It was the sort of thing that happens only in dreams … a boy’s dream of an unbelievable golden future … a man’s dream of a past that never occurred.
The Mayor was there, and the Governor and the Junior U.S. Senator, Gene Tunney was there, and Jack Dempsey -- famed fighters of an age that is past. There was Stan Musial and the beauteous Carol Channing … and the Attorney-General of the United States.
The Red Sox and White Sox were tied at 1-all in the second inning, and Tony Conigliaro -- age 19 years, three months and 10 days -- stepped to the plate for the first time as a major leaguer, before 20,213 in his home town.
It not only was his first time at the plate, it was the first pitch. It was delivered by Chicago’s Joel Herlen. It was a fastball, out over the plate, and Conigliaro swung.
There was the boom of the bat, and the ball became a speck that soared in the April sky. It cleared the left field fence, a tiny bit toward center, and sailed over they beyond … and Tony Conigliaro, on the first pitch to him in his first home game, had hit a tie-breaking home run.
The tie was broken, and Jack Lamabe held it, and the Red Sox went on to a 4-1 victory over Chicago.
And, for the first time in nine long seasons, the Red Sox had won both their openers, both abroad and at home.
But the story of the Red Sox triumph was not only that of the golden homer. It was the story of owner Tom Yawkey of the Red Sox, who gave his share of the gate to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at Harvard -- a $36,818.63 tip of the hat to Harvard’s Class of 1940 from the Class of ‘25 at Yale.
It was also the tale of Jack Lamabe.
Lamabe, by profession, has never been a relief pitcher. Never before, in the major leagues, had he pitched a full nine-inning game.
“In the years I was at Pittsburgh,” Lamabe explained, “I never started a game. With the Red Sox last year, I started twice. I went six innings once against Chicago, left with the score a tie. I went five and two-thirds against Kansas City and lost the game.
“The last time I went the distance was down in the Sally League n 1960. I went 12 innings in a playoff game for Savannah and won against Columbia.”
Lamabe, unaccustomed to starting, began the hard way.
In the first inning, both pitchers retired their opponents in order. But it took Horlen only five pitches. Lamabe required 20.
And in the second, Lamabe was in trouble. Dave Nicholson led with a line single low off the fence as second baseman Dalton Jones fumbled Ron Hansen’s sliced ground ball for an error.
Joe Cunningham line to Frank Malzone, but Lamabe walked Al Weis, and the bases were loaded with one away.
Lamabe got two quick strikes on Jerry McNertney, then -- of all things -- pushed home a run by hitting McNertney with a pitched ball.
It was then the arm of right fielder Lou Clinton came to the aid of Lamabe. Horlen lined a fly ball to Clinton, pretty well out in right. Horlen, of course, was out when the ball was caught -- but it looked like a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
But Clinton cut loose with an airline pitch to the plate. It went straight into the mitt of catcher Russ Nixon and Hansen was doubled -- for Out No. 3 -- at the plate.
Malzone opened the Boston second with a home run into the net in left, tying the score at one-all. Horlen retired Stuart, fanned Clinton, and then -- for the first time on his home field at the Fenway -- Conigliaro stepped to the plate.
Horlen started him off with a fast ball, and that was it. Conigliaro swung, the ball zoomed over the “National” sign at the center field end of the scoreboard in left, and the Sox were ahead, 2-1.
In the third, the Sox got a bit of a break.
Lamabe led against Horlen with a two-bagger inside the foul line in right.With a man in scoring position, lefty hitter Dalton Jones aimed his hit to right.
Also, through he wasn’t thinking about it, Jones hit with the sun.
He lashed a drive toward Floyd Robinson in right. Robinson was in front of it. The ball, it seemed, surely would be caught.
But suddenly Robinson ducked and covered his head. He had lost the ball in the sun. Jones’ drive went merrily on toward the right field fence, Lamabe scored from second, and Jones sprinted into third.
The first hit of his major league career was good for three bases.
Ed Bressoud lashed a line to center for a single. Jones scored, and the Sox -- with nobody down in the last of the third -- were ahead, 4-1.