If young fans -- say 20 and under -- think that Red Sox Nation was formed in 2004, they will be educated and highly entertained by a riveting documentary that premiered Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.The title is "Impossible Dream: Red Sox Nation Begins," and it's a
If young fans -- say 20 and under -- think that Red Sox Nation was formed in 2004, they will be educated and highly entertained by a riveting documentary that premiered Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
The title is "Impossible Dream: Red Sox Nation Begins," and it's a can't-miss production that covers the epic 1967 season from various angles and perspectives.
Helping to tell the story is the man who carried his team for much of that season a half-century ago: No. 8, Carl Yastrzemski.
Yaz, now 77, recaps the season in vivid detail while seated in a suite behind home plate at Fenway, the views of the ballpark there for all to see as he tells the story.
But only when prompted does Yastrzemski talk about his Triple Crown-winning heroics of that summer. He is more interested in recapturing the thrill of playing in a pennant race for the first time in his career.
"Some player, a different player, did something every day to help that team win," Yastrzemski said.
Many of those players are interviewed in the documentary, and so is Ron Darling, who grew up in Worcester, Mass., loving the Red Sox. And Jerry Remy, who was raised in Somerset. The narrator is Boston native John Slattery of "Mad Men" fame.
While you see the packed houses at Fenway Park almost daily in this generation, you might be shocked to know that it was the complete opposite during Yaz's first six Major League seasons from 1961-66.
"I remember playing right field for Kansas City in 1966, counting the fans in the stands [at Fenway]," howls Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, who joined the Red Sox for the stretch run of that '67 season.
"You could hear the vendors talking to each other," said Rico Petrocelli, the shortstop that season. "There would be like 2,000 people there."
The first step toward the turnaround was the hiring of an eventual Hall of Famer manager in Dick Williams, who was promoted from the team's Triple-A affiliate in Toronto.
"I honestly think we'll win more ballgames than we lose," Williams said to a local sportscaster in what seemed a thoroughly bold prediction on the eve of the season.
The magical feeling first took hold in the third game of the season, on a Friday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Billy Rohr, a pitcher few had heard of until that day, was opposing Whitey Ford. Boston's lefty took a no-hitter into the ninth, when Tom Tresh seemingly broke it up with a deep drive to left.
But Yastrzemski went back and made a leaping, tumbling catch -- perhaps the best of his career.
Two batters later, Elston Howard, who would join the Red Sox later that season, broke it up with a single to right. But it didn't seem to matter. The image of Yaz making that catch is an iconic image of that season, and he breaks it down frame-by-frame 50 years later.
Back before he played for the Red Sox and became a wildly popular commentator for NESN, Remy was a huge fan of his hometown team. In 1967, he was a 14-year-old boy falling in love with the Red Sox and the man who played left field.
"You didn't want to miss his at-bat. Every time he came to the plate, you thought something special was going to happen," Remy said.
In a segment that captures how different a time 1967 was, the footage of fans mobbing the Red Sox at the airport after a 10-game winning streak is captivating.
"That gave us an extra lift," said Yaz. "I think that road trip brought baseball back to Boston."
The climax of the film is, of course, those final two regular-season games against the Twins. The Red Sox had to win both to have a chance at capturing the pennant.
After riding Yaz's 44th homer to victory on Saturday, Boston was down, 2-0, in Game No. 162. Jim Lonborg, the ace pitcher from that team, started a stirring rally with a bunt single. With the bases loaded and nobody out, the surest lock of that season was that Yaz was going to get a hit. And he did, as his two-run single tied the game.
Petrocelli corralled a popup by Rich Rollins for the final out of a 5-4 victory, and the fans mobbed the field. Lonborg's shirt sleeves had been torn off by the time he got back to the clubhouse. But The Dream wasn't complete until a couple of hours later when the Tigers lost Game 2 of a doubleheader to the Angels, and the Red Sox erupted in the clubhouse while listening to the final out of that game on the radio.
One thing everyone seemed to agree on was that losing to Bob Gibson and the Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series did nothing to diminish one of the most important seasons in the history of Boston baseball.
"Just doing what they did to get to the World Series was something I hadn't seen in my lifetime," said Remy. "They lost the World Series, no big deal."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.