Sunday, February 1, 2015

My First Red Sox Game

Recently while pondering the calendar changing to 2015, I realized that I had gone to my first Red Sox game at Fenway Park ( my first big league game anywhere) in 1965.  This means that besides the fact I am getting damned old, that this year is the 50th anniversary of that game.

As the years have passed there are really only a handful of things I remember about the game.  It was around August 20th and the opponent was the the Detroit Tigers.  I recall the score being 13-10 Red Sox, with the offense being paced by home runs for Tony Horton, and my all time favorite payer, Tony Conigliaro.  I remember a very sparse crowd for the night game ( I do not recall the day of the week) and most of all I recall a very difficult time finding Fenway Park by my parents, my younger sister and I  as none of us had ever ventured into Boston.

After finally seeing the lights from a distance we found Fenway and walked up to the ticket window and purchased four seats just several rows behind the Red Sox dugout.  That was the pre Impossible Dream reality for attendance to Red Sox games.

So I have done some research to fill in some of the memory gaps.  The game was on a Saturday night, August 21, 1965.  The Tigers were indeed the visitors and most importantly I had the right score, 13-10 Sox, and I had correctly recalled the only Sox home runs were by Tony Horton and Tony C.

But for the first big league game for a ten year old kid in Maine, it was a delicious stew of characters and events.  Some memories that had faded in time, others perhaps beyond the grasp of a relatively new, young fan, and others that needed the hindsight of decades to shine a light on what I had seen.

So here is the story of my first Red Sox game.

PREGAME

The teams were managed by two baseball lifers.  The Red Sox manager was William Jennings Bryan    "Billy" Herman. His main attribute as manger seemed to be he was a drinking buddy of Tom Yawkey's ( as most of the mangers and execs hired by Yawkey seemed to be).  But as player in his day, Herman was an outstanding second sacker mostly for the Cubs, he actually played in three World Series with the Cubs (really the Cubs) in the 1930's.  Ten years later in 1975, the veterans committee voted Herman into the Hall of Fame.  Herman may or may not have been at Fenway that night.  On August 10, he underwent an emergency appendectomy, and was reported to have missed 11 days with the team.  So he either returned that night or the next day.

Charlie Dressen was the Tigers' skipper.  Dressen ( also known as Chuck) has some claims to fame himself.  He had been a pro football quarterback from 1920-1923 with first the Decatur Staleys( a forerunner of the Chicago Bears) and then in Racine, Wisconsin.  He gave up football for a baseball career, which led him to manage the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1951 to 1953.  1951 was the year of the famous collapse to the cross town Giants and Bobby Thomson's shot heard round the world.  But lead by players such as Jackie Robinson, Dressen lead the Bums to the World Series in 1952 and 1953.
After Dressen was fired and replaced by no name Walter Alston, the Dodgers only changed managers one more time until 1996. Alston and Tommy Lasorda  were the only Dodger managers for all those years.  Dressen also managed the Senators and Milwaukee Braves, before joining the Tigers in mid-64. Chuck had a heart attack in spring training of 1965 and re-joined the Tigers at the end of May.  The second of two more heart attacks in 1966 lead to his death on August 10, 1966, less than one year from this game night.

STARTING LINEUPS

Detroit

1. 3B  Don Wert
2. 2B  Jerry Lumpe
3. LF  Gates Brown
4. RF  Willie Horton
5. CF  Don Demeter
6. 1B  Norm Cash
7.  C   Bill Freehan
8. SS  Ray Oyler
9.   P  Hank Aguirre

Boston

1. SS  Rico Petrocelli
2. 3B  Frank Malzone
3. LF  Carl Yastrzemski
4. 2B  Felix Mantilla
5. RF Tony Conigliaro
6. 1B  Tony Horton
7. CF  Jim Gosger
8.  C  Bob Tillman
9.  P  Dave Morehead


Boston was 44-77, 33 games out of first in ninth place.  The Tigers were in third, nine games behind the eventual 1965 AL champs, the Minnesota Twins, with a record of 69-52.  The announced paid attendance was 7, 567.

FIRST INNING

The first major league hitter I ever saw stride to the plate was Don Wert, the Tiger third baseman.  Wert, who is the only player in major league history to have a last name that can be spelled out on any standard keyboard with four or more consecutive keys, left to right. ( Go ahead and try to find another). Wert was known as good fielding, light hitting player, but he was in the midst of his best two season stretch of his career offensively ( 64-65).  Wert struck out as did both of the next two Tigers, and in the first inning I ever saw pitched in the big leagues, Sox starter Dave Morehead had struck out the side.

The Red Sox began the first by getting the first two batters on base with a single and a walk.  The two hitters at the top of the Sox lineup were a rookie and faded vet near the end: Rico Petrocelli and Frank Malzone.  Rico Petrocelli, was the everyday Sox shortstop as a rookie in 1965 (although he made his MLB debut by playing one game and getting a double in 1963).  In '65 Rico hit 13-33-.232, but he became a Sox fixture through 1976, eventually moving to third base, playing in two World Series with Boston ('67 and '75).  He was a key member of the Impossible Dream Sox two years later.  Rico finished his career with 210 home runs, and the 40 home runs he hit in 1970 was a American League record for years.

Malzone, 35 years old at the time, was born and raised in the Bronx.  He first joined the Red Sox in 1955, full time at third base in 1957, a job he held through 1965.  He was a six time AL All Star and won three gold gloves for his stellar play at third.  By the time I saw him in '65 he was near the end, batting only 3-34-.239 and he was released that winter and played one final year for the Angels.

The Sox offense cashed in the two table setters.  A bunt and ground out plated the first run.  Then a two out double by Tony Conigliaro was followed by a two run home run by Tony Horton.

4-0 Boston after one.



SECOND INNING

Willie Horton lead off the Tiger second with a home run.  So not only had I seen a combo of Tony-Tony home runs ( as I had remembered), but in a span of three hitters, I had seen Horton-Horton home runs.  This may seem trivial on first glance, but I did some research on the Hortons.  First Willie and Tony Horton are the only non-pitchcr Hortons in the entire history of major league baseball. There had been only one other Horton by 1965, Elmer Horton who pitched three games in the 1890's.  There has been only one other since, Ricky Horton, a lefty reliever from 1984-1990.   Neither of the pitchers ever hit a home run.  So this night was one of four times anyone named Horton ever homered in the same game as his namesake.  All of course by Tony and Willie: 8-21-65, 4-10-69, 4-17-69, and the final time, July 20, 1969.  For some reason July 20, 1969 is much better known as the day Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to ever land on the moon.

Willie played from 1963-1980, mostly with the Tigers ( also Seattle Mariners and Texas, near the end of his career).  Willie finished with 325 career home runs.

Tony Horton's career was much shorter than Willie's.  Tony, a big bonus baby from California, was noted by Ted Williams, in his role as Sox hitting instructor in spring training, to have a beautiful, powerful swing. But from the beginning Tony's emotional psyche could not handle failure of any kind. Not conducive to major league baseball. In the early part of 1967, Horton was traded to Cleveland for pitcher Gary Bell.  Horton actually flourished statistically, at least.  But his emotional issues grew and grew, and erratic behavior on the field( crawling back to the dugout after striking out for example)increased.  This lead to a suicide attempt, that was never reported until many, many years later, and at age 26 Horton left the Indians in 1970 and never returned to pro baseball.

Dave Morehead's second inning was nearly a mirror image of his 1-2-3 strike 'em all out effort.  After Horton's homer, the Tigers got three straight singles, by Don Demeter, Norm Cash, and Bill Freehan, the third single scoring the Tigers second run.

Bill Freehan, 23 years old at the time, was in the second of ten consecutive All Star campaigns ( and 11 of 12).  The former Univ. of Michigan football star, played his entire career with the Tigers and when he retired held many(since surpassed)  defensive catching records ( most putouts for one).  He ended his career with 200 home runs.  If you are looking for under the radar Hall of Fame candidates for future veterans committees, Freehan could be a good choice.

Morehead got out of the mess with a double play and strikeout of the opposing pitcher. But on the DP, Norm Cash scored the third Tiger tally.

Norm Cash, is an example of a player having one super season in the middle of an otherwise solid, but unspectacular career.  Cash played from 1958-1974, '58 & '59 with the White Sox and then after being traded to Detroit he finished his career there, as the starting first baseman from 60-73.  Norm was a home run hitter, finishing his career with 377( a figure somewhat aided by the short right field porch at Tiger Stadium).  But in 1961 Cash exploded like he never had or would again.  The season Cash had, which was completely overshadowed by the 1961 chase to Babe Ruth's 60 home runs by Yankee teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, included a line of 41-132-.361-.487.  That's right a .361 batting average and a .487 on base %.  In the rest of his career Cash never hit higher than .283.

Hank Aguirre, Tiger lefty, took the mound for the bottom of the second back in the game, down only 4-3.  Aguirre had pitched in the big leagues since 1955, and with the Tigers since 1958.  In 1962 Hank was an All Star and had finished 16-8 and won 14 more in '64, and entered this game at 12-8.  He finished his career in 1970, the last few years as a lefty reliever.  His career totals were 75-72 with a career ERA of 3.25.

Aguirre retired the Sox 8-9 hitters for two quick outs.  He would not get another tonight. Petrocelli and Malzone each singled and then Aguirre walked Yaz.  The hook came out, and Larry Sherry came in to replace Aguirre.  Sherry walked cleanup hitter Felix Mantilla for anotehr Sox run, but then got out of the bases loaded situation by getting Tony C to pop out to first ( this takes on much more significance later on).

5-3 Boston after two.

THIRD INNING

Morehead has a quick third by retiring the top third of the Tiger lineup in order again.  This includes Tiger second baseman, Jerry Lumpe.

Lumpe, 32 at the time, had been in the big leagues since 1956, first with the Yankees.  Lumpe was beat out of the Yankee second base job by Bobby Richardson, and he was traded to the Kansas City A's.  He flourished in KC, having solid seasons from 59-63, and then was traded to Detroit.  Lumpe was the AL All star second baseman in 1964, and was having another fine season in 1965.  His career ended with the Tigers after 1967.

Larry Sherry who had walked in an inherited run in the second walked three more batters in the third with two outs sandwiched in.  Sherry was lifted with two outs based loaded. Today was not Sherry's day but the 1959 World Series had been his time in the sun.  The 24 year old second year Dodger pitcher lead his team to victory over the White Sox in '59 4 games to 2.  In the four Dodger wins, Sherry had two wins and two saves, finishing all four victories.  Larry Sherry was named the MVP of that Fall Classic.

Fred Gladding came into the game and retired Malzone on a fly ball to center field, leaving the bases loaded, and the Red Sox had left the bases loaded for the second inning in a row.

5-3 Boston after three.

FOURTH INNING

Morehead walks the first two hitters to imperil his lead once more, but quickly gets the 6-7-8 hitters on pop ups and fly outs.

Carl Yastrzemski leads off the Sox half with a single.  This game was played one night before Carl's 26th birthday. By 1965, he was all ready Yaz, but not YAZ!, like he would become in two years during the Impossible Dream year.  But he was all ready a past batting champion (1963, as had been Norm Cash in the aforementioned 1961...two in my first game) and the star attraction of this team, although I personally was a Tony C guy.

In one Yaz package I witnessed a number of cool things in my first game.  One of 11 men( up through and including 2014) to win a Triple Crown.  Yaz of course won his in 1967, and no one won another until Miguel Cabrera in 2013. In Yaz I saw a multi-time All Star, who was a All Star Game MVP ('70), an AL MVP in 1967, a member of the three thousand hit club and a first ballot Hall of Famer.

If not for the unfortunate timing of an injury, I would have seen two first ballot Hall of Famers in my first game.  The regular right fielder for Detroit was Al Kaline. He did not play that night, and my research showed he left a Tigers game versus the Twins in the middle of the Tigers turn in the field in the first inning just two days before.  I am not sure of the exact injury, but it was about three weeks or so before Kaline's name reappears in the Tiger lineup.

After an out, Yaz scores on a triple by Conigliaro( something I had completely forgotten about my hero as the years passed). Tony Horton then singles in Tony C. making it 7-3 Red Sox.  Center fielder Jim Gosger continues the rally with a single.

Jim Gosger was one of many, many young players signed by Boston in the pre draft era in an attempt to erase the awful 1950's decade Boston suffered.  The first amateur baseball draft had just taken place two months ago in June 1965.  The Red Sox initial first round pick was Billy Conigliaro, Tony C's younger brother.  Gosger whose career, after signing his bonus in 1962, stretched from 1963-1974.  1965 was actually his best season, 9-35-.256.  He was traded by Boston to the Kansas City A's in June 1966, in a deal which brought to key Impossible Dream players to Boston outfielder Jose Tartabull and relief pitcher John Wyatt.  Gosger's other claim to fame is that he played in 1969 for the one year wonders, the Seattle Pilots, a team immortalized by Jim Bouton in his classic book, Ball Four.

Gosger came around to score on  a walk, passed ball, and ground out RBI by Dave Morehead.

8-3 Boston after four.

FIFTH INNING

For the second straight inning, Morehead walks to first two hitters.  After retiring Jerry Lumpe, the roof falls in with a run scoring double, RBI groundout, and a RBI single by Don Demeter.

Don Demeter began his MLB career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.  His best season was with the Phillies in 1962 when he hit 29-107-.307. Less than a year after this game, in June 1966, he was traded to Boston in one of the worst( and possibly a racially motivated) deals in Red Sox history.  The Sox management for whatever reason was fed up with African American star pitcher Earl Wilson. Wilson was traded straight up for Demeter.  Wilson went on to won 13 games for Detroit in 1966 and in 1967 went 22-11 for the Tigers as they nearly derailed the Impossible Dream team.  The Red Sox at least helped the 1967 cause by sending Don Demeter along with Tony Horton to Cleveland for starting pitcher Gary Bell, and Bell became a solid rotation member behind Jim Lonborg.  Not only was Wilson outstanding on the mound in Detroit, but he hit 16 home runs from 66-68 ( Wilson was a great hitting pitcher with 35 career home runs), while Demeter in his time in Boston hit 9.

With just one more out to qualify for a win, but the 8-3 lead shrunk to 8-6, Morehead is pulled from the game, replaced by veteran Bob Duliba.

Dave Morehead, again was one of the young guns the Sox front office loaded up on in the early 1960's.  He was from San Diego, and made his Sox debut in 1963.  In the years to come injuries derailed his career, his stay in Boston lasted through 1968 (Morehead did pitch in the '67 World Series, 3 1/3 scoreless innings in two games).The new Kansas City Royals took him in the expansion draft and he finished his career in KC in 69-70.

But as Morehead left the mound on August 21 with his ERA ballooned to 4,71, he may not have dreamed he was only five starts away from his spot in Red Sox lore.  In his next three outings he beat Washington 4-2, and then combined with Dick Radatz on 4-0 shutout of the Senators.  On September 4th Morehead threw a 1-0 three hit complete game win over the Yanks.  After taking a loss on his next start, Morehead took the Fenway mound on September 16 versus Luis Tiant and the Cleveland Indians.
Morehead, with 8 strikeouts and one walk, pitched a 2-0 no hitter against the Tribe.  This would be the last Red Sox no hitter until Hideo Nomo pitched one in Baltimore April 4, 2001.  The game however was overshadowed in the Boston sports pages because the same day the Sox fired Mike Higgins, their General Manager.

Bob Duliba gets his first hitter out, and the lead stays at 8-6, and we have a ball game....but not for long.

The Tigers bring in another relief pitcher, Terry Fox, and to say the least he fails.  Malzone singles, Yaz doubles, Felix Mantilla singles them both in.

Felix Mantilla broke into MLB in 1956 with the Milwaukee Braves, mostly as a utility player with outstanding Braves teams of the late 1950's.  From the Braves, Felix went to what is considered the worst team of all time the 1962 expansion New York Mets (40 wins, 120 losses).  After one year in New York, Mantilla was traded to Boston where he played from 63-65.  The peak of his career came in Boston, after hitting .315 in 1963 as a part timer, he became the full tine second baseman in 1964 and hit 30-64.289.  In 1965 he made the AL All Star team and finished the year, 18-92-.275.  despite being an All Star in 1965 his career was over by spring training of 1967.  In 1966 he played in Houston, and was released, the Cubs brought him to spring training 1967 where he suffered an Achilles injury ending his career.

Both of trades that brought Mantilla to Boston, and shipped him out of town included interesting names.

To get Mantilla, the Sox shipped Pumpsie Green ( Boston's first African American player in 1959) and pitcher Tracy Stallard ( who in 1961 gave up home run #61 to Roger Maris to break the Babe's record) to the Mets.   When Mantilla was traded to Houston it was straight up for shortstop Eddie Kasko, who five years later would be the Red Sox manager( from 70-73).

Tony Conigliaro continued the onslaught by hitting a home run scoring two more.  This gave Tony C a double, triple, and home run in the game and it is only the fifth inning.  He will have a chance or chances for the cycle.

Terry Fox continues to literally get no one out.....Horton singles, Gosger walks, and catcher Bob Tillman singles to left scoring Horton and driving Gosger to third.  Five runs in ....no move to the bullpen.

Bob Tillman was the prototypical big, slow catcher.  He played for Boston from 1962 into 1967 when he was dealt to the Yankees( a rarity in any decade since the 20's and 30's).  Although it was not a trade per se, Tillman was sent to New York to make room for fellow catcher Elston Howard, whom the Yanks had traded to Boston earlier.

Perhaps Fox realized no matter how many batters he put on this was his inning, and decided to get the next three hitters out, which he did.

13-6 Boston after five.


ALL STAR BREAK

Just a quick mid point break to list the eleven players who appeared in this game, who at one time of more in their careers were selected for the All Star game.  Those with asterisks were All Stars in 1965.

Rico Petrocelli
Frank Malzone
Carl Yastrzemski *
Felix Mantilla *
Tony Conigliaro
Willie Horton
Norm Cash
Bill Freehan *
Hank Aguirre
Don Wert
Jerry Lumpe

SIXTH INNING

A real news bulletin occurs in the top of the sixth.  Tiger shortstop Ray Oyler singles.  Oyler played in the major leagues from 1965-70, from 65-68 with Detroit.  The man could not hit.  His career batting average was .175, with a career high in 1967 of .207.  Along with Jim Gosger, Oyler is the second future Seattle Pilot in this game.  In the book, Ball Four,  Bouton talks about teammates telling Oyler to keep a shirt on in the clubhouse because his lack of physique embarrassed the whole club.

Duliba ends the inning getting a double play ball from pinch hitter Jake Wood.


Tony Conigliaro comes to the plate with two out no one on against another Tiger hurler, Ron Nischwitz.  It is only the sixth inning but Tony C needs just a measly single to hit for the cycle.  Not only do I not remember any of this about the game ( but sure remembered the long home run), there is a good chance as a ten year old, who had followed baseball less than two years, I may not even known that hitting a single-double-triple- home run in the same game was called a cycle.

Tony Conigliaro was 20 years old at the time and his home run tonight was his 22nd of the year. He would hit ten more in the next few weeks remaining of the season and  go on to lead the American League that season.  This made him the youngest player to ever lead a major league in home runs.

In just three days shy of two years from this night, August 18, 1967 Tony Conigliaro would take a fastball from Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton into his face, and his career and life were changed and shortened.  After missing all of 1968, Tony C did come back but his career suffered ups and downs as his eye sight never really recovered.  He was traded to the Angels, had to retire again due to his vision, and made one last attempt with Boston in 1975 as a DH.  The attempt failed and at age 30 his career ended.  Several years later, a stroke caused Tony to life out his life basically in a coma, and he died at age 45 in 1990.

One last note, Jack Hamilton, the pitcher who hit Conigliaro played at least part of 1965 for the Tigers. I have not been able to determine what part of the year he spent in Detroit, but there is at least a chance Jack Hamilton was in the park on August 21, 1965.

Tony C flies out to center, leaving maybe one more chance for the cycle.


13-6 Boston after six.

SEVENTH INNING STRETCH

Just a quick note on the different game we are visiting here from the 21st century. No DH in the American League(or anywhere), no divisional play just two ten team leagues, different strategy.  In the first inning after Rico and Malzone get on, Yaz BUNTS.  You would not see that today.  Despite the lopsided score, both teams use the same 8 players in the field the whole game, the Tigers do use multiple pinch hitters for the pitcher, and five pitchers, but the Sox use ten players total.  And look at the schedule the Tigers and Sox had played a double header the day before and the Tigers had played another the day before that.  Different time.

SEVENTH INNING & EIGHTH INNING

Bob Duliba continues to mow down the Tigers in order in the seventh and eighth innigs, he has pitched 3 1/3 innings facing the minimum ten hitters.

Bob Duliba pitched in the big leagues from 1959-1967 with St. Louis, Los Angeles Angels, Boston, and the Kansas City A's.  In an unusual trait for this time in baseball, Duliba made 176 appearances, all in relief.  His career record was 17-12. In 1965, his only Boston season, he was 4-2, 3.78 ERA in 39 games

After scoring 13 runs in the first five innings, the Red Sox bats were totally shut down by Ron Nischwitz, who retired the Sox in order in the sixth, seventh, and eighth.  Nischwitz, whom I remember only because of a 1963 Topps baseball card I had of him as a Cleveland Indian, pitched for the Tigers in 1961-62, to Cleveland in 1963, and finished his big league career back in Detroit in 65.  He likely pitched in only a very few more MLB games after that night.

Because of the three 1-2-3 innings Tony Conigliaro did not get that final shot at the cycle.  He never would hit for the cycle in his career ( Yaz actually had three months earlier in May), but ironically the other Tony that homered that night, Tony Horton, would hit for the cycle while playing for Cleveland.

13-6 Boston after eight.

NINTH INNING

Even though one of the greatest closers of Red Sox history, Dick Radatz was in the bullpen, the Red Sox had a seven run lead and Bob Duliba had been outstanding so he came out to finish the game.  Duliba got Freehan but than walked Ray Oyler and pinch hitter George Thomas.  Don Wert followed with a RBI single, before Duliba got the second out.  Gates Brown came to the plate.

Gates Brown was in the lineup in left field that night (likely due to the Kaline injury, moving Willie Horton from left to right).  But Gates Brown is remembered as, and is one of the greatest pinch hitters of all time.  Brown to this date is 15th all time in pinch hits with 107.  But with the DH in effect in the AL for the last 40 years, and not in the NL the first 14 pinch hitters on the all time list are National Leaguers.  Gates Brown is first in all time AL pinch hits and in AL pinch hit home runs with 16. Former Bangor resident, Matt Stairs, has the most MLB pinch hit homers with 23 (some in each league).

Brown hit a three run home run off Duliba shortening the lead to the 13-10 score I remembered all those years.  Duliba stayed on and struck out Willie Horton to end the game.

In one last nod to a different era, the Sox and Tigers played a game with 23 runs, 24 hits, 15 bases on balls, and the listed time of game is 2 hours 54 minutes.

Even though Detroit was well out of first, and the Sox near the cellar, just two years from then these two teams, with several of the same key players would be the last two teams standing in a four team AL pennant scramble won by Boston on the last Sunday of the season.  Impossible Dream, you may have heard me mention it.

So this ten year old from Hermon, Maine in his maiden voyage at Fenway Park, saw a high scoring Red Sox win( the Tigers took the other three of four in this series) with a home run( plus triple and double) from his hero.  But I also saw a Hall of famer, World Series MVP, All Star Game MVP, triple crown winner, All stars galore, attempt for a cycle, a pitcher less than one month from pitching a no hitter, all time pinch hitter, Horton hears a homer or two, a former Brooklyn Dodger, and so much more.

It was an amazing night at Fenway Park, a place I have visited countless times since, but maybe no night was filled with such a cast of characters as that first night.

1 comment:

  1. It's so cool to read about your first game at Fenway! I'm actually going for the first time myself this year and I'm wicked excited. I ordered tickets online, though? I heard that you get charged more at other places. I can't wait for the game this July! :)

    ReplyDelete