The Greatest GamePosted: November 26, 2008
The greatest game I ever saw was the Yankees-Red Sox playoff at Fenway Park, October 2, 1978.
And somewhere deep in the copy morgue of the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel & Enterprise is my page one story on that incredible game in Boston. The lead went something like this: It was a game within a season, and a season within a game.
In many ways, the game mirrored the season, and the ups and downs each team experienced from April to October. The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Yankees rallied on Bucky Dent’s home run to go ahead, and a Boston rally fell just short in the ninth as Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski made the final two outs.
In a similar vein, the Red Sox jumped out to a 14 1/2 game lead in July before the Yankees rallied to capture the lead following the Boston Massacre, a four-game sweep of the Sox at Fenway in September. But the Red Sox won their final eight games to force a tie, only to lose the playoff. When you think about it, one at bat separated the two clubs over the course of 163 games.
At a graduation party several years ago, I met Mike Torrez, the Red Sox pitcher who surrendered the Dent home run. I smiled and shook his hand and told him I was a Yankee fan, and that I was at Fenway for the 1978 playoff.
Torrez winced, and at first I thought he was going to put out his cigar on my forehead. Instead he paused, then reflected:
“That was a great baseball game, probably the most pressure-filled game I ever played. I had good stuff that day, real good stuff, and I was cruising. until Dent hit that fly ball. Thanks for reminding me.”
In “The Greatest Game” by Richard Bradley conjured up many vivid memories of that unforgettable day. The crisp October weather, the shadows, and that beacon of sunlight that nearly blinded Lou Piniella in right field in the late innings.
The way the wind shifted, knocking down Reggie Jackson’s home run bid in the first inning and aiding Dent’s fly ball over the wall in the seventh.
The unbelievable crowd noise that day, which kept building, hit a few blips in the late innings, and reached a crescendo as the Sox tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth.
And then, as Yaz popped out to Graig Nettles at third, the crowd grew silent instantly, as if someone had pulled the plug on the sound system.
Grown men celebrated that day, on the Fenway turf and throughout New York.
And grown men wept too, in the stands and in the Red Sox clubhouse and all over New England.
It truly was a game within a season, and a season within a game.