Exactly 45 years ago today, September 30, the last day of the 1970 baseball season, I paid the first of many visits to Fenway Park. Yankee history was made that night as Fritz Peterson earned his 20th victory of the season in a 4-3 win over the Red Sox.
Peterson had his finest season in 1970, finishing 20-11 overall with a 2.90 ERA. The left-hander won 17 games in 1969 and 1972, and finished his Yankee career with 109 wins. Overall, Peterson was 133-131 with a 3.30 ERA, including short stints with Cleveland and Texas. He retired in 1976.
In that 1970 game in Boston, Peterson, who doubled earlier in the game and scored the Yankees’ first run, took a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning before surrendering a two-run homer to Luis Alvarado. Peterson started the ninth but departed after surrendering a pair of one-out singles to Billy Conigliaro and Joe Lahoud. After giving up a walk with two outs to load the bases, Yankee closer Lindy McDaniel got Mike Andrew to ground out to preserve Peterson’s 20th win and earn his 29th save of the year.
The win capped off a strong season for the Yankees, who finished second in the AL East, 15 games behind Baltimore with a 93-69 record. The Orioles went on to defeat Cincinnati in five games to win the 1970 World Series.
Peterson, who recently authored a book “When The Yankees Were On The Fritz: Revisiting The Horace Clark Era,” was traded to the Indians in April of 1974, along with pitchers Fred Beene, Tom Buskey and Steve Kline, for first baseman Chris Chambliss and pitchers Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw. Chambliss hit a dramatic ninth-inning, walk-off home run to beat the Royals in the deciding game of the 1976 ALCS, and was a key cog on Yankee World Series winners in 1977 and 1978.
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Baseball today mourns the passing of Yogi Berra. Yogi was an American icon, a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion and a Hall of Fame catcher with the Yankees whose record of 10 World Championships will never be equaled. But above all that, Yogi was a great husband, a loving father, and a wonderful man, whose kindness, humility and sincerity touched all who knew him.
Yogi Berra played in the first baseball game I ever saw, in the summer of 1958 at Yankee Stadium. Yogi batted fifth and played right field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk. And although the Yankees lost to the White Sox that day, I was hooked on baseball for life.
Yogi was a walking Bartlett’s who said everything from “It ain’t over till it’s over” to “It gets late early out there” to “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.”
On a personal note, I played competitive softball until I turned 60. In the later years I became a catcher, and proudly wore #8 in honor of Yogi.
Yogi’s passing hits home for me. My father was born in 1925, the same year as Yogi. My dad passed on his love of baseball to me. No doubt, he’ll be watching the Yankee game tonight.
We used to argue about who was the best catcher in Yankee history, Bill Dickey or Yogi Berra. My father, who saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play, would say Dickey. Sorry pops, it was Yogi.
RIP Lawrence Peter Berra.