It remained for Rick Burleson in the disconsolate Red Sox dressing room to perhaps catch the significance of the loss to the Yankees yesterday.
“We just blew it, that’s all,” the Red Sox shortstop replied to reporters while staring into his locker, backturned to the questioners. “We never should have been in this game.
“The fans are going to be on us all winter; season ticket sales will be down; no matter how well we go next season, they’ll remember the way we lost this lead.”
Elsewhere, a certain acceptance seemed to emerge in the dressing room as the minutes passed. “It was a fastball,” said Carl Yastrzemski of the pitch he popped up to end the game. “It jumped in on me at the last second.”
Yaz spoke in very quiet tones. But his bobbing Adam’s Apple exposed the emotion. “I feel so sorry for Mrs. Yawkey,” he said, then was told that she had expressed the same for him.
Yaz raised his head, put a towl to his face to conceal his eyes, finally took it away and said that he was rooting for the Yankees in the playoffs. “They played like world champions,” he added.
Mike Torrez quietly explained, again and again, that he felt he had pitched satisfactorily. “The pitch to (Bucky) Dent was up just a bit,” he said while noting that he had not wanted to be relieved in the seventh inning.
“Go ahead, print that George Scott struck out in the eighth inning and cost the Red Sox the ball game.” The speaker was George Scott, now animated and drawing a crowd of pencil pushers anxious for any comment in the silent setting.
“I really thought in the ninth we were going to win it,” said Fred Lynn. “When Rick got on I thought someone was going to pop one.”
In terms of discouragement, how did this game compare with the seventh game World Series loss to Cincinnati three years ago. “It hurts about as much,” Lynn whispered.
Manager Don Zimmer, his eyes wet and looking straight ahead, sat before dozens of reporters. “Have you guys got any questions?” he finally broke the tension.
What had he said to his players?
“I told them that I wish I had the ability to express to them how proud of them I am,” Zimmer answered.
Jerry Remy was asked of the tension he felt while at bat in the ninth before he struck his hit into the sun that will forever be etched as one of the Red Sox might-have-beens, over whether Burleson could have gone to third base.
“I just wanted to avoid a double play. I wanted to give Jim one more chance,” Remy said just above a whisper.
Rice’s opinion of all that had preceded could not be ascertained. He was in the trainer’s room, coming out long enough to speak to visiting Reggie Jackson, before returning.
As time passed the elements of fate and luck seemed to become the buzzwords of the locker room. But not for Burleson. No Yankee lover he.
“I know we could do as well as them in the playoffs and Series. They don’t have a third starter; we do,” he said.
Then came one of those questions that would try anyone’s patience. Burleson was asked what he thought of when he saw Yaz’s popup settle in the glove of third baseman Graig Nettles.
The Sox shortstop silently continued to stare into his locker.