There is a large sign advertising bourbon beyond left-center field at Fenway Park in Boston, and three hours before the first game of the 64th World Series a couple of tons of rascals were already perched on every treacherous inch of it so that they could eventually see how the "Miracle Red Sox" of 1967 would do against the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The stands were filled with enough Irish politicians to make one wonder who was minding the wards. Harvard and Smith types, those greatest of all front-runners, sported big buttons on their tweeds reading, "Yaz sir that's my baby." A very well-organized lad lofted a grappling hook onto the roof in left and scampered up a rope ladder to see at firsthand, and in fair territory, what a Series was all about.
Since Fenway Park is not really a baseball park at all but merely a jai alai fronton with foul lines, everyone expected to see the Cardinals and Red Sox, two fine hitting teams, carom shots off it, over it and maybe even through it. Instead, they saw the wall used very little as Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Roger Maris led St. Louis to a 2-1 victory which really wasn't that close.
The Cardinals rose early, boarded their team bus and started needling each other and ripping Boston on their way to Fenway. "Well," said Curt Flood, "it's a great thing for baseball that the Red Sox won. A great thing for a great game in a great town, and they have great spirit and they should put up signs on every great church saying, 'God bless the California Angels.' "
Bob Gibson sat alone near the front of the bus. On days when he is pitching Gibson says little. He thinks how much he hates the other team and what it means to win. However, as the bus moved slowly through the snarled traffic near Fenway, Gibson hollered, "Flood, that's the park up there. That's the pak, Fenway Pak, where all the cars are going." Three mounted policemen moved alongside the Cardinal bus to clear the way of youngsters trying to hang onto it. "Giddyap," hollered Gibson. "Spread the word. The Redcaps are coming; the Redcaps are coming."
The Redcaps started out as though they were going to ride right through Boston, whacking nine hits in the first six innings off Jose Santiago. But Santiago, a pitcher who seems to thrive on trouble, hung on—with the help of a double play in the first, a double play in the second, a marvelous throw to the plate by Carl Yastrzemski in the fourth and a running, backhand catch by Yastrzemski in the fifth—and going into the seventh was tied 1-1 with Gibson, thanks to a stunning fly-ball home run that Santiago himself lifted to the top of the wall.
But then in the seventh inning Brock stung his fourth straight hit and quickly stole second with a head-first slide. The throw from Catcher Russ Gibson was high, and Brock's hand got to the base under Shortstop Rico Petrocelli's tag. Petrocelli started to argue with Umpire Frank Umont, but Umont, on top of the play, gave three quick safe signs and said, "No, no, no!" to Petrocelli, and there was no further argument. Flood then advanced Brock perfectly by hitting a ground ball to the right side of the infield (ah, those little things that win ball games), and when Maris hit a grounder to Jerry Adair at second, Brock was across the plate almost before Adair fielded the ball. It was the second RBI for Maris, each coming on a grounder to the right side with Brock on third. "You're supposed to get the man in from third any way you can when there's less than two outs," said Maris.
Back in March the Red Sox were playing a spring-training game with the New York Mets. It was a wild, weird game, but it had significant moments. One of them found Bud Harrelson, the tiny Met shortstop who may weigh 150 rounds, facing Jim Lonborg, the 23-year-old intellectual who had been 9-17 for the Red Sox in 1965 and 10-10 in 1966. Lonborg was having a difficult time that day, just like everybody else (the final score of the game was a staggering 23-18), but suddenly he knocked little Harrelson down with a pitch at his head.
Could that pitch have set the tone for Jim Lonborg's 1967 season? Absolutely. Lonborg this year realized that in order to win consistently a pitcher must drop a few calling cards, and one of the most important is the knockdown pitch. Now, on the second day of the Series, Lonborg stood on the mound, glanced down at his glove with "$10,000" written on it (the anticipated winning share) and threw his first pitch of the game to Lou Brock. Well, not really to—at Lou Brock.
After that Lou grounded out and Lonborg went on to pitch the fourth one-hitter in Series history as the Red Sox won 5-0. He had a perfect game going until he walked Curt Flood on a 3-and-2 pitch with one out in the seventh inning, and he had a no-hitter until Julian Javier hit a slider into left field for a double with two out in the eighth.
Lonborg led the major leagues in hit batsmen this year, with 19, but he also became a brilliant pitcher capable of hitting the corners with his curve and winning the big games for the Sox again and again. He won the opening game for Boston and the one that clinched the pennant on the final day and 20 others in between. The second game of this Series was his biggest victory of all.
Boston's two true heroes all season have been Lonborg and Carl Yastrzemski, and out in the bleachers in right center a banner kept being raised during the game which read, "Gentleman Jim, we like him—and Yaz too." Yastrzemski, in the fourth inning, launched a line-drive home run into the stands in the right-field corner off Cardinal Pitcher Dick Hughes. "I made a half-mistake on Yastrzemski," said Hughes later, "and he made a whole one out of it." In the sixth the Red Sox added another run, and then in the seventh Yastrzemski hit a second homer, this one with two on, which went over the bullpen in deep right center and landed only five seats from the banner in the bleachers. As he trotted around the bases, the Series seemed to be turning into a thing for right-handed pitchers and left fielders.
What can be said of Yastrzemski, the marvelous son of a Polish potato farmer from Long Island, N.Y.? Only a Yastrzemski would go out after the first game of a World Series and take extra batting practice on his own. Only a Yastrzemski would say, "What a great thing it is to get the chance to play in a World Series," and then add, "I'd say the only problem with it is that we have 20 relatives and friends staying at our house and it's a little difficult getting into the bathroom." When the game was over Yastrzemski and Lonborg stood on two chairs in the clubhouse answering reporters' questions. Politely they kept saying, "Is there anything more that you want to know?"
Then the Red Sox climbed aboard their bus and moved on to Logan Airport to fly to St. Louis. Thousands of Red Sox fans lined the overpasses and sidewalks at both ends of the Callahan Tunnel and hollered "Yaz, Yaz" as the bus passed by. Inside, Carl Yastrzemski was waving back at them and saying, "We'll be back. Back as winners."
The last of Jim Lonborg's calling cards came back to haunt the Red Sox in the third game of the Series. Lonborg admitted to the press in Boston Friday that he had deliberately brushed back Lou Brock, and while the Cardinals are better known for their fielding, pitching, hitting and running, they aren't bad at reading, either. Almost every Cardinal read what Lonborg had said and, as any sportsman knows, a fish is never caught until it opens its mouth.
In the top of the first inning Nelson Briles, whose control was such that he did not walk a man all day, hit Carl Yastrzemski in the leg. Yastrzemski fell to the ground, clutching the leg, got up, shouted a sarcastic "Thank you" to Briles and trotted off to first base. Manager Dick Williams jumped out of the Boston dugout screaming at Umpire Frank Umont that Briles had deliberately hit Yaz. Umont calmed Williams down and called Red Schoendienst out of the Cardinal dugout to join the conference. The Cardinal manager let loose a counterattack at Williams. "Pitching tight is part of the game—Briles wasn't trying to hit him," Red said, along with some other comments that included words and phrases like brushbacks and knockdowns and statements to the press. Umont, who was once a pro football player, warned both managers to cease and desist, and the game went on.
Although Boston showed occasional signs of life, the Red Sox were never really in the game after the second inning. In the first Brock tripled past Yastrzemski in left center, Curt Flood singled him home, and the crowd of 54,575 at Busch Stadium had a 1-0 lead. Then, in the second inning, Mike Shannon hit a two-run homer off Boston Pitcher Gary Bell to make the score 3-0. The Red Sox got a run back in the sixth, but when the Cardinals came up, there was Brock again. He tried to bunt down the third-base line, and the ball barely went foul. On the next pitch he went the other way and dragged a bunt past Reliever Lee Stange for a base hit. There are days when it seems to a pitcher that Brock takes 89-foot leads off first base (see cover), and this was one of them. He kept inching off, and Stange kept throwing to first to hold him on. Stange's third throw bounced off Brock and past First Baseman George Scott, and Brock rambled all the way around to third base. One out later the quietly efficient Roger Maris scored him with a line single.
The final score was 5-2, and St. Louis did everything almost perfectly. Except for that time he hit him, Briles kept Yastrzemski off the bases, getting him three straight times on ground balls to the second baseman. Dalton Jones and Reggie Smith got five of the seven hits off Briles and drove in both Boston runs, but that was about it. Of course, on "beer day" the Cards always seem to do things right. Beer day—or, during the season, beer night—is something special with the Cardinals, like the silly red-and-white ball they throw around during infield practice or the way they kid each other and call themselves El Birdos. On the opening day of each home stand Butch Yatkeman, the clubhouse man, hands each player an envelope that contains a letter saying, "This will introduce so-and-so, who is a member of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team." When the player takes his letter to a store he receives a free case of either Budweiser or Busch Bavarian beer.
The third game of the Series was, in effect, the first day of a home stand and so Yatkeman wrote on the clubhouse blackboard, "El Birdos never lose on Budweiser-Busch beer day." When the Cardinals saw the message they joked and hollered, "It's gonna be ours today. What's our record on beer day?" Yatkeman said, "It was 10-4 during the season, but it should have been better." That afternoon it improved to 11-4 and the Red Sox fell one big game behind.
It was cool and overcast in St. Louis for the fourth game, and after the first inning the game was never really a game at all as the Cardinals smothered the Red Sox with four quick runs on their way to a 6-0 victory. Throughout the Series, Boston appeared to be following a straight course, one that allowed Lou Brock to touch off every inning. After the game was over, St. Louis had been to bat in a total of 34 innings; Brock had led off 13 of them, and he had been to the plate only 17 times.
He started off the fourth game with a topped roller to Third Baseman Dalton Jones, and on the last hop the ball jumped to Jones's right, forcing him to throw sidearm and too late to get Brock. When Curt Flood followed with a hard single to left, St. Louis had runners on first and second with nobody out and Roger Maris coming to bat. Five times in the first three games Maris had come up with runners in scoring position; three times he had batted in runs, once he had walked and once he had flied out—a remarkable record under pressure. As he dug in now, Maris looked out at the deployment of the Boston outfielders and was surprised to see that they were playing him as a dead pull hitter. Time and again, all season long, he had stroked the ball to the opposite field to gather hits and advance runners. "If I get anything near the outside of the plate," he thought, "I'll go to left." Jose Santiago, Boston's pitcher, had been fortunate in escaping threats in the first game, but Maris took care of any repetition of that. Santiago threw a pitch on the outside edge of the plate, and Maris lashed it down the line in left for a double and two runs. So the trap door had been opened again by Brock and propped up by Flood, and Maris, Cepeda, Tim McCarver, Julian Javier and Dal Maxvill pushed Santiago down it. Boston never recovered, never got a runner to second off Bob Gibson until the ninth and never did score.
Before the game Maris had sat alone on the Cardinal bench discussing Busch Memorial Stadium and the Cards. "To me," he said, "this is the best of the new parks because it is fair to pitching, offense and defense. We have speed and power, and we have guys who know what they are doing. With the Yankees we had much more muscle and played for the big inning; here, we get what we get, and we know how to go about getting it.
"One of the few things here that sometimes bothers us is that people are in such a hurry to compare us with the Gas House Gang. We're El Birdos because Cha-Cha [Cepeda] named us that, and that is what we want to be called and remembered as. There were quite a few who said in the spring that St. Louis could not win because it had two troublemakers in Cepeda and myself. But one day Cha-Cha just pointed at me and said, 'Roger, you and me. You know what I mean?' "
Until his last time at bat in the third game Cepeda had hit only one ball out of the infield in 10 tries, but on his 11th at bat, in the eighth inning of Game 3, he had hit a strong double off the right-field wall to score Maris. During his hitless drought the Cards kept needling Cepeda, who will probably be named the National League's Most Valuable Player. "Cha-Cha," they would say, "we been carrying you all year long. Now you're getting heavy." Cepeda takes such ribbing well. On top of his locker in the Cardinal clubhouse sits a trophy that was presented to him by Trainer Bob Bauman not long after the start of the season this year. It is made of a No. 8 tin can, an inverted funnel and two handles, and it has an inscription written on it. The inscription says, "Orlando Cepeda. Now a regular on club. In the opinion of judges, no longer on probation." Orlando is proud of it.
As for Gibson, he preserved his shutout even after Yastrzemski had doubled to open the ninth and had moved to third on a fly ball. Yaz was left on third when Gibson struck out Reggie Smith and got Jerry Adair to bounce out to end the game. Afterward Carl said, "It may seem foolish to gamble on moving to third on a fly ball when you are six runs down, but if Gibson was going to get his shutout he was going to have to earn it."
George Thomas of the Red Sox said, "Tomorrow we may have to arrange it like a football game—put three men on Lou Brock." In the Cardinal clubhouse Cepeda shouted the cheer he uses after every winning game. Three times he hollered, "El Birdos!" And each time the team hollered, "Yay!" "Three games to one," shouted Orlando. "Yay!" came the answer. "You want to go back to Boston?" A resounding "No!" filled the room.
The Red Sox forced El Birdos back to Boston by winning the fifth game behind another excellent pitching performance by Jim Lonborg. After his one-hitter in the second game, Lonborg had been a source of concern to both St. Louis and Boston. The Cardinals had been angered by his admitting in print that he had thrown brush-back pitches at their hitters, and this rather amused Lonborg. ("I imagine what is going on here," he said, "is fundamentally only a matter of semantics.") The Red Sox were worried because he had been harassed by a severe cold, headaches and chills. In any case, few thought that he could again master St. Louis so completely. For one thing, he had pitched five times in 16 days, and this would be his third "must" game in little more than a week. Red Sox Manager Dick Williams put Mike Andrews, Joe Foy and Ken Harrelson into his lineup to get more punch into a batting order that had hit only .190 against St. Louis pitching in the two previous games. Williams wanted to get eight right-handed batters in the lineup (the one left-hander was Carl Yastrzemski) against Steve Carlton, the young Cardinal lefty, but in doing so he weakened his lineup defensively. Yet Foy, Andrews and Harrelson each did a surprisingly good job on defense for Boston, and in the third inning they built the big run of the game. With one out, Foy singled sharply to left, and Andrews followed with a safe bunt down the third-base line on which Mike Shannon was charged with an error. Carl Yastrzemski came up with two on and one out, but Carl was called out on strikes and he stormed back to the dugout, throwing both bat and batting helmet in disagreement with Plate Umpire Ed Runge's call. Harrelson, who had helped the Sox little during the final two weeks of the season and who had not had a hit since September 22, now singled to left and Foy scampered across the plate.
St. Louis got only one solid hit off Lonborg through eight innings—Roger Maris' single in the fourth—as he kept the ball down consistently. Boston got Lonborg two insurance runs in the ninth when the St. Louis relief pitching failed for the second straight time in the Series and Maris threw high to the plate, just missing a force play on a single with the bases loaded. "I was going away from the plate," said Maris, meaning the wrong way to throw, "and the ball went high." Roger hit a homer in the last of the ninth to end Lonborg's scoreless streak, but it was only a gesture.
In the Red Sox clubhouse Dick Williams said, "The only one of their pitchers who has impressed us so far is Gibson." Harrelson, who was sitting on a chair drinking beer, said, "It's just like it was at the end of the season when we had to beat Minnesota two games in a row for everything." Lonborg said, "Now we get them back up in our Green Monster." Someone asked him, "What do you think of Aristotle?" He just smiled and said, "Passion dulls the reason of all mankind."