In 2007 most fans of a certain age will tell you the most memorable, joyful days in Red Sox history had to occur in 2004 when the dominant Yankees lost to Boston in seven games. The Yankee collapse was followed by a sweep of the Cardinals, the other team the Sox needed to avenge for earlier heartbreaks. The 86-year-old curse ended.
For some of us old enough to remember, however, 1967 was and is the best, not just for one game or series but for a whole season: “The Impossible Dream.”
NESN knows we’re out here and they are making a big deal of the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Red Sox with TV specials and a CD documentary. The worst-to-first Red Sox, for years humbled by the Orioles and Twins in the 10-team American League, came out of no where to reach the World Series. It started on opening day in Yankee stadium when rookie pitcher Billy Rohr nearly no-hit the Yankees, helped by an incredible catch by Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski in the bottom of the 9th. Expectations for an improved .500 season soon gave way to pennant fever. It built into August when that terrible beaning of local hero Tony Conigliaro (St. Mary’s High, Lynn, MA) occurred. With no divisional playoffs, the season all came down to the final day on September 30, 1967.
A senior at Lynn English High School in the fall of 1967, I and some classmates stood in long lines to get reserved grandstand tickets to witness the last game of the season, a matchup between Dean Chance and Jim Lonborg on an Indian summer Sunday at Fenway Park. In those days it was possible for ordinary folks, even kids from Lynn, to get seats by simply showing up early — a fact confirmed when a few days later I scored a $2 bleacher seat to see Game 7, Lonborg vs. Bob Gibson in the World Series.
NESN this month has re-broadcast the next to last game with Jose Santiago and Jim Kaat for the Twins pitching — a matchup the sports network called the “penultimate” game of the season. The real penultimate game for me , however, came on Sunday when I managed to be sitting in the right field grandstand midway between home and the Pesky pole.
My memory after 40 years isn’t that good of the game the Sox had to have for a tie or pennant win. I know the Red Sox prevailed over the Twins that day, then waited for hours as the White Sox and Tigers put each other out of contention. I think it was “Boomer” (George Scott, 1B) who got a big hit and Lonborg the victory. We stormed onto the field and I collected some dirt where Rico Petrocelli (SS/3B) patrolled and caught the final out. I can’t find the bag of dirt anymore, but I am sure it’s around somewhere compounding in value as a piece of Sox memorabilia.
So thanks NESN for tapping into the season and games that go down for some of us as the most memorable time to be a Red Sox fan. I may have missed Barry Bonds and the All-Star game this year. But I watched every pitch of Red Sox vs. Twins in a re-broadcast of the next to last game. NESN, knowing a captive audience is here, packed most of the commercial time during the re-broadcast of the next to last game promoting the CD that includes the clincher on the last day.