When he hit the ball, it was as if he had created his own thunderclap. Then all Carl Yastrzemski did was stand at the plate and watch what he had done.
What he had done with his final word, a two-run homer off an old nemesis named Dave LaRoche, was to put a logical end to the cacophony of a game that from the sixth inning on was obviously one that the team that had the ball last couldn’t win.
Yastrzemski’s shot topped Brian Downing’s two-run job in the top of the ninth, and finished a 9-8 Red Sox KO of California, whose hits, laid end to end, would reach Lenox.
The incredible saga of Fred Lynn, reborn Ruth, saw him hit two more home runs worth five RBIs to twice bring the Sox back from deficits. Butch Hobson hit a homer. In fact, all nine Boston runs came on homers.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever coached third base, seen nine runs scored and not waved a runner in,” said Eddie Yost. “All I did was shake hands.” Which he did very well, incidentally.
To end with, there was Yastrzemski. LaRoche, over the years one of the best lefthanded short relievers in the game, had come on in the eighth, Boston up 7-6, to strike out two men with two others in scoring position. He began the ninth by striking out Lynn. Then walked Rice, and got a strike on Yastrzemski.
“He’s always been very tough for me,” said Yaz. “I don’t think I’ve had more than two or three hits off him over the years. He’s always pitched me up, but he got this pitch down around the belt, a place I don’t think he wanted it.” The ball reached the Angels bullpen before the sound of the crack.
Actually, LaRoche and Yastrzemski disagree on their abilities as historians. Told Yaz said it was only his third hit off him, LaRoche replied, “Bleep.”
Yastrzemski did hit a homer off him in Anaheim in 1971, and beat him a game here last year. “It’s been a battle, that’s all,” LaRoche said.
Whatever, it was the second game-winning homer of the homestand for Yastrzemski, who now is 11 away from the 400 mark. The homestand has also seen the Townies go back into first by .010.
If this seems like a simple ending, it was. However, the rest of the game merits the space given Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People.
However, in capsule form, when a team wins there are a number of key situations that make heroes; from the Angels standpoint, there are a like number that improve talk show ratings 70 percent. Anytime you get 17 hits (three each from Don Baylor, Joe Rudi and Rick Miller) and lose ...
From Boston’s standpoint the first key came in the third inning. Steve Renko was struggling, down 3-0 after Baylor’s RBI double, runners on second and third, none out. Don Zimmer admitted he was one out away from being yanked. He struck out Rudi, then retired Downing and Carney Lansford and kept the Red Sox in the game.
The next came in the sixth, in two parts. First, Jim Wright came in for one batter, down 4-2 with two on. He struck out Danny Ford. Then in the bottom of the inning, Lynn smacked No. 12 to tie it at 4-4.
“The Angels had been getting me out (the previous five games) pitching me in,” said Lynn, whose eventual 13 homers lead the majors. “So I was determined to work on it in batting practice.” During BP he hit nine consecutive homers. “(Dave) Frost was starting to tire, so when one came inside 3-and-1, I got it.”
Then the seventh. In the top half, as Dick Drago - on one of his first rough nights - gave up the go-ahead run, Baylor was called out for going out of the baseline avoiding a Hobson tag, a call that first was ruled safe by third base umpire Jim McNally then overruled by league umpire John Schulock at second base and got Angels manager Jim Fregosi bounced.
In the bottom half, Lynn took rookie Mark Clear to the center-field bleachers for a three-run job. It was 7-5, Boston.
While someone tells you through 28 games Roger Maris had four homers and Babe Ruth six, Lynn also leads the league in runs (28), slugging percentage (.699) and is second to Baylor in RBIs with 29. This is getting ridiculous.
The final key before Yastrzemski’s homer came in the eighth, with Miller on third, one out, the infield in and Rodney Cline Carew at the plate. He hit a one-hop bullet that appeared to be heading past Rick Burleson.
“It’s really a do-or-die play,” said The Rooster. “The ball took a funny hop, and it happened so fast I really just made it on instinct. It was hit so hard it pulled me back.”
But he made it, and Drago escaped, a run up, that is until Rudi led the ninth with a triple off the wall ladder and Downing hit the screen. Bill Campbell came in, finished the ninth.
And to all the insanity, Yastrzemski swung and stood there to watch it all end.