There's more to the '75 World Series than Carlton Fisk
Who knows? From now until the last out between the Royals and the Mets, nearly every pitch could produce drama. You have potent arms on the mound, clutch hitters everywhere and fielders who occasionally turn the spectacular into the routine.
So, yeah, the baseball gods could declare, by the end of next week, that this was an elite World Series.
This is for sure, though: I'm still breathless over what happened 40 years ago. To hear most tell it, ranging from ESPN to the millions who rubbed their eyes raw watching the Reds against the Red Sox, the 1975 World Series ranks 1a, 1b or 1c as the best ever.
Actually, it was peerless among Fall Classics. You had five games decided by one run, including two extra-inning games. You had a controversial play (think Ed Armbrister, bunt and possible interference). You had gutsy Luis Tiant, twisting and sweating his way on the mound to two complete games. You had memorable home runs, especially the home run.
Nothing surpasses this World Series. Then again, I'm biased. I was a disciple of the Big Red Machine, and despite playing on the road in a stuffed noise factory called Fenway Park, the Reds won during a seventh-game thriller.
That said, I haven't gotten over Game 6.
Neither have most people who remember it. As a result, the glorification of that Game 6 over the Reds' Game 7 heroics has created four decades of teeth gnashing for those of us who worshiped the Machine. We're talking about Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Sparky Anderson, baseball's all-time hits king Pete Rose and perennial All-Stars Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey Sr., George Foster and Cesar Geronimo.
Those Reds finished with more victories during the 1970s than anybody. That included back-to-back World Series titles after they followed their Game 7 triumph over the Red Sox with a sweep of the Yankees in '76.
Even so, if you ask sports fans at random what comes to mind when they hear the words "1975 World Series," they'll pause before responding with something along the lines of, "Oh, I think of that guy going nuts after he hit that home run to win the World Series for the Red Sox."
Which brings us back to Game 6, which featured that guy going nuts, which ranks among the greatest horrors of my life.
In case you're wondering, Carlton Fisk's solo blast kissed the left-field foul pole at Fenway Park on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1975 in the bottom of the 12th inning at 12:33 a.m. I was sick to my stomach. After I saw Fisk dance around first base from my dorm room at Miami (Ohio) University, I rose to wander the streets of Oxford, Ohio, while reflecting on the injustice of it all.
First, there was Reds history. Not only hadn't they won a world championship since 1940, they also hadn't done so with the Big Red Machine, because something always happened.
In 1969, during the first year of the Machine, the Reds battled the Giants and the Braves down the stretch for the division title, but the Reds finished third. In 1970, they won 70 of their first 100 games with a ferocious offense, and then they swept their way into the World Series. It didn't matter. They lost in five games to Brooks Robinson and his miracle glove.
In 1971, the Reds lost superstar center fielder Bobby Tolan to an off-season Achilles tendon injury, and they fell to fourth in their division.
In 1972, during the Reds' first season with Morgan and Geronimo, they dropped a seven-game World Series to an A's team without Reggie Jackson, their best player who broke his leg during the ALCS.
In 1973, the Reds reached the NLCS after more victories (99) than anybody in baseball. They faced a Mets team whose 82-79 record was the worst ever to win a division at that time.
The Mets won.
In 1974, the Reds tried like crazy, but they couldn't catch the Dodgers in the final days of that division race.
Then came Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, featuring overwhelming joy for Reds fans, but that was followed by non-stop turmoil -- and this was before Fisk hit the foul pole. With the Reds holding a 3-2 advantage for the series, they were just six outs away from exorcising all of those past demons. They led 6-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth.
With two on and two outs, up came Bernie Carbo -- who once played for the Reds -- to pinch hit for the Red Sox.
Uh-oh. After looking pathetic on the previous pitch, Carbo ripped a game-tying homer to dead center field.
Later, there was the incredible high for Reds fans of the normally defensively impaired Foster delivering a perfect throw from left field in the bottom of the ninth to nail Denny Doyle at the plate. Then, there was the incredible low for Reds fans of Morgan slamming a shot over the right-field fence in the 11th with a runner on base. Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans reached over with his Gold Glove to make the out.
So, there was Fisk in the 12th, swinging and waving and running and jumping and clapping and rubbing it in (well, if you were a Reds fan) when he rounded the bases after his pitch rocketed off the foul pole.
The scene made the cover of every newspaper and magazine. It also became an instant classic for highlight reels.
That's fine, but here's my issue: The Fisk homer has become the only moment for eternity regarding the 1975 World Series. Not Perez blasting one of Bill Lee's "space ball" pitches over the Green Monster for a two-run homer in Game 7. Not Morgan scoring Griffey from third in the ninth of that same game with a series-winning single to center. Not reliever Will McEnaney retiring Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski and the rest of the Red Sox in order in the bottom of the inning to end the World Series.
See where I'm going? Since that Fisk homer lives more than anything else from that World Series, many believe the Red Sox won it.
I'm sick again.