In honor of Fenway Park’s 100th Birthday, I recalled my first visit to the great temple of baseball.
WHEN: It was a July 1, 1972. My entire Little League rode the nearly 50 miles to Yawkey Way to see the Red Sox play the Milwaukee Brewers.
THE MATCH-UP: The Brewers were only in their 4th season having entered the league as the Seattle Pilots in 1969 (they moved to Milwaukee the following year). In the off-season, the Red Sox traded some of the stars from their 1967 World Series team – including Cy Young Award winner Jim Longborg and slugger George Scott, in return for Tommy Harper, Marty Pattin and a few other players. It is ranked as the 10th worst trade in Red Sox history, but it was in the Red Sox’s favor on this day.
THE GAME: With home runs by Ben Oglive and starting pitcher Marty Pattin the Red Sox led 4-2 after two innings and held on to win 5-4. It was Pattin’s first career home run. He would strike again in September against the same pitcher. With the introduction of the designated hitter rule the following season, Pattin’s September home run was the last by a Red Sox pitcher at Fenway.
THE POST-STORY: This season was my introductory course to Red Sox Heartache. The 1972 season was shortened because of the first baseball strike – which for the Red Sox was only 155 games. The Red Sox took the division lead in early in September and when Marty Pattin won his 16th game on September 30th, the Red Sox had a 1 1/2 game lead over the Detroit Tigers leading up to the season’s final series in Detroit.
In the first game of that series, Carl Yastremski came to the plate with Luis Aparicio on first base. Yaz hit what should have been a triple but Aparicio tripped rounding third and then headed back to third as Yaz was rounding second. Yaz was called out at third and the Red Sox lost 3-1. The Red Sox split the next two games with Detroit finishing 85-70. The Tigers, who had the benefit of having played an extra game, won the division by a half-game with an 86-70 record.
Living today in the Belichick era, it may be hard to believe there was a time when the Patriots put the ink in stink or when New England was indifferent about them. On Columbus Day 1973 we went to get tickets for a game later in the season. The season was almost over already since the Pats were 1-4 to nobody’s surprise. We got tickets for the last home game against the lowly San Diego Chargers.
After getting tickets. we were able to go onto the field and play ball as players were leaving practice. I met quarterback Jim Plunkett in the parking lot. No security – why would be there? Who would come to see the Patriots?
At the same time, however, this was the first year of the Chuck Fairbanks era and the 1973 team included elements of the team that would become perennial contenders in a few years.
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