A hundred years ago this week, just days after the Titanic settled in a watery grave in the North Atlantic, the Red Sox opened a brand new baseball field, called, Fenway Park, in Boston.
On April 20, the Sox will officially celebrate their Centennial (or Fen-tennial) anniversary at Fenway. Fittingly, the Sox opponent that day will be the New York Yankees — the same team that helped Boston open Fenway Park 100 years ago.
That day in 1912, the Red Sox beat the Yankees (then called the Highlanders) in 11 innings. Major John F. Fitzgerald, the grandfather of John F. Kennedy, threw out the first pitch.. The Boston Globe reported “Tristram Speaker, the Texas sharpshooter, with two down in the 11th inning and Steve Yerkes, on third, smashed the ball too fast for the shortstop to handle and the winning run came over the plate, making the score 7 to 6, and the immense crowd leaving for home for a cold supper, but wreathed in smiles.”
The Red Sox played at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, the present site of Northeastern University, for their first 11 years in the American League before moving to Fenway. Owner John I. Taylor named the park for its location in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston.
In chronological order, here are the 10 most memorable games in Fenway Park history.
1912: Red Sox 3, Giants 2 (10 innings), Game 8, World Series
In the deciding game of the 1912 World Series (Game 2 ended in a 6-6 tie), Boston spotted New York a run in the top of the 10th inning, then took advantage of two Giant misplays to beat the great Christy Mathewson and win the title. First Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball by leadoff batter Clyde Engle, an error that came to be known as the “$30,000 Muff” (referring to the winner’s share). Given life when the Giants failed to catch his foul pop, Tris Speaker singled to knock in the tying run. The winning run scored on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Bill Gardner that plated Steve Yerkes, giving the Sox a dramatic victory and their second World Championship.
Three titles in four years
1918, Red Sox 2, Cubs 1, Game 6, World Series
The Red Sox clinched both the 1915 and 1916 World Series at Braves Field, as they chose to play on the National League site because of its larger seating capacity. But in 1918 they beat the Cubs in six games to win their third World Series in four years and fifth overall. It was a Series dominated by pitching and capped by a three-hitter by Boston’s Carly Mays in Game 6. Neither team scored more than three runs in a game and there wasn’t a single home run hit in the Series. The victorious Sox batted .186 and the losing Cubs swung a lowly .210.
Post-War World Series
1946: Red Sox 6, Cardinals 3, Game Five, World Series
In their first appearance in the Fall Classic in 28 years, the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the World Series by knocking off St. Louis 6-3. Joe Dobson hurled a four-hitter and struck out eight batters, and Leon Culberson homered to lead the Red Sox attack. When the Series returned to St. Louis, the Cardinals won the final two games. Enos Slaughter scored the winning run in the eighth inning of Game Seven as Boston’s Johnny Pesky made a belated throw to the plate.
All-Boston Series…not quite
1948: Indians 8, Red Sox 3, American League playoff
Player-manager and shortstop Lou Boudreau hit a pair of solo home runs and went 4-for-4 and third baseman Ken Keltner hit a three-run shot as the Tribe beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the American League pennant. Cleveland southpaw Gene Bearden got the win, besting surprise starter Denny Galehouse. Boston manager Joe McCarthy said he had no rested arms, although both Mel Parnell and Ellis Kinder claimed they were ready. The Red Sox loss prevented an all-Boston World Series. Cleveland went on to beat the Braves in six games for its second and last World Championship.
Runs, runs, runs
1950, Red Sox 29, Browns 4
In June of 1950, Boston pounded out 28 hits and set a MLB record with 29 run (broken when Texas scored 30 runs against the Orioles in 2007) in a rout of the St. Louis Browns. Dobby Doerr led the attack with three home runs and eight RBIs. Walt Dropo hit two home runs and had seven RBIs and Ted Williams two HRs and five RBIs. Johnny Pesky and Al Zarilla had five hits apiece. The day before, the Red Sox beat St. Louis 20-4. (Three years later, in 1953, the Red Sox set a MLB record with 17 runs in the seventh inning of a 23-3 win against the Tigers. Gene Stephens got three hits and Sammy White scored three runs in a frame that saw 14 hits and six walks.)
Ted Williams final at bat
1960, Red Sox 5, Orioles 4
This list wouldn’t be complete without a Ted Williams moment. And Ted’s final moment was a classic. In this final at bat before retirement, Williams hit a long home run in his final at bat. But let John Updike describe, from his immortal essay Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. “Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. (Jackie) Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.” Afterwards. Williams refused to tip his cap to the adoring Fenway faithful. As Updike explained, “Gods do not answer letters.”
‘The Impossible Dream’
1967, Red Sox 5, Twins 3
In 1967, the American League had one of the great pennant races in history. Four teams — the Tigers, White Sox, Twins and Red Sox — battled all season, and from September 15 until the last day of the season, all remained within two games of each other. The Red Sox were the surprise team of the bunch after finishing ninth the previous season. Coming into the season’s final day, the Red Sox and Twins were tied for first place with the Tigers one-half game back. The Red Sox beat the Twins as eventual MVP and Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski goes 4-for-4 and eventual Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg got the win. The Tigers could have tied the Red Sox if they swept a doubleheader from the Angels, but after winning the first game the Detroit bullpen failed in the nighcap. For the first time in 21 years, the Red Sox made it to the World Series.
Fisk wills it fair
1975, Red Sox 7, Reds 6, 12 innings, Game 6, World Series
This was the signature moment in one of the greatest World Series ever staged. Cincinnati led the series 3-2, and appeared on the precipice of its their first World Series since 1940. But Bernie Carbo’s dramatic pinch-hit three run home run in the eighth tied the game 6-6. Boston had a chance to win it in the ninth but failed to score after loading the bases with nobody out. In the 11th, Red Sox right-fielder Dwight Evans robbed Joe Morgan with a tremendous catch. Finally, Boston catcher Carlton Fisk sent a long drive into the night, and signalled the ball to stay fair it hit the left field foul pole for a game-winning home run. The Reds would win the World Series the next night when Joe Morgan singled home Ken Griffey Sr. with two outs in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 win.
Bucky ‘Bleepin’ Dent
1978, Yankees 5, Red Sox 4, AL East playoff
It was a game in a season, and a season in a game. After 162 games, the old rivals were dead even with 99 wins apiece, necessitating a one-game playoff to decide the American League East. Carl Yastrzemski hit an early home run against Ron Guidry. But then Bucky Dent struck with a three-run homer that just cleared Fenway’s 37-foot high left field wall. The game came down to the last at bat, and when Yaz popped to Graig Nettles the Yankees completed their comeback from 14 1/2 game behind in July.
The great comeback
2004, Red Sox 6, Yankees 4, 12 innings; Red Sox 5, Yankees 4, 14 innings, Games 4 and 5, American League Championship Series
It seemed certain the Curse of the Bambino would continue after the Yankees beat the Red Sox 19-8 to take a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. No MLB team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. The Yankees took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of Game Four, but the Sox scratched out a run against Mariano Rivera, then won it in the 12th on a two-run homer by David Ortiz. Boston rallied again the next night, tying the game with a pair of runs in the eighth and winning it on a base hit by Ortiz (who else) in the 14th. The Red Sox would go on to win the pennant, destroying the Yankees 10-3 in the seventh game at Yankee Stadium. And then they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to win their first World Series in 86 years.
Cardinals mob David Freese after his 11th inning home run against the Rangers forced a Game 7.
Was it the greatest game ever? The best World Series game? The top post-season game in history.
Time will be the judge, but the Cardinals never-say-die 10-9 win that denied the Rangers their first World Championship joins a long list of great World Series Game 6 contests.
St. Louis became the first team in post-season history to overcome two-run deficits in the ninth and 10th inning to win. David Freese, who won the game with a home run in the 11th after his two-out, two-strike, two-run triple tied the game in the ninth, became the first player in post-season history to hit a pair of tying or winning hits in the ninth inning or later.
Meanwhile, twice Texas was within a strike of a championship, and lost. The Rangers appeared to have victory in their grasp when Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the top of the 10th, and lost.
And the headlines quickly changed from “My Gosh, Josh” to “Deep Freesej.”
Some are already calling it the best World Series game in history. And it may well be.
But there have been plenty of great World Series Game 6 contests. Before the Cardinals’ heroics, this would be the SportsLifer Top 10:
1975 — Red Sox 7, Reds 6, 12 innings, Fenway Park, Boston
Following three days of rain in New England, the World Series resumed with Cincinnati holding a 3-2 lead in games. The Reds took a 6-3 lead into the eighth inning before Boston pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo hit a two-out, three-run homer to tie the score. Dwight Evans saved the day for the Red Sox with a great catch on Joe Morgan’s bid for a game-winning hit in the 11th. Then Boston’s Carlton Fisk, right, wishing the ball fair, homered off the left-field foul pole leading off the 12th to send Boston into delirium.
1993 — Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6, Skydome, Toronto
Phillies closer Mitch Williams was brought in to protect a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth, but walked leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson and surrendered a one-out single to Paul Molitor. On a 2-2 count, Toronto’s Joe Carter sent a home run over the left field fence to give the Blue Jays the 8-6 win and their second consecutive World Championship. Carter joined Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski as the only players to end World Series with walk-off home runs.
1986 — Mets 6, Red Sox 5, 11 innings, Shea Stadium, New York
The Red Sox were one out (and later one strike) away from winning their first World Series since 1918 before the Mets rallied. Singles by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight produced a run, then Bob Stanley unleashed a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score. Mookie Wilson then tapped a little dribbler down the first base line that went through the legs of Bill Buckner as Knight raced home with the winning run.
1991 — Twins 4, Braves 3, 11 innings, the Metrodome, Minneapolis
The Twins and Braves entered the bottom of the 11th inning tied at 3-3. Minnesota center-fielder Kirby Puckett, left, who earlier in the game made a great catch to rob Atlanta’s Ron Gant, crushed a 2-1 liner over the left-center field wall to send the Series to a seventh game. The image of Puckett rounding the bases, arms raised in triumph, was punctuated by CBS broadcaster Jack Buck saying “And we’ll see you tomorrow night!” The Twins then won Game 7, 1-0, in 10 innings behind Jack Morris.
1953 Yankees 4, Dodgers 3, Yankee Stadium, New York
Yankee second baseman Billy Martin, who had 12 hits and 8 RBIs while batting .500 in the series, knocked in Hank Bauer from second base with the game-winning run in the ninth inning to give the Bombers a record fifth straight World Championship. Brooklyn had rallied to tie the score in the top of the ninth on a two-run home run by Carl Furillo
2002 — Angels 6, Giants 5, Edison Field, Anaheim
Trailing 5-0 in the seventh inning, the Angels drew closer on Scott Spiezio’s three-run homer. Darin Erstad homered to lead off the eighth, then Troy Glaus belted a two-run double to give the Angels the win. Anaheim would go on to win Game 7, 4-1, for their only World Championship, denying the Giants their first title since moving to San Francisco from New York in 1958
. 1935 Tigers 4, Cubs 3, Navin Field, Detroit
With the score tied 3-3, the Cubs stranded Stan Hack on third base with nobody out in the top of the ninth. Detroit catcher Mickey Cochrane led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, and scored the winning run two outs later on Goose Goslin’s base hit to right field. Detroit won its first World Series, while the Cubs continued their championship drought, which has now reached 104 years.
1977 — Yankees 8, Dodgers 4, Yankee Stadium, New York
The legend of Mr. October was born on a cool night in the Bronx. New York’s Reggie Jackson, below, joined Babe Ruth as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game in leading the Yankees to their first title in 15 years. Jackson hit a record five home runs, including four in his final four at bats, to earn World Series MVP honors.
1985 — Royals 2, Cardinals 1, Royals Stadium, Kansas City
Down 1-0 and three outs from elimination, the Royals get a break when umpire Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta safe on a disputed play at first base. After a single by Steve Balboni and a sacrifice, pinch-hitter Dan Iorg knocked in the tying and winning runs to force a Game 7. The Royals win 11-0 to win the Show Me State World Series and their only World Championship.
1958 — Yankees 4, Braves 3, 10 innings, County Stadium, Milwaukee
The Yankees, who trailed the Series 3-1 at one point, won Game 5 to send the festivities back to Milwaukee. A home run by Gil McDougald and run scoring single by Bill Skowron gave the Yankees a two-run lead in the top of the 10th, but Hank Aaron pulled the Braves within a run with an RBI single. With the potential tying and winning runs on base, Frank Torre lined out to McDougald at second base.
1992 – Blue Jays 4, Braves 3, 11 innings, Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta
Dave Winfield’s two-run doubles gives Toronto its first World Championship.
1971 — Orioles 3, Pirates 2, 10 innings, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore
Brooks Robinson’s sacrifice fly plates Frank Robinson with the winning run.
1956 — Dodgers 1, Yankees 0, 10 innings, Ebbets Field, Brooklyn
The Dodgers Clem Labine and Yankees Bob Turley traded zeroes into extra innings before Jackie Robinson’s single over the head of New York left-fielder Enos Slaughter drove in Jim Gilliam.
1945 — Cubs 8, Tigers 7, 12 innings, Wrigley Field, Chicago
Stan Hack’s double drives home the winning run in the last World Series game the Cubs have won.
Carlton Fisk, left, and Red Sox mates mix it up with Yankees Thurman Munson.
August 1, 1973, dawned hot and sunny, and the events that took place later that day sparked a long dormant rivalry, much like the shots at Lexington and Concord ignited the Revolutionary War in April of 1775. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry wasn’t always as scrutinized, as popular and as intense as we know it today. For most of the past hundred plus years, it was hardly a rivalry at all – at least beyond the New York vs. Boston thing. With a few exceptions over the course of nearly four decades, whenever one team was up the other was down.
The Yankees (then known as the Highlanders) and the Red Sox (then known as the Americans or Pilgrims) staged a close pennant race in 1904, one that wasn’t decided until last day of the season when New York pitcher Jack Chesbro, trying for his 42nd win of the year, threw a wild pitch to give Boston the American League pennant.
And in the late 40s the teams had a few memorable showdowns, most notably in 1949 when the Yankees, needing to win both games, beat the Red Sox twice at Yankee Stadium to win the AL flag by a single game. That season is well chronicled in David Halberstam’s “Summer of 49.”
But those showdowns were the exception rather than the rule. The Red Sox dominated the first 20 years of baseball, winning five World Series, before foolishly peddling Babe Ruth to the Yankees prior to the 1920 season.
Then the Yankees took over, winning 29 pennants and 20 World Series between 1921 and 1964, the greatest dynasty in the history of sports.
The Yanks went into a fast decline following the 1964 World Series; meanwhile the Red Sox surged to the front in 1967 with their Impossible Dream pennant run.
Contenders Together, At Last
Finally, in the early 70s, the Yankees and the Sox found themselves on the same plane, building towards playoff berths in a revamped MLB format.
It all shook loose on an August afternoon in 1973. And a bunch of recently graduated hippies, aka the Bats, the name of their softball team, were at Fenway Park to witness it.
That summer, the long hairs were living in a communal type setting in a house in the suburbs of Worcester, Mass. Many of them worked nights in the composing room at the Worcester Telegram, proofreading, running the soon-to-be extinct linotype machines, and occasionally suggesting headlines for the Telegram sports staff.
(My favorite was “Yanks Knock on Wood for Doubleheader Sweep” after the Yankees beat White Sox knuckleballer Wilbur Wood in both ends of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.)
On the Fourth of July in 1973, a bunch of the Bats visited the old, original Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees and the Red Sox battle for first place in the American League East. The Sox rallied with two runs in the ninth inning to win the first game 2-1, then took the nightcap 1-0.
A month later, in early August — days after Summer Jam, the famed rock concert in Watkins Glen, N.Y., shown above, that drew 600,000 people — the Yanks invaded Fenway for a four-game series with first place on the line. And the Bats went into Fenway en masse for the third game of that series, an afternoon contest.
Munson Meets Fisk at Home Plate
It turned out to be the game that rekindled the greatest rivalry in sports and carried it to a fever pitch . And it began with a collision of catchers and team leaders, Thurman Munson of the Yankees and Carlton Fisk of the Red Sox.
With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth, Munson led off with a double and was sacrificed to third. With Gene Michael at the plate the Yankees attempted a suicide squeeze. Michael missed the pitch and Munson, a dead duck at home, tried to dislodge Fisk from the ball, only to have Fisk flip Munson aside.
That set off a bench-clearing brawl, a glimpse into the battles that would come in the years ahead. The Red Sox went on to win that game 3-2, but more importantly the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry blossomed.
The teams battled throughout the 70s, Boston winning the pennant in 1975, and the Yanks taking the flag in 1976, 1977 and again in 1978, when Bucky Dent’s home run sank the Sox.
In the years since they have had many memorable showdowns, especially the back-to-back seven-game series for the ALCS in 2003 and 2004. Aaron Boone’s home run won the 2003 pennant for the Yankees, while the Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit to shock the Yankees the following year in the greatest playoff comeback in baseball history. And of course there were more than a few brawls mixed in over the years.
Prepare to hear more about the rivalry leading up to Easter Sunday, when the Red Sox entertain the Yankees in baseball’s season opener at Fenway.
The SportsLifer countdown of momentous events attended continues this week with the fourth installment, numbers 11-20. Baseball dominates the top 50 more than any other sport, and this segment includes record-setting moments by Barry Bonds, Jim Hickman, Roger Clemens and Eric Young.
We’ll conclude next week with the SportsLifer Top Ten. Don’t miss it.
And readers, it would be great to hear your own lists.
20. Yankees hit 8 home runs to equal team record for one game, beat White Sox 16-3, Yankee Stadium, 2007
19. Yankees and Tigers play to 3-3, 19-inning tie, second game of twi-night doubleheader, 1968
18. Rockies outscore Dodgers 16-15, 10 home runs, Eric Young steals 6 bases, Coors Field, 1996
17. Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk brawl at home plate, Red Sox edge Yankees 3-2, Fenway Park, 1973
16. El Duque Hernandez tames Padres 9-3, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada homer, game 2, 1998 World Series
15. Roger Clemens beats Cardinals 5-2 for 300th win, also gets 4,000th career strikeout, 2003
14. Follow Tiger Woods, others, at first round of U.S. Open Golf tournament, Winged Foot, 2006
13. Dolphins defeat Patriots 16-13 in overtime at Miami’s Orange Bowl on night John Lennon is shot, 1980
12. Outfielder Jim Hickman hits for natural cycle for Mets who defeat Cardinals 7-3 at Polo Grounds, 1963
11. Giants’ Barry Bonds hits home run #756, breaks Hank Aaron’s record, San Francisco, 2007
Ran a press conference on IBM scouting technology called “Advance Scout” at NBA All-Star game in Oakland, 2000
First installment: 41-50. includes the St. Louis Hawks, Holy Cross, and a Ranger rout.
Second installment: 31-40. stars Lew Alcindor, The Mick, and the Boston Marathon.
Third installment: (21-30), recalls the play of Willie Mays, Joe Namath and Lawrence Taylor and others.