I recently read a story that stated that 75 percent of Americans are not old enough to remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
That’s a chilling statistic for us old-schoolers. This no doubt means that most of you do not remember the 1967 Red Sox.
The ’67 Sox are a topic for today because the 2013 Red Sox have made themselves the most endearing, clutch, unlikely, lovable bunch since the fabled 1967 edition of this 113-year-old franchise.
The ’67 Sox were the Impossible Dreamers, the Cardiac Kids, the team that took us from black-and-white to color; the team that changed everything when Red Sox Nation was still a collection of self-governed colonies.
And now we have the 2013 Red Sox. The Cardiac Adults. The ZZ Top/House of David/John Lennon (“Man you been a naughty boy. You let your face grow long”) All-Stars.
This year’s Red Sox team is a gift.
The Sox thrashed the Yankees again Saturday, taking a nationally televised 5-1 joust on the strength of eight spectacular innings from smilin’ Jon Lester. The Sox have won eight consecutive series. They own the best record in baseball (91-59) and have a chance to become only the second Red Sox team in 98 years to win 100 games. This team’s final record is likely to represent the Red Sox’ greatest non-war, non-strike season turnaround in franchise history.
Winning baseball games “in exciting fashion” (kudos, Tom Werner) is not this easy. Putting beatdowns on the New York Yankees is not easy. Running away with the American League East and clinching home field throughout the playoffs is not supposed to be this easy.
And the 2013 Red Sox are doing it day after incredible day.
A single baseball season does not ordinarily come with this many memorable moments. It generally does not work this way.
A young fan who started following Red Sox baseball in 2013 must expect a miracle almost every day.
Hmmmm. Rays and Yankees on the docket this week. Which Abe Lincoln lookalike is going to hit the winning grand slam tonight? Will it be Mike Carp or Jarrod Saltalamacchia?
Comebacks, ninth-inning rallies, and walkoff wins have become the norm. Domination of the Bronx Bombers (12-6 against the Yankees this year) is ho-hum stuff. Magic every day. It is expected.
Nothing about this makes any sense and everything about it is amazing.
Being really good is one thing; being really good after being really bad is another matter altogether. At this hour last year the Red Sox could not wait to lose. While the Sox quit and stumbled to a 69-win season, clown manager Bobby Valentine was freezing out his coaches (and players) and picking his adult son up at the airport on company time.
Under John Farrell, the 2013 Sox might improve by 30 games. They might go from 69 wins to 99 wins. Not even the ’67 Red Sox did this. The Impossible Dreamers won 92 one year after winning 72. They won the pennant two years after losing 100 games. In a four-team race (only one of 10 American League teams made it to the postseason), they produced a freeze-frame moment every other day.
Old-time New Englanders still recite Jose Tartabull’s throw (ChiSox outfielder Ken Berry was nailed at home plate on a great tag by Elston Howard), the Sox’ Aug. 20 comeback from 8-0 against the Angels to win, 9-8, and Yaz going 7 for 8 in the final two games at home against the Twins. We still remember Rich Rollins’s popup to Rico Petrocelli for the final out of the regular season. We remember the Sox in their Fenway locker room later that day, listening to honey-throat Ernie Harwell delivering the good news from Motown over the clubhouse radio (Angels over Tigers in the second game of a doubleheader).
It can never be like that again. The ’67 Sox won the pennant after nearly two decades of mediocrity and bad baseball. The ’67 team drew a lofty 1.7 million fans two years after the Sox drew 652,201 for an entire season. In ’67 we watched the Triple Crown summer of Carl Yastrzemski unfold. Those were days when fans pulled their cars over at the entrance to the Callahan tunnel because the Sox were rallying and there was no radio reception in the tunnel.
The 2013 Red Sox will never own the town the way the ’67 team owned the town, but these long faces are no less worthy. John Henry is Tom Yawkey. Ben Cherington is Dick O’Connell. David Ortiz is Yaz. Jacoby Ellsbury is Reggie Smith. Mike Carp is Dalton Jones. Ryan Dempster is Lee Stange. David Ross is Mike Ryan. Brandon Workman is Gary Waslewski. Joe Castiglione is Ned Martin.
There is no 46-year-old comparison for Koji Uehara. From the back of the bullpen, he is doing things none of us ever have seen.
We are now 12 months removed from the worst local baseball season in 47 years. And with two weeks left in the regular season, the Red Sox look like the best team in baseball.