off the bench to hit a home run for the National League stars.

So why is it that Dietz didn’t become a household name? Unfortunately, he never came close to matching his 1970 numbers again. After a respectable 1971 season, Dietz was surprisingly sold on waivers to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers during the spring of 1972. The reason? As the Giants’ player representative during the strike of ’72, Dietz had drawn the wrath of San Francisco management.

Shortly after joining the Dodgers, Dietz suffered a broken finger and missed most of the 1972 season. By then, Dietz’ days as an everyday player had come to an end. Dietz then moved on to the Atlanta Braves, where he became a valuable member of the team’s vaunted “F-Troop” bench brigade. And then, after a productive offensive season in 1973, when he compiled a .479 on-base percentage in a backup role, Dietz never again played in the major leagues. Believing that he still had ample ability to hit the ball, Dietz felt that major league teams had colluded against him because of his active involvement with the Players’ Association.

Although Dietz was only 32, his career was over–just three years after his All-Star season, which had come at the tender age of 28. Sadly, such rapid declines are not uncommon for catchers, who are subject to more physical wear and tear to their bodies than any other position players. It’s quite likely that Dietz’ extreme workload in 1970 and 1971 contributed to his lack of longevity. After playing in a staggering 148 games in ’70 and another 142 games in ’71, Dietz’ physical skills eroded from overuse.

During his playing days, Dietz sported a solid six-foot, one-inch, 185-pound frame. After his playing career, Dietz fell victim to a condition that plagues too many former players, He became extremely overweight, which may have contributed to the June 27th heart attack that took his life at the age of 63.

Much like his playing days, Dietz’ life was far too short. Let’s hope that doesn’t make him a forgotten man. Baseball fans should remember that for one season, “Dick” Dietz was pretty much the equal of Johnny Bench.

Card Corner–Luis Tiant

Card Corner

Luis Tiant is probably best remembered for making bad hot dog commercials and smoking cigars, throwing with a corkscrew pitching motion, and emerging as the emotional leader of the Boston Red Sox’ pennant-winning staff of 1975. It seems that his days as a member of the Cleveland Indians have been forgotten in the mist of our memories, but it was with the Tribe that Tiant actually originated his whirling dervish motion on his way to a career that borders on Hall of Fame worthiness.

Tiant’s first Topps card was issued in 1965, the spring after the Indians made him a mid-season call-up. In donning those wonderful red and white sleeveless Indians flannels, Tiant fulfilled a dream of playing in the big leagues, a goal that inspired him more than most; he felt particularly motivated after his equally talented father was denied major league entry because of the darkened color of his skin. As a rookie in 1964, the younger Tiant won 10 of 16 decisions and posted a 2.83 ERA. The following year, he hurled three shutouts and became a fulltime member of the Cleveland rotation. Tiant remained a solid No. 2 starter for the Indians until 1968, when he vaulted himself into the elite class of American League pitchers. Achieving one of his first tastes of national stardom, Tiant was featured on the cover of The Sporting News, the renowned "Bible of Baseball." Although the summer of ’68 became known as the "Year of the Pitcher," Tiant’s numbers transcended the context of the era. Tiant held opposing hitters to a .168 batting average while allowing just under 5.3 hits per game. Even in the dead ball era, those numbers would have been pretty good.

Not coincidentally, the 1968 season also marked the unveiling of Tiant’s distinctive delivery. Debuting the new motion against the California Angels, he first began to use his trademark pirouette windup, replete with exaggerated hesitations, body spins, and bobblehead movements. Tiant began to incorporate the strange delivery more and more often, making it a regular part of his already diverse pitching repertoire. On days when his fastball and various breaking balls lacked their usual snap, an innovative Tiant found himself turning to an even wider array of his unusual wind-ups and deliveries, fully replete with spinning torso, head-turning bobs, and assorted other machinations.

Though it’s hard to say with any certainty, Tiant’s unusual motion may have also contributed to an injury that nearly ended his career. After being traded to the Minnesota Twins and starting the 1970 season with six consecutive wins, Tiant broke his shoulder blade while making a May 28th start against the Milwaukee Brewers. According to Tiant, the doctor claimed that he had never seen such an injury experienced by a pitcher; in fact, the doctor had examined only a broken shoulder blade suffered by a javelin thrower during his years of dealing with athletes. Missing most of the summer while recovering from the unusual injury, Tiant returned to the Twins in August, lost three of his four remaining decisions, and then struggled so badly in the spring of 1971 that he drew his unconditional release.

Only three seasons removed from a 21-win season, Tiant was now out of baseball. In April, the Atlanta Braves agreed to give Tiant a shot, but only with a minor league contract. The minor league tryout lasted about a month, ending with Tiant’s release. With two releases by two different organizations in the same season, Tiant’s career bordered on the edge of oblivion.

With the vultures circling around his seemingly damaged right arm, Tiant received a last-chance opportunity with the Red Sox, who agreed to give him a minor league deal in May. For an organization often criticized for its inability to develop pitching, the signing of Tiant would represent the deal—and the steal—of the decade. Within a month, Tiant found himself back in the major leagues. Though he won only one of eight decisions, he showed the Red Sox enough to warrant a roster spot in 1972. That year Tiant made a stunning comeback, leading the league with a 1.91 ERA while spinning a half-dozen shutouts.

By 1975, Tiant had accumulated three 20-win seasons for the Sox. Though actually a bit past his prime in ’75, he reached the pinnacle of his fame by tossing a shutout and a complete game in two of his World Series starts. In Game Four, he treated a nationwide fan base to a first-hand display of his on-the-mound gymnastics. "He jiggles his glove," Carlton Fisk told Ron Fimrite of Sports Illustrated, beginning a description of one of Tiant’s patented wind-ups. "He throws back his head, shakes his leg, twists around, and all of a sudden, here comes the ball."

By Fisk’s estimation, Tiant featured 20 different pitches as part of his complete repertoire. He threw the four standard pitches—fastball, curve, slider, and change-up—but with four variations on each pitch based on differing arm angles—over the top, three-quarters, and sidearm. And then, as Fisk proceeded to explain, there were six different speeds for both the Tiant curve ball and the Tiant change.

While many pitchers of his era relied on the intimidation that accompanied a blazing fastball or a crackling overhand curve, Tiant embraced the elements of slyness, trickery, and deception in bringing batters to their knees. And while other pitchers were more dominant, it was that histrionic motion and assortment of creative pitches that made Tiant the most entertaining moundsman of his era. No one was more captivated by the show than Tiant himself. "I enjoy pitching," Tiant once said simply. "It’s fun."

A Boon In Binghamton

I enjoyed a terrific baseball experience over the weekend. For the first time this year, I participated in a book signing at a ballpark—specifically NYSEG Stadium, home of the Double-A Binghamton Mets. (Most of the signings I’ve done for Tales From The Mets Dugout have been at bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders, so I really didn’t know what to expect in a ballpark atmosphere.) Even though the B-Mets had never before hosted a book signing at their stadium, they ran the show like veterans of a seasoned book store chain. The front office staff of the B-Mets could not have been nicer, in part because of the diligence and professionalism of general manager Scott Brown. We also owe special thanks to B-Mets intern John Trush, who stayed with my wife and I throughout the signing and made us feel welcome during our entire visit to the Binghamton ballpark. (John also informed me that he was a Dean Koontz fan and suggested that I, as a fan of horror and vampire tales, should read his book, Tick Tock.)…

Another satisfying part of our visit was the chance to talk with B-Mets broadcaster Rob Ford, who invited me to visit the booth and talk about Tales From The Mets Dugout for two innings. Formerly a broadcaster in the lower minors of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ chain, Rob is in his first season as the play-by-play man for the B-Mets. With his excellent voice, rhythmic play-by-play ability, and his solid sense of baseball history, Rob has a terrific future in the business. If there’s any justice, he’ll eventually be doing play-by-play for a major league team…

During a chat with another member of the Binghamton Mets’ front office, community relations director Nancy Wiseman, I learned about some current major leaguers who have passed through Binghamton in past years. Like everyone else, Nancy raved about the character and personality of David Wright, who managed to make an indelibly positive impression on the Binghamton community despite a relatively short stay with the Double-A team in 2004. The kind words for Wright make you want to root even harder for him to do well in the major leagues; it would be nice for the sport to have another star player with a down-to-earth ability to connect with fans. Among other former B-Mets who qualify as "good guys," the list includes Jose Reyes, the Mets’ starting shortstop at the major league level;  Heath Bell, currently a set up man for the Mets; and Tyler Walker, the bulldog closer for the Giants. I was also surprised to hear positive reviews for Grant Roberts, the troubled right-hander who has had problems with drugs and tested positive for steroid use earlier this season. Having recently re-signed with the Mets’ organization after being released during the spring, Roberts is attempting the long road back to the major leagues. Having heard such good things about Roberts, I hope that he’s learned from his mistakes and can make it back. Heck, the Mets could use the bullpen help—either now or in the near future.

The 1975 World Series–Game Four

Reliving The 1975 World Series—Thirty Years Ago

Rain, lineup changes, and high pitch counts represented just two of the themes in Game Four of the memorable 1975 World Series. As part of a continuing retrospective series, let’s take a look back at the pivotal matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

Only two hours before the scheduled start of Game Four, rain started to fall at Riverfront Stadium, resulting in the laying out of the infield tarpaulin. Fortunately, the rain stopped about an hour before gametime, giving the Riverfront Stadium grounds ample time to suction off water from the outfield turf and dry off the dirt areas surrounding each of the bases.

Facing a two-games-to-one deficit in the Series, Darrell Johnson made several lineup changes, most notably benching first baseman Cecil Cooper, who had notched only one hit through the first three games. Johnson inserted young outfielder Juan Beniquez as his starting left fielder, while moving Carl Yastrzemski from his usual post in the outfield to Cooper’s spot at first base. More importantly, Johnson turned to staff ace Luis Tiant as his starting pitcher in Game Four.

Pitching on three days’ rest, Tiant looked uncertain in the first inning. He allowed an immediate single to Pete Rose, followed by a run-scoring double off the bat of Ken Griffey. Fortunately for Tiant, Griffey foolishly tried to stretch two bases into three and found himself making the first out of the inning on a sharp relay from Fred Lynn to Rick Burleson to Rico Petrocelli. "That’s a situation where third base can’t help you. You can’t get thrown out at third with none out," Sparky Anderson told Bob Hertzel of the Cincinnati Enquirer before suddenly reversing himself, ala Casey Stengel. "But it took a perfect throw and, if he’s safe, we get another run." Yes, Sparky was sounding more and more like "Ol’ Case," to whom he had so often been compared.

Although given a second breath due to Griffey’s faulty baserunning, Tiant continued to buckle. He walked Joe Morgan and then surrendered a long opposite-field drive by Johnny Bench. Right fielder Dwight Evans, usually a brilliant defensive player, failed to dive for Bench’s blast, which missed his glove by inches. Running aggressively, Morgan scored all the way from first to give the Reds a 2-0 lead.

Tiant’s counterpart, diminutive left-hander Fred Norman, pitched more effectively in the early innings. Norman permitted a single in each of the first three innings, but allowed no Red Sox runners to score. Given Norman’s recent run of success, which included 10 wins in 11 decisions dating back to late June, the Red Sox had to be wondering about their chances of coming back.

Until the fourth inning, that is. Carlton Fisk led off with a single to left field and Fred Lynn followed with a safety to right field. With no one out, the Red Sox had one of their most experienced—and hottest—hitters at the plate. Rico Petrocelli, a participant in the 1967 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, had already collected seven hits against Cincinnati pitching.

Sensing that the end of his career was coming soon, Petrocelli wanted nothing better than to make his final World Series a fruitful one. "Yes, absolutely," says Petrocelli, one of the most well-spoken players of his generation. "I got hit in the head for the third time in ’74, right behind the ear, and it damaged my inner ear. In ’75, most of the year, I was in and out; I really had problems and I was on medication. For me, the ’75 Series was my last hurrah. In ’76, I played probably half the year, I think it was. Butch Hobson came in and played regular. And then I went to spring training in ’77 and got released at that time."

Petrocelli hoped to continue the robust hitting that he had enjoyed over the first three games against the Reds, but popped out against Norman for the inning’s first out. Still, Petrocelli and the Sox gained a reprieve when Norman unfurled a wild pitch, allowing both runners to move up. Dwight Evans took full advantage of the opportunity by lacing a two-run triple over the head of Cesar Geronimo in center field. Evans then came home on Rick Burleson’s looping double to left-center field. The Red Sox suddenly owned a 3-2 lead.

Sparky Anderson had seen enough. He pulled Norman from the game, replacing him with veteran reliever Pedro Borbon. Borbon’s first assignment seemed easy enough—the pitcher’s spot—but Luis Tiant continued to confound the Reds by lining a single to center field. Tiant’s second hit of the Series put runners on first and third, with still only one man out.

With the infield playing back for a double play possibility, newly installed leadoff man Juan Beniquez pounded a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Hurrying in an effort to start the double play, Tony Perez bobbled the ball, allowing Tiant to move to second, Beniquez to reach first, and Burleson to score from third. After retiring Denny Doyle, Borbon then allowed a clean single to Carl Yastrzemski, which gave the Red Sox a 5-2 lead.

Momentum appeared to shift completely to the side of the Red Sox when Tiant put down the first two Reds he faced in the bottom of the fourth. Yet, Tiant could not register the third out quite so easily. George Foster singled, Dave Concepcion doubled, and Cesar Geronimo tripled to put two runs on the board. With the tying run now at third, Sparky Anderson called on backup outfielder Terry Crowley to pinch-hit for Borbon. Crowley, a veteran of several playoff teams with the Baltimore Orioles, struck out against a recovering Tiant, ending the rally. The Red Sox still led, but by an uncomfortable margin of 5-4.

Relying on his fastball more than his wide repertoire of breaking pitches, which had been his staple in Game One, Tiant kept the Reds’ bats quiet over the next four innings. With the game moving to the bottom of the ninth and Tiant’s pitch-count soaring, Darrell Johnson considered a pitching change, but only briefly. "I talked to Tiant and Fisk," Johnson told The Sporting News, "and we liked the way he was pitching. He’s done it all year for us and I saw no reason to why we shouldn’t let him finish what he had started." During the regular season, Tiant had averaged about 130 pitches per start. He had already exceeded that total by the time the ninth inning began.

Leading off the ninth, Cesar Geronimo banged out his third hit of the night. Repeating the strategy that had bred controversy in Game Three, Sparky Anderson called on Ed Armbrister as his pinch-hitter—and designated bunter. As he did in the previous game, Armbrister laid down a bunt, and once again, he hesitated before running out of the batter’s box. Only this time, Armbrister bunted the ball in the direction of first base and well away from catcher Carlton Fisk. Carl Yastrzemski fielded the ball without interference and retired Armbrister, while Geronimo advanced to second base.

It was back to the top of the order for Tiant, who would have to continue to work hard to prevent the Reds from tying the game. Pitching carefully to Pete Rose, Tiant walked the dangerous leadoff man. He now faced the slightly less imposing Ken Griffey, the Reds’ hero in Game Two. Griffey lofted a drive to straightaway center field, forcing Fred Lynn to retreat from his position. As Fisk watched from behind home plate, he thought Griffey’s shot would hit the wall and score both the game-tying and game-winning runs.

Yet, Fisk didn’t realize that Lynn was stationed deeper than usual because of the rain that had fallen earlier in the day. "It was a wet field and the ball carries well in this park, so I was playing about 15 feet deeper," Lynn told The Sporting News. As Lynn so astutely observed, Griffey’s blistering ball lacked topspin, unlike other similarly hard-hit drives. "That ball didn’t sink. It just kept going."

The ball did carry well, forcing Lynn all the way to the warning track. As his feet landed on the dirt path of the track, Lynn extended both of his hands into the air, rather than employing a usual one-armed approach, which would have allowed greater extension. "I didn’t know I caught it with two hands," Lynn told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It seemed like I had a tough time getting my arms up. I guess that was why." Nonetheless, Lynn had snared the ball before it could carom off the wall. The second out of the inning, a play that bordered on the spectacular, forced Geronimo and Rose to return to their respective bases.

Tiant now prepared to face Joe Morgan, who offered a dangerous mix of patience and power at the plate. As Tiant unleashed his 163rd pitch of the night, Geronimo inexplicably broke for third. Geronimo said that he tried to signal to Morgan that he would be attempting a stolen base, but the batter did not see it. Distracted by Geronimo’s unexpected break, Morgan swung and lofted the ball weakly into the infield air. "I have a poor habit of swinging at the ball when I see someone going," Morgan informed Sports Illustrated after the game. Carl Yastrzemski, continuing to man first base for the Red Sox, called for the infield pop-up. Thanks to the clutch pitching of Tiant, the graceful excellence of Lynn in center field, and some illogical baserunning by Cincinnati, the Red Sox had escaped with a 5-4 victory and evened the Series at two games apiece. And for only the 18th time in 1975, the Reds had found a way to lose a game at Riverfront Stadium.

After the game, Sparky Anderson refused to explain whether Geronimo was following a steal sign, or simply running on his own. "That’s for you to find out," Anderson told Bob Hertzel of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I’m not giving away our secrets to Darrell Johnson." Whatever the source of the decision, it was an ill-timed maneuver that would have provided little benefit for the Reds.

The Rumor Mill–June 20, 2005

The Rumor Mill

When a team has exceeded expectations for two and a half months, management begins to believe in the club’s staying power. That’s exactly the scenario in Baltimore, where the Orioles’ front office is convinced that the overachieving Birds can win the American League East. The belief is so strong that the Orioles are pursuing trades for several veterans, in an effort to firm up a roster that already matches up well against the likes of the aging Yankees and the injury-plagued Red Sox… Unlike past years, the Orioles’ primary need on the trade front is NOT starting pitching. The Orioles do have some interest in Pirates right-hander Kip Wells, but they seem much more concerned about beefing up their offensive production at first base and in the outfield… Preston Wilson will probably never lead the league in RBIs, as he did in 2003, but he continues to lead both leagues in trade rumors this spring. One of the interested suitors remains the Orioles, who wouldn’t mind placing Mookie Wilson’s stepson into their center field gap, sandwiched between Larry Bigbie in left and Sammy Sosa in right… The Orioles have also talked to the Royals about Mike Sweeney, who would increase Baltimore’s production at first base while possibly forcing Rafael Palmeiro into a bench role—or early retirement… Palmeiro could remain in the Orioles’ plans if they include Jay Gibbons in any of the aforementioned deals. Gibbons is only 28, making him one of the Orioles’ few trading chips who isn’t a minor league prospect…

Confident that Curt Schilling will be able to return circa the All-Star break, the Red Sox have targeted bullpen help as their No. 1 need for the second half. According to recent reports, the Sox have shown interest in Cincinnati’s David Weathers and Milwaukee’s Ricky Bottalico, but both are mediocre at best and not likely to give the Sox a quality bridge to Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke in the late innings. If the Red Sox are serious about upgrading their bullpen—which was the team’s standout strength in last year’s four-game comeback against the Yankees—they’ll take a harder look at the Pirates’ Jose Mesa or the Marlins’ Guillermo Mota. And while a veteran reliever might be preferred for the stretch run, the Red Sox believe that one of their recent No. 1 draft choices, Craig Hansen, can make the jump to the major leagues by August. The biggest obstacle may be Hansen’s agent, Scott Boras—enough said there… Jay Payton’s unhappiness over a platoon role in Boston will probably lead to his eventual trade—and possibly to the re-signing of former Red Sox backup Gabe Kapler. Unhappy with his first-year experiences in the Japanese Leagues, Kapler is seeking a buyout of his contract and a return to the major leagues. Kapler will then have to choose between a backup role with the Red Sox, or an everyday job with a team looking for veteran outfield help, like the Braves or the Yankees…

There’s a published report that the Yankees have approached the A’s about Mark Kotsay as the answer to their center field woes, but it’s hard to believe that Brian Cashman will give up his two best prospects, infielder Eric Duncan and pitcher Philip Hughes. In fact, it’s conceivable that Cashman will balk at giving up either of his prized minor leaguers for Kotsay, who’s a very good player but is already 30 and can’t be expected to raise his stature to that of an All-Star. The Yankees may try to entice the A’s with two lesser prospects—center fielder Melky Cabrera and infielder/outfielder Bronson Sardinha.

The 1975 World Series–Game Three

With the Series shifting to Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium—also a good hitter’s park—some observers wondered not so much about the long ball, but whether a lack of team speed might hurt the Red Sox. Darrell Johnson admitted that his outfielders would have to play deeper in the more spacious Riverfront, but he didn’t seem concerned about the adjustment to the slicker, faster artificial turf. "If it tests our speed, it will also test the Reds’ outfield speed,"Johnson informed Bob Hertzel of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "A good player can play in a brick yard. It doesn’t matter what the surface is."

The Riverfront surface played no special role in the first few frames of Game Three. The Series’ unlikely home run drought finally ended in the second inning, when Carlton Fisk lofted a second-inning curveball from Gary Nolan into the outfield seats at Riverfront Stadium. The Reds stormed back in the fourth, aided also by the long ball. Johnny Bench ripped a two-run shot against Rick Wise, who had thrown a no-hitter at Riverfront in 1971eas, to give Cincinnati the lead. The next inning, two of the unlikeliest power sources for the Reds, Dave Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo, hit back-to-back blasts against Wise, who no longer resembled the pitcher that had so dominated the Reds four years earlier. The Reds now led, 5-1, disposing of Wise in the process.

The sudden home run theme continued in the late innings. With the Red Sox now down by three runs and the bases empty in the seventh inning, Darrell Johnson sent up Bernie Carbo, a notoriously flaky backup outfielder, as a pinch-hitter for relief pitcher Reggie Cleveland. Johnson’s decision to employ Carbo raised one of the more intriguing subplots of the Series.

Johnson had previously upset the high-strung Carbo by opting not to start him in the outfield against the Reds. Johnson, who sometimes struggled in his communications with both his players and the press—one World Series reporter termed him a "hostile witness" during sessions with the media—had apparently failed in defense of his reasoning to Carbo. Or, at least that’s what Carbo seemed to think.

Prior to Game Three, Carbo had complained to the media about his fate on the Red Sox’ bench. With the Series heading back to Cincinnati—where he had started his major league career in 1969—Carbo apparently felt it was an appropriate time for him to become Boston’s starting left fielder. He told reporters that Johnson should start him in the third game because of his success in hitting Jack Billingham in the past. Carbo’s public campaign for playing time not only angered Johnson, but also irritated the venerable Carl Yastrzemski, who had been starting in left field. Yaz didn’t like the implication that he should now have to move to first base (a position he liked less than the outfield), or to the bench, just to accommodate Carbo.

Having so brazenly sounded off about Johnson’s decision not to deploy him in the starting lineup, Carbo certainly didn’t lack for confidence. As he stepped in against Clay Carroll and readied himself for the first pitch, Carbo delivered a message to the Reds’ Johnny Bench, who was squatting behind home plate. "I wish there were two men on," Carbo whispered to Bench, "because I’d tie the score." Of all the arrogance, Bench must have thought. Just after Carroll released his first pitch to Carbo, Bench’s thought pattern must have turned to shock as he watched Carbo stroke a high drive toward left field. Such a blast of opposite-field power, as pointed out by Red Sox’ coach Johnny Pesky, typified Carbo’s approach and strength. "He wasn’t a very big guy, but he was awfully strong," says Pesky. "He was a guy who hit a lot of balls to left field, left-center, and center field." This ball, which landed well beyond the left field fence, put the Red Sox within two runs. It was now 5-3.

Still, Carbo’s blast-in-the-pinch seemed like window dressing heading into the top of the ninth inning. The Red Sox would still have to come from two runs down, a circumstance made more problematic when playing on the road. And almost impossible given the dominance of Cincinnati’s overpowering relief tandem of Will McEnaney and Rawly Eastwick.

Giving every indication that he would finish off the game quickly, McEnaney struck out Lynn to start the ninth. Sparky Anderson decided to let McEnaney face the right-handed hitting Rico Petrocelli, but the veteran of post-season wars delivered a solid single to center field. With the right-handed Dwight Evans scheduled to bat next, Anderson made another of his repeated third-game strolls to the mound and signaled for Eastwick. The move certainly made sense, both in terms of playing "righty-righty" percentages and utilizing the Reds’ closer in a game-finishing situation.

Employing a deceiving three-quarters motion and a highly mobile fastball, Eastwick often proved deadly against right-handed batters. By angling his arm in the direction of third base, he hid the ball well from the vision of most right-hand swingers. Coupled with his rising fastball, his non-standard delivery gave hitters little time to adjust to the speed and location of his pitches.

Evans had faced Eastwick only one time prior to Game Three. That was in the eighth inning of the second game, when Evans had been called out on strikes. Although Evans had lost that confrontation, it did allow him to observe both Eastwick’s delivery and his pitching pattern. Evans knew to expect high fastballs from Cincinnati’s hard-throwing closer.

In this, his second at-bat against Eastwick, Evans swung at a fastball that arrived up and in. Anticipating such a pitch, Evans not only pulled it, but also pulled it in the air. George Foster chased the fly ball toward the left field wall, then faced the barrier, realizing that he had no chance to make a play. The two-run homer—a record-tying sixth blast of the night—evened the score at 5-5. By now, Bernie Carbo’s "window-dressing" home run, almost forgotten by the start of the ninth inning, had taken on a greater state of pertinence.

Evans’ clutch hitting, combined with a scoreless bottom of the ninth inning thrown by Jim Willoughby, forced the game into extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Denny Doyle battled back from a two-strike count to squeeze out an infield single. Carl Yastrzemski followed with a deep shot toward center field, one that had all the earmarks of another two-run home run. As Cesar Geronimo raced toward the base of the wall, the topspin of the ball drove it downward. Now only a couple of feet in front of the barrier, Geronimo made a short leap and nabbed the sinking drive about halfway up the wall.

Geronimo then led off the bottom of the 10th by smashing a single to the right of Doyle’s backhand stab at second base. During Geronimo’s at-bat, veteran left-handed hitter Terry Crowley had waited his turn in the on-deck circle as the pinch-hitter for Rawly Eastwick. If Geronimo had been retired, Sparky Anderson planned to allow Crowley to bat. But no longer. Sparky now wanted to employ a sacrifice bunt. He could allow Eastwick to bat for himself and attempt the sacrifice. Or he could call upon a more experienced handler of the bat from his bench and ask him to lay down the critical bunt.

Not wanting to take chances with a novice batsman like Eastwick, Anderson selected the latter option. He called upon backup outfielder Ed Armbrister, a mere .185 hitter during the regular season but an acceptable bunter. Armbrister’s job was simple: move Geronimo to second base and allow the formidable top of Cincinnati’s order to drive home the winning run.

Squaring himself into bunting position, Armbrister nubbed the ball in front of the plate. Perhaps not realizing that he had hit the ball into fair territory, Armbrister hesitated before breaking toward first. Just as he started running, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk stepped over home plate in an effort to field the bouncing bunt. Fisk and Armbrister collided, delaying the catcher’s pursuit of the ball. Once Fisk picked up the ball, he extricated himself from Armbrister with a sturdy glove-hand shove, set himself quickly, and hurtled a throw toward second base. The ball sailed high and to the right of Rick Burleson’s fully extended arm, tipping off the edge of the shortstop’s glove and carrying into center field. Fred Lynn retrieved the ball and unfurled a strong throw to third, but Geronimo slid into third just before Rico Petrocelli’s quick tag made contact with his body. Armbrister, in spite of his late start from the plate and his momentary tangle with Fisk, settled in at second base.

Vaulting themselves from their seats in the dugout, Red Sox players and coaches screamed for an interference call on Armbrister. Fisk joined his teammates in pleading with home plate umpire Larry Barnett. "He bunted the ball, it shot right up in the air, he stood there. I had to go up for a rebound over him to get the ball, he stood right there," Fisk explained to Murray Chass of The New York Times. "He’s got to get out of my way. If he stays in the [batter’s] box, there’s no argument. But he’s in fair territory, in front of the plate… Why can’t there be [interference called]? You might as well throw a body block at the catcher, then run to first."

In watching the play develop from the opposing dugout, Johnny Bench believed that Fisk might have anticipated the call of interference as he fielded the ball. "At that particular instant, I think [Carlton] thought about the [possibility of] interference," Bench recalls. "I think more than anything, rather than reacting to the play—because Ed was still standing at home plate and [Carlton] had all the time in the world to throw it to second—and I think that for that split-second, he thought about interference. He was waiting for the call. He could make that play 990 times out of a thousand if you gave him that chance." Instant replays showed that once Fisk had pushed Armbrister aside, there was enough separation between the two of them to allow the catcher to set himself and make a strong throw. Fisk made a strong throw, but not an accurate one.

Fisk also had a chance to tag Armbrister on the play and then make the throw to second base in an effort to complete a double play. "When I did shove [Armbrister] aside, he stopped," Fisk explained to Lowell Reidenbaugh of The Sporting News, "and maybe I tagged him out, I don’t know." Television replays showed that Fisk had tagged Armbrister all right, but with his empty glove hand, and not with his bare hand, which cradled the baseball.

If Fisk had tagged Armbrister properly, Geronimo still would have been allowed to advance to third, with only man out; that would have remained a tough situation for Boston. A call of interference by Barnett would have provided the Red Sox with a far better scenario: Armbrister would have been called out for obstructing Fisk—and Geronimo would have been ordered to return to first base.

Not surprisingly, Armbrister saw things far differently from Fisk and the Red Sox. "After I bunted," Armbrister told The New York Times, " I kind of watched it for just a second. As it took a high bounce, I think [Fisk] came from behind me. He reached out and hit me on the leg. He interfered with me."

Yet, Barnett didn’t see any legitimate cause for calling interference on Fisk—or, more significantly, on Armbrister. "When the ball was hit," Barnett explained after the game, "I yelled ‘Fair, fair, in play!’ Armbrister did nothing intentional to interfere with Fisk."

The question of Armbrister’s "intent" was apparently not raised by Barnett during his on-field argument with Johnson, but became a burning issue after the game. "It is only interference when the batter intentionally gets in the way of the fielder," Barnett told Ron Fimrite of Sports Illustrated—after the game. A referral to one of the sections in the Official Baseball Rules seemed to support Barnett’s rationale. According to subsection H of Rule 7.09, says interference should be called "if, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter-runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play." The rule stipulated that if the umpire deemed such interference intentional, then a double play should be called.

Yet, some members of the media questioned whether Rule No. 7.09 (H) should really be applied to a situation like the one involving Armbrister and Fisk. As legendary sportswriter Red Smith aptly noted in the October 15th edition of The New York Times, that particular rule had been put in place several years earlier as a specific response to a trick play used by Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers. On more than one occasion, Robinson had intentionally allowed batted balls to hit him between first and second base. Although the existing rules of the day obligated umpires to call Robinson out for obvious interference, the fielding team no longer had the chance to turn a double play. Since Robinson’s ploy created an unfair advantage for the offense, a new rule was created.

Therefore, perhaps Rule No. 7.09 didn’t apply to a collision between a catcher and a batter, at all. Some members of the media felt that Rule No. 6.06, which made specific mention of the catcher, should become the reference point for Armbrister-Fisk. According to that rule, a batter should be called out if he "interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base." The rule contained no stipulation that interference on the part of the batter had to be "intentional." And while Armbrister had not stepped out of the batter’s box in making contact with Fisk, he had certainly "hindered" the catcher in both fielding the ball and making the throw. Based on the interpretation of this rule, it seemed that Barnett had erred in making the call.

Yet, in reality, the umpires weren’t being governed by either of the two conflicting rules in question. "It was merely a collision," Barnett told reporters in explaining the nature of the contact between Armbrister and Fisk. Merely a collision. That was the key word in Barnett’s dictionary. According to a supplemental instructional rules book given only to major league umpires and not made available publicly—a book that helped them interpret vague or confusing rules and situations—a collision between the catcher and batter on a batted ball was to be treated as incidental to the play. "When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball," the supplemental instruction stated, "there is generally no violation and nothing should be called."

"The instructions specifically cover this play," said George Maloney, the second base umpire in Game Three, as part of a revealing interview with the Louisville Times. "[The instructions] clearly state that no call will be made involving contact between a batter and a catcher. They are saying, in essence, that both have rights: the catcher to field the ball, the runner to advance to first. It is to be treated as a collision—nothing else."

An appeal of the call to first base umpire **** Stello produced only additional support for Barnett’s call—and for Maloney’s explanation. "The batter," explained Stello, "has as much right to go to first base as the fielder has to go for the ball." End of argument. Or at least the umpires hoped so.

With Stello and Barnett holding firm on their decision, the call stood on its original platform: no one out for interference, and runners at second at third. As Sparky Anderson, in conversation with Sports Illustrated, would so aptly summarize the controversial soap opera involving Armbrister, Fisk, Barnett, and Stello: "The guys in the bars will be talking about that play until spring training." And then some.

Womack For Roberts?

Womack For Roberts?

In the often fluctuating trade market, an injury suffered by one team can sometimes help another club. That’s what the enigmatic Yankees have to be hoping in the aftermath of the recent injury suffered by the Padres, who have lost All-Star caliber second baseman Mark Loretta for eight to 10 weeks with an injured thumb. With Loretta sidelined, the Pods need a second baseman, which helps explain recent trade rumors involving the embattled Tony Womack, who was signed against Brian Cashman’s better judgment. (The Yankees’ Tampa contingent wanted Womack, but the New York faction preferred the re-signing of Miguel Cairo.) According to one hot rumor, the Padres might be willing to trade center fielder Dave Roberts, he of 2004 Red Sox’ postseason fame. If this deal is indeed on the table for the Yankees, they should jump on it before San Diego comes to its senses. Roberts is a better player than Womack in almost every sense. He is a much better outfielder than Womack, who has played most of his career as a middle infielder. He is a better and more patient hitter, one who would make a suitable No. 2 batter behind Derek Jeter in the Yankees’ underachieving lineup. He is also a better basestealer than Womack, as evidenced by his 38 stolen bases as a part-time player in 2004. As if those attributes aren’t enough, the 33-year-old Roberts is also two years younger than Womack, which is something that the aging Yankees have to consider in every deal they might make. (Womack really has only one advantage over Roberts and that’s versatility; he can play second base and shortstop, in addition to the outfield.)

Now Roberts does have some problems. He’s been bothered by a sore hamstring, always a red flag with a player who relies as much on speed as Roberts does. He also can’t throw at all, which somewhat negates his ability to cover plenty of ground in center field. Still, the negatives are relatively small considering the Yankees’ needs. Roberts can’t throw any worse than the declining Bernie Williams, and would canvass far more territory in Yankee Stadium’s spacious outfield. Roberts would also give the Yankees a capable No. 2 hitter against right-handed pitching, allowing Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez to remain in the middle of the order.

All in all, Womack-for-Roberts would be an overwhelmingly good deal for the Yankees—assuming that it’s really on the table. With one fell swoop, the Yankees could negate the worst of their offseason acquisitions while also filling the team’s greatest positional need.

Card Corner–Bert Campaneris

During the course of the summer, I’ll be profiling baseball cards from two seasons that celebrate anniversaries this year: 1975 (30 years ago) and 1965 (40 years ago.) With that in mind, let’s start with a rookie card from the 1965 season depicting a future American League All-Star.

Anyone who’s read my work over the years knows about my affinity for the Oakland A’s of the Charlie Finley era. While players like Reggie Jackson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, and Rollie Fingers have achieved the iconic status that comes with Hall of Fame induction, other members of those A’s remain lesser unknown and misunderstood. One of those players is Bert “Campy” Campaneris, who’s best remembered for an ugly bat-throwing incident that marred the 1972 playoffs.

Yet, that incident was out of character for Campaneris, a quiet, shy man who usually played the game like a true professional. A native of Cuba, Campaneris had arrived in the major leagues in 1964 with the Kansas City A’s, as a replacement for injured shortstop Wayne Causey. After an all-night, sleep-depriving plane ride, Campaneris arrived at the ballpark. The A’s’ equipment manager, regarding the 155-pound Campaneris as too frail to be a ballplayer, initially refused to give him a uniform. Campaneris surprised the doubting equipment manager by homering in his first major league at-bat on the very first pitch against Minnesota’s Jim Kaat. Campaneris matched his inaugural at-bat by hitting a second home run against Kaat in the seventh inning. The dual home runs tied a modern day record for most home runs in a major league debut. The 22-year-old speedster also contributed a single, a stolen base, and an impressive running catch on a short pop-up into left field.

Separated from his mother, father, and seven brothers and sisters, who still lived in Cuba, the shy Campaneris had few American friends, no girlfriend or wife, and lived by himself in a small apartment near Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. Described as a loner by former teammate Jack Aker, Campaneris’ plight garnered the attention of the several of the A’s’ veterans. Sensing his reserved nature, some of the A’s attempted to incorporate Campaneris into the social atmosphere of the clubhouse. Campaneris remained reluctant, preferring to isolate himself from the team’s social functions. Campaneris’ tendency to stay to himself may have been caused by his problems with a new language. At first, Campaneris spoke such little English that teammate Diego Segui, a fellow Cuban who eventually became his best friend on the team, served as his interpreter for interviews with the media.

Although A’s coaches had difficulty communicating with him, they quickly came away impressed with his speed and daring base-running style. “He’s got guts,” said Kansas City A’s coach Gabby Hartnett during the 1964 season. “He’s got the best pair of wheels I’ve ever seen. I saw a lot of great base stealers, including Max Carey, but I wouldn’t rate any of them ahead of this kid.” A’s third-base coach Luke Appling, also a Hall of Famer, raved about Campy’s baseball instincts, calling them “exceptional.”

The language barrier forced a determined Campaneris to study pitchers on his own and develop base-stealing techniques by himself. In 1965, Campaneris led all American League base stealers with 51 thefts. Campy topped the 50-stolen base mark three straight seasons, before swiping 62 bases in 1968. At the plate, Campaneris hit consistently in the .260 to .270 range.

One element of his defensive play remained a particular concern, countering his ability to cover lots of ground on the left side of the infield. Although Campaneris’ quick, scampering feet allowed him to make spectacular plays, often reaching grounders that other shortstops couldn’t touch, he tended to bobble routine grounders because of his unsure hands. Campy made over 30 errors in three of his first four full seasons before settling down defensively in 1969. As with his base stealing, Campy improved his fieldwork through his self-imposed work ethic.

Campaneris wasn’t satisfied with improvements on the field. He hoped to learn English to the point where he no longer would need bilingual teammates like Orlando Pena and Diego Segui to help him conduct interviews. He spent one winter with his second cousin, Angels outfielder Jose Cardenal, whose wife gave him lessons in the new language. Thanks in part to his improved skills in speaking English, Campaneris eventually met and married an American woman.

Any admiration for the self-made Campaneris seemed to become lost in the fall of 1972, during the American League Championship Series. Campaneris fired his bat at Detroit Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow, who had hit Campy in the ankle with a fastball. Although every player on the A’s believed LaGrow’s pitch was intentional, having come at the orders of Tigers manager Billy Martin, who wanted to slow down the red-hot Campy, the A’s’ shortstop badly overreacted by hurling his bat at LaGrow. Luckily, LaGrow jumped out of the way of the bat, but the act of violence prompted a bench-clearing brawl and a much-deserved suspension for Campaneris. No member of the Tigers was more upset with Campy than Billy Martin, who proceeded to call the A’s’ shortstop “gutless.”

Still, it was hard for anyone to stay mad at the usually mild-mannered Campaneris for long. As much as Martin despised Campaneris at the moment he hurled his bat toward LaGrow, the Tiger skipper respected the veteran infielder as a fiery, combative sparkplug who always hustled. Evidence of Martin’s regard for Campaneris could be found in 1983, when Campy concluded his major league career with the Yankees. After a one-year layoff from major league baseball, Campy arrived at the Yankees’ spring camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, completely uninvited. Knowing that the Yankees needed a middle infielder, Campaneris asked New York’s manager for a playing job. The manager responded by challenging him to make the team. Campaneris proceeded to earn the final spot on the 25-man roster, and hit .322 as a backup second baseman and third baseman to Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles, respectively.

Who was the Yankee’s manager at the time? It was a forgiving Billy Martin. And perhaps that’s the part of the story that should be best remembered about Campy Campaneris.

The 1975 World Series–Game One

Thirty Years Ago—Reliving The 1975 World Series

We continue our 30th anniversary look back at arguably the greatest World Series of all-time with a recap of a memorable and controversial Game One between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds:

The Boston Red Sox faced an imposing World Series task: attempting to shut down the game’s most dynamic offense since the days of Mantle, Maris and Co. during their glorious run of the early 1960s. They would also have to match the imposing run-scoring ability of the Cincinnati Reds, while playing without one of their best offensive players of 1975: rookie outfielder-designated hitter Jim Rice. Rice had suffered a broken arm in late September, forcing him to miss the playoffs against the Oakland A’s while chained to the disabled list. Although Rice’s arm was healed now, a technicality in the rules prevented him from being activated for the World Series. “I cut my cast up,” Rice recalled, “because I wanted to play. I did something I shouldn’t have done. It didn’t bother me [at the time]. I took my cast. I cut it off myself, but I still couldn’t play. The way they had the rules, I was on the disabled list, I couldn’t play and I learned to accept that.”

With House Majority leader Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill and hockey legend Bobby Orr comprising just part of the capacity crowd of 35,205 at Fenway Park for Game One, attention quickly turned to the mound, where Luis Tiant had been awarded the task of facing the “Big Red Machine.” Tiant handled the job with ease over the first three and a third innings. He retired the first 10 Reds’ batters he faced before yielding a single to Joe Morgan in the fourth. With Morgan having stolen 67 bases over the course of the regular season, Tiant knew that he had to keep him close to the bag. He threw to first base repeatedly, almost nailing the Cincinnati speedster with his third attempt. The Fenway faithful felt that Tiant had successfully picked off Morgan, but first base umpire Nick Colosi (who passed away earlier this year) disagreed with the Beantown consensus. Television replays, which showed Cecil Cooper’s mitt hitting the dirt before placing a “high” tag on Morgan, supported Colosi’s decision. As Tiant prepared to make his fourth attempt on Morgan, Colosi made an even more unpopular call. He signaled a balk, something that Red manager Sparky Anderson had accused Tiant of doing with regularity prior to the Series.

According to Colosi, the call was an obvious one. “It was an automatic balk,” Colosi explained to The Sporting News. “Tiant was drawing the ball down. Then he flexed his legs, stopped, and flexed them again. Once a pitcher flexes his leg or legs, he must throw to first base or the plate. He did neither.” For his part, Tiant argued that he had been using such a pickoff move throughout his career. In fact, no American League umpires had called any balks on Tiant during the 1975 regular season or Championship Series.

With Morgan now at second, Tiant prepared to face the meaty middle of the Cincinnati order: Johnny Bench and Tony “Doggie” Perez. For 13 pitches, Tiant battled Bench, who had wowed a few Red Sox fans with a seven-home run display during pre-game batting practice. On the 13th pitch, Tiant challenged the Reds’ cleanup hitter with a fastball, which Bench lofted into the air behind home plate. Bench’s counterpart, Carlton Fisk, latched on to the foul pop-up for the inning’s second out. Tiant then struck out Perez, ending the controversy-marred uprising.

Tiant remained effective, in part because of his ability to contradict the expectations of the Reds. “We got a scouting report that 80 per cent of all his pitches were fastballs,” Pete Rose told Clif Keane of the Boston Globe. “He was blowing them by [Sal] Bando and [Reggie] Jackson in the first game [of the playoffs] with Oakland. We didn’t see many fastballs today.” Instead, with his fastball lacking the requisite crackle, Tiant and Carlton Fisk opted for a game plan that emphasized his assortment of breaking pitches—and the varying degrees of spinning and hesitating that came with his whirling dervish motion. “I just threw [the fastball] when I needed it,” Tiant explained. “I have my control the whole game. Slider. Curve. Change-up. Knuckleball. Hesitation. And then…the motion.”

And his bat. With the game remaining scoreless and the Red Sox coming to bat in the seventh, Tiant stepped in as the leadoff man against an equally effective Don Gullett. Expecting to see nothing but fastballs from the flame-throwing Gullett, Tiant received an unanticipated gift. “He throw the fastball by me three or four times already,” Tiant told sportswriter John Powers. “But now… I don’t know why… [He throws] the high change-up.” Tiant swung forcefully and bounced the hanging change-of-pace to the left side of the infield, just hard enough to elude the reach of Pete Rose at third base. It was in Tiant’s words a “lucky hit,” and his first hit since 1972, when he had batted .107 (6-for-56) in the American League’s final season without the designated hitter.

Opting to play for one run, Sox manager Darrell Johnson instructed Dwight Evans to lay down a sacrifice. Evans bunted toward the right of the mound, but not too far from Gullett. Fully aware of Tiant’s lack of speed at first base, Johnny Bench directed Gullett to throw toward second base. Gullett spun to make a throw, but slipped momentarily. As Tiant began an awkward slide into second base, Gullett’s toss dovetailed into the pitcher’s ample body. The ball bounced away, Tiant reaching second safely. With runners on first and second and still no one out, Johnson called for another bunt. Denny Doyle tried once, but fouled Gullett’s pitch off. He tried a second time, this time completely missing the pitch. Now in the hole at 0-and-2, Doyle smacked the next pitch into left field. A failed sacrifice had turned into a bases-jamming, opposite-field single.

With the bases now loaded, Gullett faced Carl Yastrzemski, the Red Sox’ elder statesman and most legendary player. Yaz lined a ball in the air toward right, but well in front of Ken Griffey. Thinking that the ball might be caught, Tiant retreated to third and tagged up, before finally heading home. Griffey, who had assumed that Tiant had run from the start and was now concerned with the destinations of the other runners, fired the ball to Tony Perez, the cut-off man. Yet, the run almost didn’t count, because Tiant missed home plate (by about a half-inch) on his plunge from third base. Both Johnny Bench and Dave Concepcion screamed for Perez to throw the ball home, but the Reds’ first baseman couldn’t hear their pleas amidst the shouting of the crowd. As Perez held onto the ball, Tiant retraced his steps and stomped on home plate, completing his madly uneven dash around the bases.

Tiant’s run also chased Gullett from the mound. The Red Sox’ rampage continued as veteran reliever Clay Carroll promptly walked Carlton Fisk, forcing in a second run and resulting in his own hasty removal from the game. Young left-hander Will McEnaney fared slightly better, fanning Fred Lynn, before surrendering run-scoring singles to Rico Petrocelli and Rick Burleson, and a sacrifice fly to Cecil Cooper. The inning finally came to a symmetrical end when Tiant—the man who had started the rally—came to bat and struck out.

Given Tiant’s effectiveness, the Red Sox probably needed only one run to win the game. They now had six. As Fenway’s fans repeatedly chanted “LOOO-EEE,” Tiant continued to baffle the Reds with his assortment of motions and breaking pitches. He held the Reds to five hits and allowed no runners to reach as far as third base, thanks in part to three line drives that found the able gloves of Cecil Cooper, Denny Doyle, and Carl Yastrzemski. Tiant’s complete game effort, the first in a World Series since Steve Blass’ seventh game masterpiece for the Pirates in 1971, highlighted a 6-0 victory in Game One.

Curiously, the opinions expressed by Cincinnati’s hitters provided no consensus as to how effective Tiant’s varied windups and deliveries had been in keeping the Reds at bay. “You really have to concentrate on him with all that motion,” George Foster explained to Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe. “He uses that off-speed stuff so well and gets you off balance.” Tony Perez seconded Foster’s vote. In contrast, Johnny Bench and Pete Rose claimed that they had paid little attention to Tiant’s mound machinations. “It wasn’t that difficult,” said Bench of his efforts to follow Tiant’s hesitated delivery. “We’ve seen Juan Marichal.” The former San Francisco Giants’ star had used an unusually high leg kick throughout his career, helping him hide the ball from opposing batters.

Several members of the Reds’ contingent seemed especially unimpressed by Tiant’s work, which they felt had benefited from several doses of Cincinnati’s own bad fortune. “We must have had 15 line drives,” Pete Rose informed the Boston Globe, “but everything was right at somebody. I couldn’t have hit the ball any harder.” Rose’s 0-for-4 batting line against Tiant included a quartet of well-struck, but poorly placed, line drives.

“That’s the weakest five-hitter I’ve seen,” a candid and frustrated Sparky Anderson told Francis Rosa of the Boston Globe. “I don’t know how many shots we hit right at people, shots that were caught or turned into outs. I’ll give him credit, though. He put nine zeroes up there on the scoreboard and I don’t know how much better you can do.”

Joe Morgan offered a deeper, more profound explanation for the number of drives that landed in the gloves of Red Sox’ defenders. “It was the way they played the outfield [versus] the way we did,” Morgan told the Globe, while noting that Fenway Park’s odd dimensions mandated a different kind of outfield alignment. “They played shallow and they could catch a lot of shots we hit at them.” In contrast, Cincinnati outfielders had positioned themselves much deeper than their Boston counterparts. Only two members of the Reds, Terry Crowley and Merv Rettenmund, had ever played at Fenway prior to Game One, but neither of the backup outfielders figured to see much playing time in the Series. Still, Morgan predicted the Reds would emulate Boston’s Fenway strategy in Game Two.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.