Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg was swept away by excited fans after Boston defeated the Minnesota Twins to clinch at least a tie for the American League pennant.
Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg was swept away by excited fans after Boston defeated the Minnesota Twins to clinch at least a tie for the American League pennant.
United Press International/File

50 years on, historic Sox win still seems impossible

This is the final in a series of articles about the Boston Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season and the Summer of 1967 in Boston. Learn more about this project.

It was the final day of the season, partly cloudy over Fenway and newly crisp, as if the weather had noted the turn to October and shed a dozen degrees from the day before.

Boston had won a do-or-die game the previous afternoon to tie the Minnesota Twins and stay alive on this Sunday, Oct. 1, and some fans had stuck around through the night, warmed by the strange thrill of a possible pennant, camped by the ballpark with standing-room dreams.

But even the lucky ones with tickets arrived long before the 2 p.m. start, steaming through the turnstiles. They jostled to the front of the unreserved sections, planted themselves in the aisles, and crowded the concourses, banging on steel and concrete and waving banners, including one asking the question of the hour: “Is Yaz God?” They even dangled from the grandstand rafters, dislodging dirt and debris onto others below, until someone complained to police.

The college kids could scarcely recall a .500 team; their parents had hazy memories of a 1946 pennant, the only one since the first World War. Nothing prepared them for the fervor today — the booing so intense for the Twins lineup you could barely make out Sherm Feller’s gravelly baritone on the PA, the roaring for these 1967 Red Sox so long it delayed the national anthem.

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There was no way the official attendance (35,770, well above the 33,524 capacity) could be high enough, surely missing the ones who knew how to scale or sneak into the wheezing old ballpark or who had simply been waved through, rewarded by a familiar usher for being there in those dismal seasons when 3,500 was a strong September crowd.

And it didn’t count the turned-back fans who scaled the Old Grand-Dad billboard beyond left-center or raced to the 50th-story Skywalk at the new Prudential Tower, pumping dimes into high-powered binoculars for a three-minute view of the field. Or the millions leaning in now toward their TVs and transistor radios, from the Merrimack Valley to the Mekong Delta.

Few had even been paying attention until midseason, when a freewheeling young team with a brash rookie manager began stringing together so many improbable wins and stirring comebacks that they captivated not just New England but much of the country, writers across the league calling them the “Baby Bombers” and “Cardiac Kids,” now even “Destiny’s Darlings.”

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But not today. A team drilled on fundamentals made two errors — one even by Yaz, the runaway MVP — that each yielded a run, so that it was 2-0 in the third, unchanged in the sixth. Minnesota ace Dean Chance was cruising, a man who had beaten the Sox four times this season, including a rain-shortened five-inning perfect game. Fenway Park was listless, the air seeped from the balloon.

The hometown crowds fell in love with the ’67 Sox, and the nickname “Cardiac Kids” stuck because of their many close wins.
The hometown crowds fell in love with the ’67 Sox, and the nickname “Cardiac Kids” stuck because of their many close wins.
Dan Goshtigian/Globe Staff/File

And now Sox hurler Jim Lonborg was leading off, sharp on the mound but no one’s vision of a rally-starter at the plate. Impractically tall for the batter’s box, he had fanned 52 times in 96 at-bats. As he shed his pitcher’s warm-up jacket and gamely stepped in, it was hard not to tally it already as an automatic out, one step closer to the end of the inning, the game, and the season. Behind the plate, one fan clapped mechanically.

But Lonborg, glancing subtly, could see the third baseman playing too deep. He knew Chance threw with so much action he’d be slow off the mound. He’d have one shot to surprise them, if he could place a bunt right between the two men.

Trying not to betray his intent, Lonborg waited for the very moment Chance released the pitch. Then he stepped back with his lead foot and leveled his bat.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg's bunt touched off a five-run, game-winning rally in their season finale against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on Oct. 1, 1967.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg's bunt touched off a five-run, game-winning rally in their season finale against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on Oct. 1, 1967.
Frank O’Brien/Globe Staff/file

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“What’s wrong with the Red Sox?” the Globe’s Harold Kaese had asked perennially since first posing the question back in the 1940s in the Saturday Evening Post, a blistering critique of the team’s mismanagement, blithe spending, and one-dimensional play.

But when he trotted out the evergreen in an Aug. 24 column, Kaese, for the first time, meant to be ironic. 

Eight straight losing seasons, two straight ninth-place finishes, 100-to-1 odds in Vegas this year on a Red Sox pennant. No major league team had even come back from eighth place to do it, let alone ninth.

Yet here were the Sox, somehow in the thick of the race, even after Tony Conigliaro — the handsome young cleanup hitter seemingly on a Cooperstown course — had been beaned on Aug. 18.

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Writers and fans had all figured that was the end of these pennant dreams.

Except the Sox rallied to win the night Tony C went down and proceeded to take seven straight, catching all the breaks.

“O, this is all so beautiful for winning a pennant, but so catastrophic for a club supposed to finish” near last, Kaese wrote, with Boston one game back. “They’ll never make it as bums this year.”

They still hadn’t gotten the message by Labor Day weekend, waking up Tuesday, Sept. 5, with a record of 78-62, just a half-game back for the home stretch — second of four teams bunched up in a stubbornly close race.

Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey and outfielder Carl Yastrzemski talked before a late-September game at Fenway Park.
Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey and outfielder Carl Yastrzemski talked before a late-September game at Fenway Park.
Frank O’Brien/Globe Staff/file

That afternoon, as the Sox prepared for another win (on the road, in Washington), the man everyone at Fenway called “Mr. Yawkey” paused on the dugout steps back home, savoring a cigarette after a vigorous game of pepper with the clubhouse boys. 

Before the 64-year-old owner could slip away, Record-American columnist John “Bud” Gillooly caught up with him, asking something fans wanted to know: Was he still thinking about moving the team?

Back in June, a fatigued Yawkey had returned to Boston from his South Carolina winter estate to find state lawmakers, after five years of debate, no closer to delivering the taxpayer-funded Fenway replacement he sought. If they didn’t break ground soon, he would relocate the team to some eager Sun Belt locale.

But then a funny thing happened. After attracting 20,000 fans just four times in April and May, the Sox began drawing so well that they were now on pace for a franchise record, leading the league in attendance for the first time since 1915. Only a dwindling few around Fenway could still recall those heady days.

Yawkey still wanted Beacon Hill to produce a stadium, but he was having too much fun now to ever leave town.

“Stadium or no stadium,” he said, “the Red Sox are in Boston to stay so long as I have anything to say about it.”

The season wasn’t even over. But the franchise had already been saved by a second-place team. 

You could have spent the next three weeks on vacation and avoided lots of anguish, because for all the twists and turns in between, teams leapfrogging each other and falling back again, the Sox found themselves in the same position Sept. 25, half a game back, second to Minnesota in a four-team fight.

Even on vacation, though, the Sox were unavoidable, and not just chatter on Cape Cod beaches or among passing hikers on Monadnock. In Montreal, Expo 67 tourists couldn’t help overhearing the staticky sounds of Ken Coleman or Ned Martin, so many fans with transistor radios straining to reel in the feed. 

And for the first time in their Boston careers, the players found fans cheering them even on the road, celebrated from ballpark to ballpark as a real-life Walter Mitty team.

Though they had spent the fewest days in first place of any contender, they now seemed to have the most favorable final-week schedule, with three days off and all their games at Fenway. On Tuesday and Wednesday they would play seventh-place Cleveland, losers of 13 of 16 already to the Sox, before the Twins would hit town for two games in a final-weekend showdown.

With the Sox idle Monday, lawmakers in joint session on Beacon Hill fawned over Yawkey and general manager Dick O’Connell, presenting a commemorative gavel and staging a roll-call vote exhorting Boston to win the pennant, a unanimous 202-0.

That night Minnesota lost. Without playing, the Sox pulled into a tie for first. Giddy fans, overlooking Cleveland, envisioned Boston in the driver’s seat by the end of the week.

And then they face-planted against the Indians, losing 6-3 and 6-0.

In the first loss, at least, Yaz hit his 43rd homer, to go with a .319 average and 115 RBIs, leading the league now in all three.

But the second game was just agony, the Sox sloppy and sluggish, and stunned fans responded with boos.

In the visiting locker room, the Indians were gleeful. “We drove the nails in the coffin,” catcher Joe Azcue said. On the Boston side, most of the players dressed quickly. Beer bottle dangling, stoic infielder Jerry Adair took one last drag from a cigarette. “A good year,” he said, “and it turned into nothing in the last two days.”

Yaz replayed the disaster all the way home. Then he turned on the TV: Losses all around; Boston remained alive, one back, tied with Detroit.

He’d hit .444 over his previous 10 games, but still came in for extra batting practice the next day, mood brightened, amazed at this extra chance.

“We’ve just got to be the luckiest team in baseball,” he said. “Maybe we are destined to win this thing, like people say.” 

They debated it in bars and at bus stops, over junior high cafeteria tables and with the mailman, too, parsing it like a passage in the Talmud: Who should pitch, and when? 

Lonborg had emerged as Boston’s clear No. 1 after two inconsistent seasons, but it was hard to say if he should go Saturday — for the best shot at that must win? — or roll the dice and hold him for Sunday, which could be an even bigger stage but might mean nothing at all.

And even Lonborg wouldn’t be a sure thing against either of Minnesota’s stellar top two starters, Jim Kaat and Chance. Despite overall numbers that had Lonborg in the Cy Young mix (21-9, 3.23 ERA, a league-best 241 strikeouts) he remained bedeviled at hitter-friendly Fenway, surrendering nearly five runs a game.

Also, he had never beaten Minnesota, home or away, day or night, with an 0-6 record. Still, he was the ace. But No. 2? Jose Santiago, a rare bright spot the previous year, had been demoted to the pen by the spring. In June, Boston traded for slumping former All-Star Gary Bell, who then flourished here, 12-7 with a 3.09 ERA entering the week. Santiago had responded, too, sparkling in long relief and spot starts.

And then both got shelled in the same loss to Cleveland.

Williams mulled it over, gulping beer, smoking cigarettes, fiddling with the radio trying to get out-of-town games. Then he decided: Lonborg Sunday, Santiago Saturday — with Bell on high-alert in the bullpen.

Senator Ted Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey took in the Twins-Red Sox game on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Senator Ted Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey took in the Twins-Red Sox game on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Frank O’Brien/Globe Staff/File

Four batters and 14 pitches, and it looked like Santiago might be done already. Minnesota had one run in and two men on with just one out in the first.

Williams signaled for Bell to warm up. Santiago surrendered another single. Now the bases were loaded, Minnesota threatening to blow it open before Boston even came to bat, with six governors, both Massachusetts senators, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, an avid Twins fan, looking on. Hard to believe this was the same Fenway that had drawn just 461 and 409 fans to consecutive late-September games two years before.

Williams emerged from the dugout, walking slowly to the mound. But instead of pulling Santiago, he gave him a pep talk — and one more chance to settle down.

The night before, Santiago had noticed a crowd at a playground near his Brookline apartment, a rally for a special-election state legislative race, and before he knew it hewas being pulled in to meet Senator Ted Kennedy.

A huge fan, Kennedy surprised Santiago by introducing him to the crowd. “Jose Santiago will be the winning pitcher tomorrow,” Kennedy said to cheers, before plugging the guy seeking office. “And Haskell Kassler will be the winning candidate Tuesday.”

Santiago was so surprised that he promised to win — and give Kennedy the ball. Now, with the senator watching from the front row by the Sox dugout, the 27-year-old righty from Puerto Rico responded, with two quick outs to escape the first-inning jam, a string of shutout innings to follow.

Except with the dominant Kaat on the mound for Minnesota, that one run could be all the Twins needed.

And then a pop, just as Kaat was striking out Santiago in the third innning. Something was wrong in his elbow, this workhorse who had thrown more innings than anyone else over the last three years; he could not continue.

More bad luck for Minnesota — a crazy infield bounce, a relief pitcher who forgot to cover first, a dropped throw — helped the Sox crawl back. They led, 3-2, by the time Yastrzemski came up with one out and two on in the seventh.

“Yaz is going to do it now,” said Massachusetts Republican John Volpe, one of those governors in the stands.

And he did, unloading on a 3-1 pitch for his 44th home run.

Ricky Williams, 10-year-old son of Boston Red Sox manager Dick Williams, sat with outfielder George Thomas at Fenway Park on the final weekend of the regular season.
Ricky Williams, 10-year-old son of Boston Red Sox manager Dick Williams, sat with outfielder George Thomas at Fenway Park on the final weekend of the regular season.
Frank O’Brien/Globe Staff/File

They exploded at Fenway and on the T — where another Kennedy, motorman Tom, was trying to keep the game on his transistor radio while going in and out of tunnels, fans missing stops as they crowded to hear — and all over town. It was such a fine display of clutch hitting, even Humphrey stood and cheered.

With the game surely in hand, a spent Santiago exited to an ovation with a 6-2 lead in the eighth, moved nearly to tears. In the grandstand, someone waved a massive banner, “GOD BLESS RED SOX WIN OR LOSE.”

They held on to win, 6-4, and rejoiced in the Boston clubhouse. “You’re too much, baby,” Santiago said to Yaz, planting a grateful kiss on the outfielder’s cheek.

In his office, Williams leafed through a stack of telegrams on his desk, smiling as he read them. “Here’s one that must have been sent tomorrow,” he said, laughing. “It says, ‘Congratulations on winning the 1967 pennant.’ ”

And then it was Sunday, the Sox down 2-0 in the sixth, the pennant slipping away with Lonborg at the plate. He thought Chance wouldn’t waste a good breaking ball on him, and he was right, getting a fastball, easier to bunt. He laid it down and took off on contact; the ball bounced in front of the plate and high in the air.

The surprised crowd came to life, urging Lonborg on as he loped to first. Cesar Tovar, the third baseman playing too deep, scurried in and managed to snag the ball. But as he brought it up to transfer for a tough throw, the ball bobbled away, Lonborg safe.

With the crowd roaring, “Go! Go! Go!” and “We want a hit!”, utilityman Adair came to the plate and delivered, sending a seeing-eye grounder beyond the reach of Rod Carew at second.

Fans crowded Jersey Street outside Fenway Park after the Red Sox defeated the Twins on the last game of the regular season.
Fans crowded Jersey Street outside Fenway Park after the Red Sox defeated the Twins on the last game of the regular season.
Bettmann Archive

Now Dalton Jones feigned a bunt and Tovar shaded in, not to be burned again. But Jones swung freely, the ball finding a hole between short and third.

The bases were loaded now, still 2-0 Twins, but with Yaz coming up. The crowd at Fenway was so excited, Williams could feel the dugout shake.

Yastrzemski, 5-for-6 already this weekend but still beating himself up over a third-inning error, was ready to strike.

Across town at the Charles Playhouse, Jeanie Eaton — a 22-year-old Wellesley High teacher with a soft spot for George Scott — was trying to be discreet about the transistor-radio wire running to one ear.

The Needham native had mourned with her dad when Conigliaro got beaned, and walked to dozens of games in the bleak years as a student at Simmons. Now she wished she could be at Fenway, giving her energy to the team.

But she was also a frugal New Englander who’d spent $20 on a fall subscription to the playhouse, and couldn’t bear to waste her ticket — though she’d scarcely watched today’s matinee, an antiwar play featuring some young actor, Al Pacino.

For six innings she’d kept silent. Now Yaz delivered a liner to center — two runs in, all tied up! She couldn’t resist; she let out a yip. Heads turned. Some nearby — husbands mostly, on poorly timed dates — saw her wire and figured it out. “Psst, what’s happening?” they asked. More heads turned, and the whispered score spread through the small theater.

Back at Fenway, roars unabated, Ken Harrelson stepped in, the colorful slugger Boston had lucked into signing as a fill-in for Tony C.

With runners on the corners and Yaz going with the pitch, Harrelson chopped one to short. With no play now at second, Zoilo Versalles made a wild throw home instead of going for the safe out at first. Boston now had a 3-2 lead, two on, still no outs.

Only Yaz’s single was hard-hit, but Minnesota manager Cal Ermer worried that Chance was snakebit. He called for Al Worthington, one of the league’s steadiest relievers.

But Worthington’s nerves failed him. His first pitch sailed way wide, advancing the runners. He had thrown just three wild pitches in his previous 91 innings, but a moment later he threw yet another, and it was now 4-2.

He settled down, but Reggie Smith then hit a grounder off first baseman Harmon Killebrew’s shin, giving the Sox one more run.

Out in right, a 27-year-old claims adjuster threw his arms toward the heavens. “Glory hallelujah!” shouted Bill Smith of Dorchester.

And 20-year-old Dori Nollman once more pulled open her trench coat, to the shock and delight of other fans. The college student, leading cheers from section to section, had a full Red Sox uniform underneath.

On the T, she didn’t have the nerve to show the uniform, a boy’s relic her antique-collector parents had found somewhere, but the Framingham State student felt emboldened amid so manyother fans. Come Monday her picture would be in the papers (“Jumping Red ‘Soxette,’” the Globe called her), full uniform and Jackie O shades, posted on the bulletin boards at school.

She’d grown up going to games with her dad, until he lost interest — “whaddaya gonna go watch those bums for?” — but still she kept coming with her sister, admitted to both games this weekend without a ticket.

And now in just 24 minutes, the Sox had strung together an inning that she and everyone else here would remember for the rest of their lives — a game-changing rally that began with an unlikely bunt and ended with a 5-2 lead, the Twins seemingly buried, and Fenway organist John Kiley cheekily playing “The Night They Invented Champagne.”

Across town at the Charles Playhouse, the whispers (“Psst! What happened now?”) to Jeanie Eaton gave way to a buzzing crowd around her in the lobby during intermission, the radio loud enough for everyone to hear. When the lights flashed, she plugged her earphone back in to silence the radio, but an usher stopped her at the door. “You have to leave,” he told her. “You’re ruining the play.”

Back on the mound, Lonborg seemed to be in command. Having struggled at Fenway, he had tried to trick himself into thinking he was pitching a road game by eschewing his apartment — a bachelor pad at the new Charles River Park — for a night at the Sheraton.

After a quiet dinner with wine and a book, he got up feeling great. Confident on his walk from the hotel, he wrote “$10,000” inside his mitt for extra motivation, the share they’d get if they won today and went to the series — for Lonborg, a roughly 50 percent salary bonus. And then he delivered in the biggest game of his life, though he could feel himself tiring in the eighth, past 4 p.m. at a graying Fenway Park.

As an incentive to his teammates, pitcher Jim Lonborg wrote $10,000 on the locker room chalkboard before the Sept. 30 game. That is the amount each player would get for winning the American League pennant.
As an incentive to his teammates, pitcher Jim Lonborg wrote $10,000 on the locker room chalkboard before the Sept. 30 game. That is the amount each player would get for winning the American League pennant.
Getty Images

He gave up one hit, erased on a double play, then two more singles. Fans who thought Minnesota was finished now held their breath, runners at the corners and the tying run — power hitter Bob Allison, a three-time All-Star — stepping in.

Allison hit a run-scoring liner toward the left-field corner, rounding first for what seemed like a sure double. But Yaz caught up with the ball and fired a strike to second, snuffing out the rally as Allison flopped in late.

Soon it was the ninth, Lonborg’s game to complete. A bad hop on a leadoff grounder caught shortstop Rico Petrocelli under the right eye, dropping him to the dirt, again bringing the tying run to the plate. But Rod Carew grounded to second, and Mike Andrews nimbly completed the double play.

Across New England, three voices had surpassed even Sgt. Pepper as the soundtrack of the summer, with WHDH’s Ken Coleman and Ned Martin trading off play-by-play and ex-pitcher Mel Parnell adding color on both radio and TV.

With one out left, Coleman was already working his way toward the clubhouse to be ready for the postgame scene.

It was 4:36. Lonborg began his windup to pinch hitter Rich Rollins. “Thuuuuuuh pitch. Is looped toward shortstop. Petrocelli’s back,” said the mellow Martin, in a clip that would soon be memorialized on vinyl, a season-highlights LP that was the runaway gift come Christmas in New England.

The ball hung in the air for three seconds, an eternity to Petrocelli, ranging back, arms up, waiting. And then: “He’s got it. The Red Sox win!” said Martin, amid a burst of cheers and what sounded like a stampede. “There’s pandemonium on the field! Listen...”

Boston Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg was lifted by his teammates after his complete-game 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on the final regular-season game of the year.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg was lifted by his teammates after his complete-game 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on the final regular-season game of the year.
Associated Press

Petrocelli pumped his glove, leaped into the arms of third baseman Dalton Jones, and then they joined their teammates converging on the mound. Already Lonborg was up on the shoulders of Andrews and first baseman George Scott. Within five seconds of the catch — ahead of even some Sox players — people in streetclothes had jumped onto the field and were surging into the pile.

Soon there were 20, then 200, then too many to count, closing all around Lonborg, blotting out the grass. It looked like film of cells dividing, or pirates storming a ship, pouring over the gunwales from all sides.

Most of the Sox players managed to slip away or bull their way through the crowd to the clubhouse. Not Lonborg, the crowd hoisting him this way and that. But his elation at getting carried off the field — every Little Leaguer’s dream — turned to unease, as the surging pack ferried him now toward a gate in right.

Only after police intervened was Lonborg able to safely reach the clubhouse. By then the buttons were gone from from his jersey, the sweatshirt beneath ripped away, though the cuffs remained on his forearms. His hat and shoelaces disappeared, but he still had his glove and his spikes.

The bleachers were standing-room only during the game that Sunday.
The bleachers were standing-room only during the game that Sunday.
Bob Dean/Globe Staff/File

As fans plucked numbers and letters off the scoreboard, tried to scale the backstop netting, and tore away the bases, writers in the press box watched in astonishment. None of them could remember anything quite this wild, especially for a team that hadn’t won the pennant yet.

As the scoreboard had read before being picked clean, Detroit had just beaten California in the first game of a doubleheader, giving them a 91-70 record, a half-game back. If the Tigers won the nightcap, they could force a three-game playoff for the pennant, the second ever in the history of the league. Boston had lost the league’s only other playoff, in 1948.

Red Smith, the dean of national sports columnists, couldn’t help but think about the franchise’s penchant for autumnal collapse and wonder if the celebrants might be wise to wait.

He had been there in ’46, when the 104-win Sox romped to the pennant but stumbled as favorites in the Series, and he certainly remembered ’49, when Boston surprised everybody by sweeping three against the Yankees to squeak ahead with a week left, only to lose both games of a final-weekend rematch and squander a one-game lead. That was the last year they’d even been in the mix.

But most of the fans down on the field — who would not clear out until the grounds crew thought to turn on the sprinklers — didn’t remember those days; they’d only known the Sox to be mediocre, never good enough for heartbreak.

Meanwhile, the first players to reach the clubhouse were already spraying one another with bottles of Schlitz beer when Yaz found his way in.

“What are you using that 35-cent stuff for?” he said, grinning. “Where’s the champagne? How many people did we draw? Can’t we afford better stuff than this?”

The normally drab clubhouse, decorated with good-luck telegrams and a chalkboard scrawled with the same $10,000 as Lonborg’s glove, was crammed now with unfamiliar faces, national media wielding microphones, TV cameras, and portable lights.

The players jumped around, dousing one another and splashing strangers. But with the second game in Detroit just beginning, the cases of champagne remained in the cooler.

“This is fantastic,” said Yaz, locating his dad, Carl Sr., a potato farmer from eastern Long Island. “Where’s Lonny, the Cy Young of our team? This is positively out of this world!”

Boston Red Sox players celebrated after their final regular-season game in 1967, clinching at least a tie for the American League pennant. Carl Yastrzemski (right) smoked a cigar.
Boston Red Sox players celebrated after their final regular-season game in 1967, clinching at least a tie for the American League pennant. Carl Yastrzemski (right) smoked a cigar.
Frank O’Brien/Globe Staff/File

The dinged-up Lonborg arrived, and teammates hauled him into the shower, the latest to be doused with beer and a burst of water. “I don’t think there’ll ever be another day in baseball like this,” he said, drenched, elated, pouring a beer onto his head. “This is the greatest day of my life.”

But the celebration tapered off soon, giving way to three hours of waiting. The Detroit game was not televised in Boston, so the Sox clustered to listen to the radio in the training room or on folding chairs by their lockers.

Listening was torture, right up to the ninth, when Detroit had two men on, no outs, and the tying run at the plate. But then: fly out, double play, it was all over. Yaz leaped from his chair, they all did, screaming and shouting.

Except for Conigliaro, the injured young star with the uncertain future, crying softly in a corner. Governor Volpe and Yawkey sought to console him, reminding Tony C of all he’d done to bring the team here with his stellar play into August.

With Boston now bound for a World Series against the Cardinals, organist Kiley returned to his booth. Now the sounds of “Meet Me in St. Louis” carried over the empty stands and out of the park.

Those old enough to remember cheering Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove toasted the team with beer or tipped back shots at the cavernous Pennant Grille, a landmark at Brookline and Lansdowne since the 1930s.

Many of the younger fans who had waited outside — hanging on the outcome, ready to buy tickets for a playoff if it came to it — sprinted now toward Kenmore, chanting “We’re No. 1!” and passing a couple of officers who flashed the V-sign for victory. In the square, they were joined by thousands more streaming from all directions, some hurling cherry bombs or scaling scaffolding and traffic lights, most just cheering and waving, music roaring from radios.

Balloons scrawled with messages (“We Love You, Yaz”) floated up into the night sky; hundreds peeled off for a spontaneous march toward the Common and the Combat Zone, painting hoods and fenders along the way with “Go-Go Sox” slogans and flowers.

Smaller celebrations erupted all over New England. At the University of Maine, the roar from the crowd upon news of the pennant interrupted a Barry Goldwater speech. In Amherst, UMass students threw trash cans and paper down from high-rise windows like confetti.

Back at Fenway, teammates carried Yaz around the room. They ran fully clothed into the showers, swigged champagne, and sang doo-wop, even a grinning Tony C.

Amid all this, few were talking much about the World Series, which would not start until Wednesday.

“I don’t even want to talk about the Cardinals now,” a suds-soaked Dick Williams said. “All I want to do is believe that we’ve won this thing.”

Kaese also sensed the strange feeling of finality that night at Fenway. “And now for the great anti-climax — the World Series.”

John Bingham of Hanson and Mike Yebba of Billerica listened to a World Series game on Oct. 9, 1967, on the 26th floor of the Prudential Building.
John Bingham of Hanson and Mike Yebba of Billerica listened to a World Series game on Oct. 9, 1967, on the 26th floor of the Prudential Building.
Jack Sheahan/Globe Staff

They lost. In seven games. But losing was almost beside the point. The dream part of The Impossible Dream season had been accomplished. There could never be another year like this, nor would there need to be: The 1967 Red Sox ignited a moribund fan base, raising expectations and attendance forever.

It wasn’t that people were indifferent, or didn’t think Boston could beat a powerhouse Cardinals team. Yastrzemski, for one, predicted a Sox win in six, and who could bet against Yaz?

Down 3 games to 1, the Sox rallied to take it all the way to Game 7, Oct. 12 at Fenway.

The venerable Park Street Church held an outdoor “Brimstone Corner” service, inviting all who wanted to offer prayer or meditation on the Boston Red Sox. And there was no question about the selection for the 75-bell carillon: “The Impossible Dream,” from “Man of La Mancha.”

But by the seventh inning at Fenway, with St. Louis leading 7-1, the outcome seemed certain. Police prepared to array themselves both inside and around the park, anticipating a darker version of the mayhem that followed the win in the regular-season finale.

But fans weren’t angry, and they weren’t heartbroken. Instead, they were grateful for this unlikely windfall, a team with low expectations and few followers captivating an entire region. In the ninth, with 35,188 crowding Fenway, with more than ever atop the billboards that rose from Lansdowne Street, the fans stood and cheered, as long and loud as they had all season.

And outside Fenway, more and more people filled in around the park, turning off the TV and coming in person to keep faith with the team. One person seemed visibly sad, a boy from Bedford marking his eighth birthday, expecting a World Series triumph as a gift.

But it’s OK, Eddie MacDonald told a reporter after a moment, “They’ll be in the Series next year, and I’ll be here for my birthday.”

As they waited on Jersey Street for the team to emerge, some fans walked over to the office at the corner, seeking season tickets already for 1968. For the first time in ages, but not for the last, Red Sox fans were looking forward to next year.

Red Sox fans crowded outside the press gate waiting for Red Sox players to leave Fenway Park on Oct. 12, 1967, after they lost the seventh game.
Red Sox fans crowded outside the press gate waiting for Red Sox players to leave Fenway Park on Oct. 12, 1967, after they lost the seventh game, 4-3.
Joyce Dopkeen/Globe Staff/File

How this story was reported:

Information about the Red Sox and Boston in 1967 came from newspaper and magazine accounts, photographs, audio and video recordings, and interviews with former players and fans.

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