Celebrating the 1975 World Series' epic Game 6
40 years ago the Red Sox won one of the most memorable games in history
BOSTON -- The iconic moment in which Carlton Fisk waved furiously and all but willed his home run fair to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series celebrates a 40th anniversary on Wednesday. It was 40 years ago when that epic shot ended one of the most memorable games ever played, and the brilliant footage by NBC helped make it a moment no baseball fan will ever forget.
But when you look back on that night of Oct. 21, 1975, at Fenway Park between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, you see countless subplots that led to Fisk culminating the magical night.
The first thing you should know is that this game had pent-up energy going in.
The teams had already staged a memorable World Series to get to Game 6. Three of the first five games were decided by one run, and the Big Red Machine was leading, 3-2.
Then came the Boston rain that didn't want to stop. The clubs had a designated travel day on that Friday, Oct. 17. And then, three straight rainouts.
"Well, we wanted to play because we were hot," said Tony Perez, the Hall of Famer who started at first for the Reds that season. "We were leading the series. We didn't want any more rest. Nothing you can do with the weather. We had three games rained out. We take it. The family was there and we just went to practice and for dinner."
The Red Sox were stir crazy.
"That was tough," said Fred Lynn, the center fielder who was the American League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Award winner in 1975. "I had family in town and my dad had to go back because he was working. He had planned on seeing the game when it was supposed to be played. It was worse for me because I was just in this little apartment off the Southeast Expressway, and there's nothing to do out there."
Thanks to the rain, the Red Sox were able to bring ace Luis Tiant, fresh off a 163-pitch victory in Game 4, back for Game 6. The rain also gave Lynn a chance to catch his breath, and it showed when he clocked a three-run homer into the bleachers in right to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead in the first.
"The second half of that season, I was losing weight like crazy," Lynn said. "By the time Game 6 rolled around, I bet I was probably a buck 65. I was still getting hits and stuff in the second half. But everything was going to left field and I wasn't catching the balls out front and I still got hits and I wasn't driving the ball like I was earlier in the year.
"I was running out of steam. So it probably helped me a little bit just to get my second wind. The ball I hit in the first, I hit it 20 rows over the bullpen. It was a bomb. I hadn't hit a ball like that since June. I was probably the most surprised guy in the park."
While Lynn was ecstatic in the first, he was temporarily grounded in the seventh when Ken Griffey Sr. smashed one to deep left-center against Tiant. Lynn tried to make a jumping catch, but instead he crashed into the wall and went down for a few minutes. Fenway Park got uncomfortably quiet, and the Reds took a 5-3 lead on the hit.
"Over at their place, he hit that same ball, and I ran it down and made a pretty good play," Lynn said. "This one, I just ran out of room. I just needed one more step to get my jump, and I had to go early and I missed the ball and I hit the wall. That's concrete back then. There's no padding or anything. Down I went.
"The manager came out, and the trainer and a couple of guys. Everyone thought I was knocked out because I didn't move but really, I just lost all feeling from the waist down. I hit my back, I turned and I just lost all the feeling. I thought I broke my back. That's why I was just kind of lying there like a lump. I was afraid to move. Finally, I started to get a tingling sensation in my legs, and that's when they helped me up and I just kind of shook it off and said, 'I think I'm OK,' and I stayed in."
By the eighth inning, however, the Red Sox didn't look like they would survive the night. They were down, 6-3, with five outs left to stave off elimination.
Bernie Carbo came up to pinch-hit against Rawly Eastwick. On a 2-2 pitch, Carbo took about the most feeble swing imaginable, but somehow rolled it foul. Then, came the next pitch, and Carbo set off bedlam at Fenway with a three-run shot to center field to tie it up.
"As Curt Gowdy said, it was the worst swing of the series. And then the next one was the best swing of the series," said Dwight Evans, Boston's right fielder. "For him to hit that home run was huge. I've seen one bigger home run in my life, and it was Dave Henderson in 86."
"I was watching Bernie," Lynn recalled. "He was flying. There was no home run trot, he just had the adrenaline and everything else. We pounded on him when he got to the plate. It was so emotional, and the place was just going crazy. And you just knew, at that point, the momentum had swung to our side. Everybody there thought we were going to win the game at that point."
Except, that is, when Joe Morgan ripped one to deep right in the 11th inning. The hit looked destined for a double or a home run that would score Griffey with a go-ahead run.
Instead, what ensued was a play for the ages by Evans, who raced back and perfectly timed his leap, hauling in the baseball and firing it in to first, where Griffey was doubled off to end the inning.
"This ball never curved," Evans said. "It kept going straight. So now I'm trying to recover and get back this way because I'm going too far this way. I lost the ball, and caught the ball. It wasn't the greatest catch I ever made, but it was the most important catch I ever made."
By the 12th inning, the Red Sox were surging with momentum, and Fisk led off against Pat Darcy. On a 1-0 pitch, Fisk smoked it down the left-field line, and the rest was history. Lynn watched it from the on-deck circle.
"Pudge is a dead lowball hitter. Most guys, righties back in those days, were high-ball hitters," Lynn said. "But not Pudge. He liked the ball down and in. Pudge says to me on deck, 'I'm going to drive one off the wall and you knock me in.' Well, forget the part about me knocking him in. It was down and in, right in his wheelhouse where he liked it. As soon as he hit it, I knew it had enough to get out. And he hit it so hard, it didn't have time to hook foul. It took all of a second to get out."
The Reds showed their character by coming back from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 to win that Fall Classic.
"We had a lot of confidence," Perez said. "I remember after Game 6, we're talking about the game and Pete [Rose] and [Johnny] Bench and myself were talking and we were talking about what a great game it was, and Sparky Anderson walked by us and said, 'Are you guys crazy, we just lost? We lose this one, we're going to have the reputation that the Big Red Machine can't win the big one because we already lost two.' We came back the next day."
The Red Sox, who had Lynn, Evans, Carl Yastrzemski, Fisk, Tiant and Jim Rice (inactive with broken wrist in 1975 Series), figured they'd win their share of championships in the coming years.
That wouldn't happen until 2004, when Boston finally broke an 86-year drought.
It took the Red Sox a while to get over the heartbreaking loss of the 1975 World Series. But four decades later, they realize what they were part of.
"After my career was over, I realized what an honor it was to play in Game 6 and in that World Series because everybody remembers it, especially Game 6," Lynn said. "Everyone remembers it, all baseball fans."