Monday, September 8, 2014

Game 7: Exciting World Series Finales (1975)

October 22, 1975
Boston Red Sox vs. Cincinnati Reds
Fenway Park, Boston

The Red Sox returned to the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade. The big story in Boston was the emergence of rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice. Lynn's remarkable glove work in center field drew comparisons to the all time greats. He hit .331 and led the league with 47 doubles, becoming the first man to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors. Rice put up similar offensive numbers despite suffering a broken wrist in September that kept him out of the postseason. On the mound, the Sox had five players with double digit win totals. Rick Wise led the staff with 19 victories while swingman Roger Moret paced the league with an .824 winning percentage.

After coasting to a Western Division title, Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" dismantled the Pirates in the NLCS by a combined score of 19-7. Among the greatest ballclubs in history, the Reds were looking to atone for World Series losses in 1970 and 1972. Baseball's all time hits leader, Pete Rose, spent most of the season stationed at third base alongside Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. The Cincinnati lineup was strengthened considerably by blossoming stars George Foster and Ken Griffey Sr.. Reds hurlers combined for a modest total of 22 complete games (the lowest number in the majors). This was due in part to manager Sparky Anderson's impatience with hurlers--a trait that earned him the nickname "Captain Hook."

The Series is perhaps best remembered for Carlton Fisk's dramatic twelfth inning homer in Game 6, an event that took place more than four hours after the opening pitch. Fisk drove Pat Darcy's second offering--a sinker--toward the left field foul pole then danced up the first base line, waving his arms and coaxing the ball to stay fair. TV cameraman Lou Gerard kept his camera focused on the actions of Fisk rather than the flight of the ball after spotting a large rat heading toward him. Not wishing to draw the rodent's attention, he kept the camera pointed in Fisk's direction, inadvertently altering the style of television sports coverage. John Filippelli, assistant broadcast director, commented later: "No one had ever thought of isolating on an individual." Fisk's memorable walk-off homer forced a Game 7 that has been largely forgotten.

Reds ace Don Gullett ran into control problems in the third inning. After an RBI single by Carl Yastrzemski, Gullett walked Carlton Fisk to load the bases. Having used eight pitchers the night before, Sparky Anderson stood idly by as Gullett walked Rico Petricelli and Dwight Evans to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. The score remained that way until the top of the sixth, when Tony Perez lifted a Bill Lee blooper pitch over the Green Monster in left field for a 2-run homer. Thanks to the hustle of Ken Griffey, the Reds tied the game in the seventh. Griffey worked a walk, stole second then scored on a 2-out single by Pete Rose.

In the ninth, Griffey got things started again for the Reds with a leadoff walk. A sacrifice by Cesar Geronimo sent him to second and a groundout by Dan Driessen moved him to third. Reliever Jim Burton walked the dangerous Pete Rose, but NL MVP Joe Morgan followed with a bloop single that scored the deciding run. Cincy's closer Will McEnaney retired the side in order in the ninth. Fan favorite Carl Yasterzemski--a triple crown winner in '67--ended another year of futility for the Red Sox with a routine fly to center field. Boston would not return to the World Series for another decade.

Talking about his Series-clinching hit, Joe Morgan told reporters: "I was hoping they would walk Pete. He's had so many hits in the Series, I figured maybe he had run out of them. I wanted my chance." With 10 hits and a .370 average, Rose received Series MVP honors. The drama had taken its toll on him by the end of Game 7. He told the press jokingly that he was worried he might have a heart attack.


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