The way the Red Sox were floundering, they needed something big.
And Carl Yastrzemski - with perhaps the longest home run ever hit in Fenway Park - gave it to them yesterday.
Yastrzemski’s three-run homer in the eighth inning snapped a five-game losing streak and carried the Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
With the score locked, 2-2, Yaz hit a rising line drive through a crosswind over the back wall of the centerfield bleachers with two men on base.
“When I hit it, I knew it was something special,” said Yaz. “Only two or three times in my life I’ve hit a ball and felt absolutely nothing on the bat. You only get this sensation when the ball is hit perfectly. This was one of those times.”
According to Red Sox publicity director Bill Crowley, Yastrzemski is only the sixth man in the 58-year history of Fenway to clear the wall to the right of the flagpole in center. The others were Jimmy Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Mantle, Bill Skowron and Don Lenhardt, presently a coach with the Sox.
Most of the veteran Fenway observers believe Yaz is the first lefthander ever to do it.
“I’m just happy that it came when it did,” said Yaz. “It wouldn’t mean anything if we lost. But winning a game like this should give us a big lift.”
Yaz was not the only hero in the Sox win. Ray Culp, plagued by tough luck to date, went the route and could have easily had a shutout.
“It was fun to catch Ray today,” said catcher Jerry Moses. “What a gutsy job he did.”
All of the Red Sox runs came from the long ball as Tony Conigliaro and Rico Petrocelli also rapped homers.
Tony, who is on a torrid home run streak with six in his last seven games, tied the game with his two-run blast off Indian started Dean Chance in the sixth. Petrocelli’s bases empty shot capped the four-run eighth inning.
For a while, it appeared as though the Sox were going to stay in the doldrums for at least another day.
The good Saturday afternoon crowd of 19,485 watched Chance hold the Sox scoreless through the first five innings while the Indians slipped into a 2-0 lead.
The runs - the only ones off Culp - came in the fourth. Vada Pinson led off with a single and took second after one out when Graig Nettles singled to right.
At this point, first baseman George Scott signaled for a pickoff play.
“Scotty gave me the sign and I gave it to Ray (Culp),” said Moses.
The timing of the play went astray though, when the runner at first, Nettles, got back to the bag quickly, blocking Scott’s view of the throw.
“I threw the ball right over the middle of the bag waist high,” said Culp. “But Scotty didn’t see the throw.”
Culp’s throw ended up in right field for an error, with Pinson racing home with the first run and Nettles sprinting to third from where he scored on Ray Fosse’s squeeze bunt.
Chance made the 2-0 margin stand up until the sixth when Yaz doubled and strolled home in front of Tony C’s eighth homer of the year - a towering drive high into the left field screen.
The Sox put the game away in the eighth against reliever Dennis Higgins. Higgins walked Dick Schofield and Reggie Smith to start the inning. He got behind Yaz, two balls and one strike, before Carl launched his tape measure drive, making it 5-2.
Petrocelli joined the home parade against Higgins soon afterward with another drive into the left field screen.
Overall it wasn’t the Indians day. In the first inning their centerfielder, Ted Uhlaender, staged and eight minute walkout.
With the Sox at bat, Uhlaender objected to some debris directed his way our of the bleachers. He first informed the umpires and then in retaliation fired an apple back at the fans in the stands.
This no sooner completed, he raced full speed into the Indians dressing room before being coaxed to come back.
When he did, he saluted the fans with a couple of obscene gestures. After this the only thing going over his head was in the opposite direction - Yastrzemski’s mammoth blast.
“That was one of the hardest balls I’ve ever seen hit,” said Indians’ manager Al Dark.