It took three hours and 14 minutes. “I don’t care if it took a week,” said Dick Williams. A frozen crowd of 8,324 worried about the chills. “It was very warm out there as far as I was concerned,” said the new manager.
The temperature was 46. That’s the last time the Red Sox won a pennant.
Williams won his first big league game as a manager, 5 to 4, over the White Sox at Fenway Park Wednesday. He had been very successful after having lost his opening games in two straight years in the minors. “I’ll take this win,” said Williams.
What a finish! Tony Conigliaro got a good jump on Ron Hansen’s liner to right center and caught it going full speed. Jerry Adair’s ground ball was headed back toward rightfield. George Scott back-handed it, and Don McMahon fanned Ed Stroud.
“Wasn’t that a great finish?” asked Williams. It was. But there were some typically-wild opening game things that happened.
One man seemed to play as though he were an All-Star. Rico Petrocelli settled the game practically, in about five seconds.
The first time Rico came to bat against Johnny Buzhardt, Chicago right hander, Reggie Smith was on second with a double in the second inning.
Rico hit a fast ball on a line over second on the first pitch and Reggie scored. “It was a fast ball,” said the talented infielder, who also made a fine play on a short hop in the field.
The next time Rico came to bat against Buzhardt, there were two Red Sox players on base. Scott had walked and stolen second. Smith had reached when his foul pop was misjudged by catcher Gerry McNertney and landed, after which Reggie walked.
The side should have been retired. But Rico moved into Buzhardt’s first pitch again -- a curve this time -- and hit it against a strong wind into the net.
Two pitches, two swings, four runs batted in.
“Petrocelli is a good hitter,” said Buzhardt. “I always thought he was and I tried to be careful.”
The way Jim Lonborg had pitched in the South, four runs looked immense.
In the fourth, though, one of Jim’s sinkers got past Mike Ryan and the White Sox scored. Tommie Agee had singled to right and Pete Ward walked with none out. Ken Berry hit into a double play, Smith taking his hopper and tagging Ward coming down the line before throwing to first. Agee went to third and scored while Ryan was having trouble locating the wild pitch.
The Red Sox got that back in the sixth when Jose Tartabull hit a high bouncer toward the mount and beat it out with one out. Joe Foy grounded out after Hose had stolen second and Jose scored when Hansen threw Carl Yastrzemski’s grounder into the dugout.
The Red Sox were beating the White Sox at their own game up to this point. Used to be that every time the Red Sox made a mistaken in the past, Chicago capitalized. Things were due to change -- but were they? Three Red Sox had stolen bases up to this point, Foy in the first, Scott in the third and Jose.
“We’re the ‘Go-Go’ team now” the frozen fans were yelling. But there were three innings left.
And in the seventh and eighth the White Sox almost grabbed the game.
Ward doubled to right to open the inning and Berry’s hard grounder over first base got through Scott’s dive. Men on first and third. Another wild pitch by Lonborg and Ward scored, Berry going to second. But Lonborg fanned pinch-hitter Bill Skowron. Hansen hit a fairly long fly to right.
Tony drifted back, had his hands up, but the ball fell away from Conigliaro for a two-base error. “I lost it in the sun, worst run I ever saw out there,” said Conigliaro. “I just put up my hands, hoping.”
When Adair followed with a single to bring the White Sox to only a run behind, Dick Williams came out and called in John Wyatt. The White Sox really started to aim at Tony. Pinch-hitter Smokey Burgess lined one that backed Tony against the bullpen. He caught it. And he caught “No Neck” Williams’ short fly to end the inning.
There was still trouble. Wyatt walked Agee and Ward on 3-2 pitches with one out in the eighth. Now it was the White Sox’ turn to steal. With the count 2-1 on Berry, off went Agree and Tom McCraw, who ran for Ward. Agee beat Ryan’s throw to third. But Berry fanned on a 3-2 pitch. So did J.C. Martin.
Wyatt was picked by relief pitcher Bob Locker to open the eighth. Tartabull and Mike Andrews pinch-ran for Wyatt. John wanted to stay in. “I can beat Andrews running,” he said. But there wasn’t any running to do. Foy fouled off a third-strike bunt, and Yastrzemski and Conigliaro grounded out. But what a finish!
Jottings: The crowd was the smallest (for an opener) since 1953 … The Red Sox opened at home against the Washington Senators in the morning on Apr. 20th and drew only 5,385 and in the afternoon game the two teams drew only 7,534 …