Top 10: Memorable games at Fenway Park

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.

Championship beginning
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.


The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived

Ted Williams may have been the greatest hitter who ever lived. Williams played for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1960, and missed nearly five full seasons while serving his country in World War II and later the Korean War as a Marine fighter pilot.

The Splendid Splinter hit 521 home runs, third on the all-time behind only Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx when he retired after homering in his final at bat in 1960. Williams had a .344 lifetime average, won six batting titles and was the last player to bat .400 with a .406 average in 1941.

Williams hit .388 to win the American League batting title in 1957 — at the age of 38. He won two MVPs (1946, 1949) and is the only player in history to win the Triple Crown twice. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.

David Cataneo’s book “I Remember Ted Williams” contains anecdotes and memories from the players and people who knew him best.

Here is a sampling of some of top reminisces from that book:

“I always say that Ted needed another planet. You look at what he has accomplished. Ted Williams was one of the best fishermen, so he kind of conquered the seas. He’s one of the best baseball players, so he kind of conquered the land. He was an ace pilot, so he kind of conquered the air. So he’s kind of a man who’s outgrown this planet. He’s the real John Wayne.”
— Maureen Cronin, daughter of Red Sox manager Joe Cronin

“He never wanted to be embarrassed at the plate. Ever. He talked about it. He said, ‘When I walk down the street, I want people to say: ‘There goes Ted Williams, the best hitter I’ve ever seen.”‘
— Broadway Charlie Wagner, Red Sox pitcher, 1938-42, 1946

“One day at Tiger Stadium, he put on the greatest demonstration of batting practice that I had ever seen. He hit one ball after another, most of them in the upper deck. He loved to hit in Detroit. I think out of 20 pitches, he hit 17 up into the stands. And when he got through, it was early, but there were 30-35,000 in the stands. Those people just stood and gave him a standing ovation. You would have thought he had just won the World Series.”
— Boo Ferriss, Red Sox pitcher, 1946-1950

“I never met anybody in my life who was as electric as he was. I’ve met some who are electric, but none to the brilliance that he was. I mean he’d light up a funeral parlor.”
— George Sullivan, Fenway Park batboy in 1949, sportswriter in the 50s and 60s, and the Red Sox PR director in the 80s

Williams had a stormy relationships with the Boston media — whom he referred to as the “Knights of the Keyboard. The sportswriter who hurt Williams most was wrinkly, sour Mel Webb of the Boston Globe. On the opening day of spring training in 1947, Williams greeted the old scribe by saying, ‘Why don’t you drop dead you old bastard.’ Webb vowed to get back at him, and he did during that season’s MVP balloting. He completely left Triple Crown winner Williams off his ballot. Ted lost the award to DiMaggio, 202-201. If Webb had voted Ted at least tenth most valuable, Williams would have won.”

“He always talked to the out-of-town writers just to screw the Boston writers. You know what he’d do? He’d be in the dugout and an out-of-towner would come in and he’d give him a big handshake. “Let’s get out of here.” They go down to the end of the dugout, all alone. They’d be talking, and all the Boston guys would be looking and wondering what the hell he was telling hi. Maybe he was quitting or something. Ted did it on purpose.”
— Tim Horgan, longtime Boston Herald columnist

 

“Of all the things Ted told me, he said, ‘I’ve gotten all kinds of accolades in the baseball department, but the thing I’m most proud of was I was a good marine fighter pilot.’ He was so darned proud of being a marine.”
— Long-time friend Frank Cushing

Williams on being sold to the Red Sox
“When I first heard the news that I had been sold to Boston, I almost blew a fuse. I always dreamed of playing with the Yankees or Giants. Babe Ruth was my hero. I used to dream of hitting home runs into the friendly right-field stands in the Yankee Stadium or Polo Grounds. Why, I had followed baseball since I was old enough to read and the Red Sox had been mired in the second division throughout my boyhood.”

His opinion on whether, as manager of the Washington Senators, he could get along with a cantankerous player like Ted Williams.
“If he can hit like Ted Williams, yes.”


Zimmer Is Punch Line in Baseball Trivia

From the Dodgers to Mets, Red Sox to Yankees, he was known as a baseball lifer.

Can you name this former baseball player, coach, and manager?

1. He was replaced by Brooklyn’s Sandy Amoros just before Amoros made his famous catch that helped the Dodgers beat the Yankees and win their first World Series in 1955?

2. He was the first third baseman in New York Mets history? (He singled in his first at bat, but hit just .077 and was traded to the Reds in May).

3. He was the last player to wear #14 for the Cincinnati Reds before Pete Rose

4. Among other nicknames, he was called “Popeye” and “The Gerbil.”

5. He rented Bucky Dent’s house in New Jersey when the Yankee shortstop was traded to Texas in 1982?

6. He initiated the discussion with Billy Martin that turned into the Pine Tar incident  in the summer of 1983?

If you guessed Don Zimmer, you are correct. Zimmer began his career with the Dodgers in 1954, later played for the Cubs, Mets, Red, and Senators, and retired in 1965 with 91 home runs and a .235 lifetime batting average.

Zimmer is still remembered in Boston for the Red Sox epic 1978 collapse, most notably for starting Bobby Sprowl instead of Bill “Spaceman” Lee in the finale of a four-game New York sweep called the Fenway Massacre that turned the season around for both teams.

He later managed the Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs, and was Joe Torre’s bench coach during the Yankees run of championships in the late 90s. Nearly 80, Zimmer is still active with the Tampa Bay Rays as a senior advisor.


Farewell, Camelot: Tribute to Ted Kennedy

During his moving eulogy, Ted Kennedy, Jr., surprised the guests attending his father’s funeral — and millions more on national television — with the revelation that Senator Ted Kennedy had once been recruited by the Green Bay Packers.

Senator Ted Kennedy played touch football on the lawn of the family compound in on Cape Cod, and college football at Harvard University. He was an accomplished sailor and an avid fan of the Red Sox who threw out the first ball at Fenway Park at Boston’s home opener this season.

Ted Kennedy was a sportsman, a beloved family patriarch and a legislator — a voice and a vote for the everyday American. He was a man with flaws, certainly, a man forced to live up to the impossible legacy left by his brothers.

Yet Kennedy exceeded those lofty expectations, through his efforts on Capital Hill for civil rights, people with disabilities, health care, and so many other causes that benefitted the people of this country.

For those of us old enough to remember, Ted Kennedy’s final tribute was a tearful reminder of a November weekend in 1963 and a Saturday in June five years later when the nation paid last respects to his brothers, first John and then Bobby, their untimely deaths the result of assassins’ bullets.

And then there is the forgotten brother, Joe Kennedy, who gave his life for his country flying a dangerous mission in World War II.

Unlike his brothers, Ted Kennedy lived a full life and ultimately achieved the promise of the Kennedy name.

Farewell, Camelot. May you rest in peace, Senator Edward M. Kennedy.