Saturday, June 17, 2017

Four Home Runs

On the morning of Friday, June 17, 1977, the Boston Red Sox were a half-game behind the New York Yankees, and starting a three game series with the New York squad that evening at Fenway Park.  Though the Red Sox had lost the night before to the White Sox, they'd won nine of their last eleven games.

Arriving three hours before the Fenway gates opened, my friends and I joined the line to buy $1.50 bleacher seats.  It was a full house that night with 34,557 in attendance.  Our seats were 10 to 15 rows behind the bullpens in right-center.  It wasn't hot but it was very humid, and pretty unpleasant in the concession area underneath the bleachers.
Fans lined up outside Fenway Park on June 19, 1978, waiting for the sale of bleacher seats to a Red Sox-Yankees game.
 (Standing outside Fenway waiting for bleacher seats for Yankees game to go on sale in 1978, we aren't in the photo but, I regret to say, we probably looked like that; from Boston Globe)

Bill Lee started for the Sox (watching Lee and Luis Tiant pitch was a joy, though Lee was never the same after he hurt his shoulder in a 1976 Sox-Yankees brawl). Mickey Rivers singled and Thurman Munson reached on an error by third baseman Butch Hobson (a common occurrence that year and next) but the Yanks didn't score.

Rick Burleson led off the bottom of the first against Catfish Hunter and lifted a fly ball that barely got over the Green Monster.  Fred Lynn then stroked a line shot into the right field bullpen.  After Rice and Yaz were retired, Carlton Fisk hit a no-doubter way over the Monster.  And then George "Boomer" Scott strode to the plate and hit the one I remember most vividly.  It quickly arced  astonishingly high, seeming to be twice the height of the left field wall, as it majestically floated serenely out into the night.  We went nuts.
(George "Boomer" Scott; the Sox traded him to the Brewers where he had his best years, then got him back just as he was starting his decline, giving up Cecil Cooper who had a string of seven outstanding seasons with the Brewers, photo from ESPN) 

Ken Clay came in the relieve Catfish and induced Bernie Carbo to fly out.  We were up 4-0 and the game looked like a breeze, until Bill Lee gave up three in the top of the second and one more in the third before being replaced by Bob "Steamer" Stanley.

The Sox broke the tie in the fifth when Fred Lynn scored on a ground out by Yaz.  In the seventh Boston added two more on back to back home runs by Yaz and Fisk, going on to win 9-4 and capturing the top spot in the AL East.

Illustrating one of the big changes between the 1977 and 2017 games, Sox closer Bill Campbell pitched the last three innings. 

On Saturday, the Sox won 10-4, hitting another five home runs.  That was the day Billy Martin took Reggie Jackson out of the game because of a perceived lack of hustle leading to a blow up in the dugout between the two.!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_750/reggie15a-4-web.jpg(from NY Daily News)

The next day was an 11-1 Red Sox romp with the Boston team adding another six homers.  It was part of a ten game span in which the Sox hit a major league record 33 homers.

The games were played in only 2:27, 2:38 and 2:23.  By comparison, game times for the August 2016 series in Fenway between the teams were 3:02, 3:13 and 4:15 (and yes, that last one was only a 9 inning game).

The Sox went on to sweep a four game set against the Orioles, adding another nine homers and increasing their division lead to 4.5 games.  They then lost nine in a row.

Boston closed out the season winning 21 of its final 29 games, finishing 97-64 but it was only good for a second place tie with Baltimore which won 25 of its last 34 games.  The Yankees won 100 games, capped by winning 40 of 50 between August 7 and September 28.

Watching a Red Sox-Yankees game in the Fenway bleachers in those years was quite an experience.  We hated the Yankees with a white hot passion.  It was different than the 90s and 00s Yankees.  We hated that team, not the players (we made an exception for A-Rod); we actually admired Rivera and Jeter, though we'd never admit to the latter .  In the 70s we hated the players as well as the team - Nettles, Munson, Jackson, Rivers, Piniella, Gossage, led by archvillian Billy Martin along with big mouth George Steinbrenner.

I'd been in the bleachers the prior year when batteries were thrown at Mickey Rivers in centerfield.  I couldn't see the idiots who were doing it but the stands quickly flooded with police to get the situation under control.  Fights were always breaking out (we came close to getting involved in one). It didn't help that the bleachers would be full 90 minutes before the game with everyone drinking beer.

One memory, which I think is from the June 17 game, is of Reggie Jackson running out to right field at the start of the game.  Everyone in the bleachers rose and gave him a standing boo.  Reggie stood there looking at us, with his hands on his hips, laughing.  He didn't care about getting booed as long as we were paying attention to him.

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