Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Abe Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, Hector and Achilles -- all great duels of the past -- and now Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox and Bob Gibson of the Cardinals.
The scene: Fenway Park. The time: 1 o’clock. It is the final game of the World Series, tied at three games apiece after the Red Sox drilled four homers while eight pitchers were unable to stop them. The final score was 8 to 4, and once the last out was made, the cry started:
“Lonborg and Gibson.”
The weather forecast: Variable cloudiness, 20 percent chance of rain, temperatures in the upper 50’s, westerly winds 10 to 15 miles per hour.
The baseball world says this just may go down as one of the great games of ‘em all, with two double game winners finally opposing each other.
Only twice in a seven-game World Series has a team won after being down three games to one as were the Red Sox.
When the season’s madness got underway on Apr. 11, the Red Sox were 100 to 1 underdogs to win in their own league. With Lonborg on the mount, the odds are 6 to 5 and pick ‘em for the Red Sox to win the whole boodle.
The surprise choice of picking Gary Waslewski to pitch Wednesday’s game by rookie Mgr. Dick Williams looked like the movie of a genius for 5 ⅓ innings.
Waslewski had arrived at the park with a 2-2 big league record. He was feeling a little woozy. He almost lost his breakfast but held onto it and pitched well.
The slim right hander who kicked around the minors for eight years, had a 4-2 lead after five innings. He had his sinker ball working well except for the third inning when the Cardinals put together two runs on a double, two outs, and then three straight singles.
Rico Petrocelli had homered in the second. “A fast ball up high and I’m not a fast ball hitter.”
In the fourth, the Red Sox set a World Series record by hitting three homers (in one inning) off Dick Hughes, who is near sighted and probably couldn’t see them disappear out of the park.
Yaz started the fourth with a homer into the left field screen. After the next two men had gone out, Reggie Smith pulled a Hughes’ change-of-pace slider down into the right-field corner for a homer. And darned if Rico didn’t hit another fast ball for a homer into the screen (the third homer of the inning, the fourth of the game.) Red Sox 4, Cards 2.
“I never hit fast balls out, and two in one day,” said Rico. “The second was down low. I can thank coach Bobby Doerr -- he told me before the game to be on top of the pitch. I had been late. Yeah, thank Bobby.”
Charlie Neal of the Dodgers had hit back-to-back homers against the White Sox in ‘59 and Ted Kluszewski had done the same thing for the White Sox in the same series. Last year the Orioles’ Robinsons, Frank and Brooks, had done it against the Dodgers.
But the three homers in one inning -- that was a new record.
With a Lou Brock around, though, nothing was safe. Brock had singled home a run in the third and scored later in the inning after another single to put the Cardinals ahead, 2-1.
Waslewski got wild in the sixth, walking two men. John Wyatt relieved with one out and retired the side.
Brock dented the fans’ hearts in the seventh.
Bob Tolan, pinch hitting for Nelson Briles, walked with one out. Wyatt threw something Brock liked, and he knocked it over the Red Sox bullpen, up into the bleachers, a wicked homer, and the score was tied, 4 to 4.
No chance now for Waslewski to become famous in the annals of baseball as a man who came practically from nowhere to win a World Series game. Brock had crushed his hopes.
“But I’m really so glad we won the game,” said the gracious right hander later.
Won it is right. The explosion and excursions from the St. Louis bullpen seemed to be endless in the bottom of the seventh. Four Cardinal relief pitchers worked like blazes out in right field to get ready, and Mgr. Red Schoendienst had them all try their luck.
The fans had all settled back, scared-like, after Brock’s homer, but when Jack Lamabe came on to open the seventh, there was a little squirming. Lamabe’s stuff is familiar to the Red Sox.
Elston Howard grounded out mildly enough to start the seventh, but Dalton Jones, who had asked if he could play and was turned down, pinch hit for Wyatt and lined a single to right field.
(When he was complimented later for having started the rally that ensued, Dalton said: “Yeah, a lot of guys have buried me around here over the last few years and I don’t like it.”)
Joe Foy lined to left, and the fleet Brock raced after it. The ball went by Brock’s leap by about a yard and rebounded away from him.
Brock yelled off shortstop Dal Maxvill, who came out to help, and Lou Whipped the ball home. But his throw was yards wide on the first base side. Jones scored, and Foy took third. On came southpaw Joe Hoerner.
Mike Andrews had a drawn-in infield to contend with, and there was much signal-giving between Andrews and third base coach Pop Popowski. Andrews ended the speculation with a line single to left field to score Foy.
Yastrzemski got his third hit, a single to right to put Andrews on third base. Larry Jaster came on to pitch against pinch hitter Jerry Adair, batting for Jose Tartabull. Adair lined one deep enough to center to score Andrews.
Scott got a lucky single when his bouncer skidded to Maxvill’s left and into centerfield, Yastrzemski going to second.
Smith flied to short center and four Cardinals tried to get to the ball. It fell for a single and Yaz scored. Another wave was made toward the bullpen for right hander Ray Washburn.
Things quieted when Rico was walked intentionally and Howard grounded out to third base to end the inning the same way he started it. Red Sox 8, Cards 4.
Gary Bell, the third Red Sox pitcher, opened the eighth, and before long the Cardinals had the bases loaded. Orlando Cepeda got a tap single on his checked swing bouncer over Bell’s head. Yastrzemski tracked down Tim McCarver’s line in left centerfield, a fine catch.
Mike Shannon doubled and, after Javier had lined to Foy, Maxvill walked to load the bases. Pinch hitter Dave Ricketts had a chance to tie things. But he aimed his liner at Yastrzemski, and that was fatal to the rally.
The Cardinals did a little squawking about a call umpire John Stevens made at first base in the sixth. Following the two walks by Waslewski and Wyatt’s appearance, Javier grounded to Foy.
Joe looked at second for a moment -- it seemed like minutes -- waiting for a play to develop there. But McCarver was already at the bag. Finally Joe whipped the ball to first base, and it was very close.
When Stevens called Javier out, the infielder let out a wild yell and Schoendiest had a brief chat with Stevens.
After the game Dick Williams was undecided whether he’d go for the bat or the glove at third base. The bat would be Dalton Jones, the lefthanded hitter. The glove is Joe Foy’s.
“I’ll sleep on it Wednesday night,” said Williams. With Bob Gibson, a righthander, pitching for the Cards, Williams may want Jones in the lineup. Or he may want Foy’s steadier fielding,
Schoendiest said later: “Well, we haven’t hit well. Cepeda is swinging at bad pitches. We are going to play an aggressive game tomorrow.”
Said Gibson: “I’m looking forward to it. I know that when I tried to pitch in a World Series game against the Yankees with only two days of rest, I got awful tired and wore out after the third inning.”
He won’t be able to make Lonborg any weaker, however, by telling that story. Lonborg probably doesn’t remember the last time he pitched with such an important game on tap.