by Harold Friend
Melody Schwartz recalls the great Red Sox season of 1967. She still bristles when Yankees' fans tell her that it was an unsuccessful season because the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the World Series.
The Yankees Just Don't Get
Yankees' fans just don't get it. For most of them, the only successful season is one in which they win the World Series. What a miserable view. How can anyone support the position that the Red Sox' 1967 season was not one of the greatest years any team, any time, in any sport, ever enjoyed?
Better to Finish Last Than First?
The 1966 Red Sox finished ninth in the expanded American League. Who finished last? Why, it was the New York Yankees. It is amazing that some Yankees' fans felt that it was better to finish last than it was to win the pennant and lose the World Series.
Two Critical Games
Not much was expected of the Red Sox in 1967, but when late September rolled around, the first place Minnesota Twins were at Fenway Park to face the Red Sox in the final two games of the season. The Red Sox, much to the surprise of everyone, and much to the consternation of baseball fans in the Bronx, trailed the Twins by a mere game. The Yankees were safely ensconced in ninth place.
An Inkling of Things to Come?
Early in the season, there was an inkling that Boston might be better than we thought. It was a clear, windy, day on Friday, April 14. I was conducting the science club after school, and of course, I had my little radio. We listened to the Red Sox face Whitey Ford and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium while we made soap in the laboratory.
Elston Howard Strikes
We stopped our work to pay close attention to the ninth inning. Rookie Les Rohr, making his first major league start, had held the Yankees hitless through eight innings. He retired Tom Tresh on a harmless fly ball to left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, and then got Joe Pepitone on a fly ball to right fielder Tony Conigliaro. Then Elston Howard, with two strikes, singled to right center.
More Difficult Than 1949
The Red Sox situation was similar to the 1949 Yankees' position, when they had to beat the Red Sox twice at home to win the pennant, but there was an slight complication. The Tigers were tied with the Red Sox for second, which meant that if Boston did sweep, the Tigers had to lose a game.
Ninth to First
It all worked out. We beat the Twins twice, and the Tigers, after beating the Angels in the first game of a twin bill, lost the second. We were American League Champions. We had gone from ninth place in 1966 to first place in 1967.
Not Since 1948
The Cardinals won the National League pennant easily. A New York team was not in the World Series. That fact alone made 1967 a memorable season to fans across the country.
Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown (hello, MIckey), big right hander Jim Lonborg led the league with 22 wins and won the Cy Young Award, and we had four players make the All-Star team. Attendance jumped from 811,172 in 1966 to 1,727,832 in 1967. The Yankees drew 1,259,514 fans.
Jerry Remy, the great Boston announcer, recently summed it up perfectly.
"The 1967 team created the Red Sox craze and Red Sox Nation we have today. They re-invented baseball in New England."
Bob Gibson, Jim Lonborg, and Rest
The Cardinals deserved to win, but they were able to start the great Bob Gibson in the first game, while Jim Lonborg, who won the last game of the season on October 1, had to wait until the second game, played on October 5, to get his three days rest. All he did was pitch a one hit shut out.
Lonborg started Game 5, again on three days rest. The Cardinals managed one run on three hits as we beat Steve Carlton. Yes, the Cardinals had Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton.
The Series went to a seventh game. Lonborg, on two days rest, was no match for Gibson. We lost, 7-2.
A Magnificent Season
If we had won the World Series, it would have been a perfect season, but nothing can take away all the wonderful things that occurred. The pennant-winning Red Sox were a force in baseball. The ninth place Yankees were a struggling organization that had suffered two of the worst seasons in their history.
In their minds, the Yankees have had 27 successful seasons. In our minds, the Red Sox have had more successful seasons than Yankees' fans care to remember.