She is in retreat in this morning, Olde Fenway, resting. Her affair with Kismet fell through at the very last, and while it was good, it was not to be this time.
New England woke up yesterday on a high from the night before, in anticipation of the first world championship in Boston since Sept. 11, 1918.
On that day a 15-year-old named Tom Yawkey was driving to Tarrytown, N.Y., for the opening of fall classes at the Irving School.
What will stand for baseball historians as an epic World Series this morning belongs to the good people of Cincinnati, Ohio. What was a Series ruled by bounces, plays of dramatic genius and might-have-beens was in the end appropriately decided by a bloop - a looping fly ball in the ninth inning that brought the Reds a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox and brought Middle America’s baseball team its first championship since 1940.
But even as Reds’ reliever Will McEnaney polished off the bottom of that ninth without a threat, the 35,205 joined in chorus by the thousands that lined the Fens, stood and roared. For it was like the death of a favorite grandmother, a season whose life was beautiful and full and gave everyone from Southie to Stonington, Conn., to Groton to Charlestown, N.H., a year they will reminisce about until Olde Fenway calls them back again. But while coming down to the ninth inning of the seventh game of the Series was far beyond our March - or even September, perhaps - dreams, what will last is the frustration of defeat.
This was a game the Red Sox thought they had won. They had chased Don Gullett, assembled a 3-0 lead into the sixth and, with the moon smiling down on its stepson, Bill Lee, it seemed as if the 57 years, 43 of them for a man named Yawkey, were finally crescendoing to a glorious ending.
Only to have the Reds’ badge of courage, Peter Rose, lead his team back - (Rose was awarded the Sports Magazine automobile as the series MVP), and Lee depart with a blister. And after a Morgan memorial box of mistakes, rookie Jim Burton was left standing on the mound in the ninth inning of the seventh game to win or to lose.
It seemed so certain, and in that sixth inning, the countdown began. They waived their Spaceman tee shirts in the bleachers and roared with every pitch, delighting in the contrast of the two lefthanders (imagine a seventh game at Fenway with two lefthanders starting).
But Rose - testimony to Edison’s adage about genius being one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration - was racing around the Cincinnati dugout like Che Guevara, with a whiffle. He screamed and ranted and pounded teammates’ shoulders, and led off the sixth with a single. An out later, he was forced at second on a Johnny Bench grounder, but his kamakazi routine bothered Denny Doyle and turned a double play into a dirigible that floated down into Don Zimmer’s arms in the dugout.
“I always slide extra hard,” Rose said afterwards. “He saw me coming about 10 feet in the air and made a bad throw. Maybe the shortstop should have taken it all the way.”
Thus Bench was on second, two outs, and Lee tried one of his Moon Curves, or Leephus pitches on Tony Perez. Lee had tried three earlier, two for called strikes, one for a pop-up, but one of those called strikes had been to Perez. The big first baseman was ready this time as it came over the horizon, waited and deposited it onto a truck on the Mass. Pike. The truck was last seen on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
So it was a 3-2 ball game and suddenly the entire rhythm had changed. What had been the swaying of a revival tent had become quiet. “We should have had it put away,” said Rick Burleson. “They’re not $7000 better than us. We haven’t played well since the playoffs, and we beat ourselves again with mistakes.” And that feeling was spreading.
Then came a turn of fate whose consequences, like Jim Kaat’s arm ailment on Sept. 30, 1967, will never really be known. With one out in the seventh, Lee developed a blister. “I was fine up until (Ken) Griffey,” said Lee. “Then I just couldn’t throw the ball where I wanted.” He walked Griffey, Darrell Johnson rushed in Rogelio Moret. And that move failed.
A stolen base, pop-up, walk and naturally - Rose single later, it was tied at 3-3, and when Moret walked Morgan, Jim Willoughby came in and got Bench to pop up with the bases loaded. The Willow, who in his 6 1/3 innings might have been the single most effective relief pitcher in the Series, also went 1-2-3 through the eighth. And then came an inning that had Burleson rapping himself and gave Johnson a maybe-I-shouldn’t-have headache he’ll carry back to California with him tomorrow.
With Victor Clay Carroll pitching in the bottom of the eighth, Dwight Evans led off with a walk. Burleson was then supposed to bunt him up, only The Rooster failed on two pitches, swung and bounced into a double play.
“I missed the bunt, struck out (to end the three-run third) with the bases loaded . . .,” Burleson mumbled. Then with two outs, no one on, Johnson hit Cecil (1-for-18) Cooper for Willoughby. “I thought I needed a hit at that point,” said the manager, and thus Burton was brought in to pitch the ninth.
Johnson said he could not use Dick Drago (”He pitched three innings the night before - I couldn’t use him for any length of time”), and settled on the rookie, Burton. Burton walked Griffey, and two outs later wisely walked Rose. He then got two strikes on Morgan.
“A couple of years ago I would have struck out on the pitch he threw me,” said the NL MVP. “It was a good slider, and I got it off the end of the bat.” As Fred Lynn raced forward in desperate frustration, the ball dropped in short center and the winning run had crossed the plate.
The Red Sox got Gullett out after four innings, but then, no visiting lefthander except Rick Waits had pitched a complete game victory at Fenway in 1975.
It began with a major hero of the previous game, Bernardo Carbo, leading off the first by becoming the first Bostonian to hit the wall - for a double. Carbo then took George Foster’s Wall Job in the second and cut him down at second base.
In the third, Gullett became disengaged. Carbo worked him for a one-out walk, Doyle singled him to third and the Captain, Carl Yastrzemski, rammed a single to right. Not only did Carbo score and Doyle get to third but Yaz sneaked into second. So the Reds walked Fisk to load the bases.
Gullett went to 3-and-0 on Rico Petrocelli, got back to 3-and-2, and then got completely rattled. Dave Concepcion called time to complain about a light in the television booth at the top of the screen, and after play resumed, Gullett threw five straight balls. It was 3-0, Boston, before he finally fanned Burleson.
When an infield hit and a Doyle error gave the Reds runners on first and third in the fifth, Lee fanned Cesar Geronimo and got pinch hitter Merv Rettenmund to rap into a double play. “It looked bad,” said Rose, “but we’ve never given up.”
And Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio is littered this morning because of it.
The night had turned cold as Olde Fenway was cleaned off for the last time this year. We’ll stoke the fire and wait another year or two.