... Yastrzemski raced over and scooped the ball up before it got to the wall and, throwing his right leg up against the retaining wall of the stands and using it as a spring board, he spun and threw out Allison at second base. To this day, it's the greatest defensive clutch play I've ever seen.
For about two years now I have been making four or five appearances a month at senior citizens centers and assisted living facilities, reciting "Red Sox Rhymes" and engaging in discussions on all things Red Sox with those in attendance, many of whom are no longer able to attend games in person at Fenway Park. Audiences vary in size, from as many as two or three hundred to as few as half a dozen, but we never fail to have a good time. Well, at least I do.
One question that constantly comes up is this: What is the most memorable game I've attended? I've thought it over, and I can't come up with a single game that is my absolute favorite. I've been lucky to have seen a lot of great baseball games but have managed to pare the list down to five all-time favorites, which I'll list in chronological order. Ready?
1) Oct. 1, 1967, the final day of the season. The Red Sox and their opponents, the Minnesota Twins, were in a flat-footed tie for first place. The winner would capture the pennant -- unless the Detroit Tigers won both ends of a double header against the Angels, in which case there'd be a playoff game the next day. That's how tight the race was. Entering the bottom of the sixth the Sox trailed, 2-0, on two unearned runs, one on a rare error by Carl Yastrzemski. But pitcher Jim Lonborg, leading off, laid down a surprise bunt on the first pitch from Dean Chance, and beat it out. Jerry Adair and Dalton Jones followed with singles to load the bases. Up came Yaz, who, with his amazing clutch hitting, had carried the team on his shoulders in the final weeks of the season. He lashed a single to center, driving in two runs to tie the game. The air seemed to temporarily go out of the Twins' sails, and by the time the inning ended, the Sox had scored five runs. But it wasn't over. In the eighth, with two on and two out, Bob Allison laced a line drive toward the leftfield corner for what looked like a sure two-run double to draw the Twins within one run with Allison in scoring position. But Yastrzemski raced over and scooped the ball up before it got to the wall and, throwing his right leg up against the retaining wall of the stands and using it as a spring board, he spun and threw out Allison at second base. To this day, it's the greatest defensive clutch play I've ever seen. The Tigers lost the second game of their double header and the Impossible Dream came true.
2) Oct. 22, 1975, Game Six of the World Series. Freddie Lynn hit a three run homer in the first inning, but the relentless Big Red Machine of Cincinnati had built a 6-3 lead when pinch hitter Bernie Carbo came up with two outs and two on in the bottom of the eighth. After looking over-matched by reliever Rawly Eastwick, Carbo launched a home run into the centerfield bleachers to tie the game. The Sox squandered a bases-loaded, no-outs opportunity in the ninth. In the top of the tenth, Joe Morgan of the Reds hit a long drive to right field that appeared to be headed for the stands, but Dwight Evans saved the game by racing back and snaring it with his back to the plate, then doubling up the runner at first base. In the twelfth, Carton Fisk hit one of the most famous homers in baseball history to win it. Interestingly, Fisk has no memory of trying to wave the ball fair as it caromed off the leftfield foul pole.
3) Oct. 2, 1978, the one-game playoff against the Yankees. The outcome of this wasn't great, but the game surely was. Yaz, by this time a beloved elder statesman, homered in the first. The Red Sox led, 2-0, going into the sixth when Bucky (expletive deleted) Dent, with two men on, hit a lazy fly ball to left, but the wind was blowing out and -- well, you know the rest. The Yankees scored twice more, one on a mammoth homer by Reggie Jackson. Their lead was 5-2, but the Red Sox were not done yet; they scored two in the eighth to draw within a run. In the ninth, Rick Burleson drew a one out walk. Then, Jerry Remy scorched a line drive to right that Lou Piniella, blinded by the sun, could not see. At the very last second Piniella saw the ball hit the ground in front of him and reached out with a wild stab, snaring it as it was about to skip past him. If Piniella hadn't made that last-second grab, Burleson and Remy would still be running and the Sox would have won the game and the pennant. As it was, Burleson was only able to advance to second. Jim Rice hit a long fly to right which would have scored Burleson had he been able to take third on the Remy hit. Yaz popped out, and suddenly it was over -- the game and the season.
4) Sept. 10, 1999, Pedro one-hits the Yankees. This wasn't just a one-hitter, Martinez struck out 17 Yankees, more than anyone else in history. And he did it in the belly of the beast, at Yankee Stadium (the original stadium, not the wax museum that went up in its place). Pedro was so dominating that by game's end even the New York fans were roaring in approval with every strikeout he recorded. The one hit that he gave up was a second inning home run by Chili Davis, later a Red Sox hitting coach.
5) Oct. 13, 2013, Game Two of the ALCS. The Red Sox, losers of game one, were on the verge of losing again and falling into a two-game hole to the Detroit Tigers.
They trailed, 5-1, in the last of the eighth. But they managed to load the bases with Big Papi coming up. The Tigers brought Joaquin Benoit in from the bullpen. He had struck out Ortiz earlier in the season with a devastating sinking changeup. Ortiz remembered and decided to sit on that pitch this time. Sure enough, Benoit's first pitch was a changeup and Ortiz, ready for it, hit a drive into the Red Sox bullpen that right fielder Torii Hunter made a valiant effort to catch, tumbling head first into the bullpen in the process. Fenway literally shook from the roar of the crowd, and everyone knew that the air had gone out of Detroit's balloon. The rest is history. The Sox went on to win the game, the ALCS, and the World Series.
Those were five great games and I was at them all. Call me lucky.
- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox “Poet Laureate” and The Pilot’s recently minted Sports’ columnist.
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