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                THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM RED SOX: 1967  (Part I)

                                 By Harvey Frommer

          (Excerpted from the author’s Remembering Fenway Park, autographed copies-mint condition available)    


     It is Cardinals versus Red Sox one more time in the World Series. The last time they met in the Fall Classic the guys from Fenway swept the Midwesterners. They also had a showdown in October in 1967.

      In 1966, the Sox lost 90 games and finished ninth. Attendance at Fenway Park was 811,172, an average attendance per game of 10, 095.  It was pitiful.

        LEIGH MONTVILLE: I was a sportswriter at the New Haven Journal Courier  and convinced my boss to send me to Opening Day of the 1967 season. “Okay,” he said, “you can take the train but you have to come right back after the game is over.  I don’t want you staying overnight.”

I had my matching sport coat and my tie and my new portable typewriter.  I took the train up and got off at Back Bay. It was cold. I tell the cab driver, “Fenway Park.”

 “Why are you going there?”

  “Because I’m a sportswriter and I’m covering Opening Day.” 

“The game is postponed. Too Cold,” he said.

 I had to get a story so I went in the locker room and talked to Dick Williams. I was terrified because I had read all this stuff about how gruff he was.

MIKE ANDREWS:  Dick was a tough manager, very, very tough.  He wasn't one who gave you a lot of accolades.

LEIGH MONTVILLE: I didn’t know they had a press room so I went across the street to a grille to type up my story while knocking back a couple of beers.

 Rookie BoSox pilot Dick Williams realized he had a tough job ahead. Coming off a 90-loss season, the Red Sox were a 100-1 shot to win the American League pennant in 1967.

The young, crew-cutted disciplinarian promised that the team would win more than it lost in 1967. He vowed changes, and said that if blowing up the Country Club atmosphere was what was needed, he would do that, too. 

"There had been tremendous teams at Boston,” Williams said, “but they had won just one pennant in twenty-one years. At home they were excellent, but they just could not win on the road because it was a team manufactured to play at Fenway Park."

        Williams said he would not allow the dimensions of Fenway to influence his managing style and the play of his ball players. "I made it clear," he said, "the Green Monster was not going to be a factor. I had seen too many players ruining themselves taking shots at the wall. I made my pitchers concentrate on pitching to right-handed batters who always came up there looking for the ball away thinking we'd get them to avoid pulling.  I knew that the way to pitch at Fenway is to get the ball inside and gradually back the batter up a little."

(BOX SCORE)       
 Jose Tartabull               CF
 Joe Foy                                 3B
 Carl Yastrzemski           LF
Tony Conigliaro              RF
George Scott                 1B
Reggie Smith                 2B
Rico Petrocelli                SS
Mike Ryan                     C
Jim Lonborg                   P

JIM LONBORG:  It started off as a typical Red Sox season. There were 8,324 fans on a cold and dreary  April  12th, Opening Day,  a cold and dreary one.  We beat the White Sox 5-4. Petrocelli hit a three-run homer.  And I got the win.

The next day there were only 3,607 at the ballpark.  And then we went on a road trip. We came back having won 10 straight games.  And when our plane landed there were thousands of fans waiting at the airport. That moment was the start of the great relationship between the fans and the players.

BOB SULLIVAN: I went to Dartmouth, and we used to road trip down to Fenway and get standing room without any trouble.   It was eight dollars for grandstand seats. But so  many seats were empty.  You would flip an usher  a quarter and you could move down into the seats. Then it changed. What happened was ’67.  

A lot of the buzz in Boston was about rookie Billy Rohr who on April 14th one-hit the Yankees and Whitey Ford at the Stadium.

ED MARKEY: Billy Rohr in the early part of that season became the symbol of our renaissance - the lefthander we so needed over all those years.

Markey and thousands of other Red Sox fans were at Rohr’s next start on April 21st. 

ED MARKEY:  Fenway Park was electric. This was our chance to vanquish the Yankees.  He won that game, too, 6-1, subduing the Yankees a second time, beating Mel Stottlemyre, 6-1.

Despite his promise, Rohr never won another game for the Red Sox and finished the season in the minors.  Although Rohr wasn’t in a Red Sox uniform for all of Boston’s “Impossible Dream,” he helped set the pace for it.

 “Billy Rohr was 1967,” Peter Gammons wrote, “even if he only won two games and was out of town by June.”

MIKE ANDREWS: My 1967 salary was 11 thousand dollars. And in July Tom Yawkey called me into his office and   gave me a four thousand dollar raise. I was told he was always doing things like that.

After the All-Star break, Boston took off on a 10-game winning streak. In July, crowds topped 25,000 a game.

 In August, they numbered 30,000 or more.

In  September, there would be  standing-room sell-outs.

        BISHOP JOHN D’ARCY: There was a tradition that every rectory in the immediate Boston area would get a free pass to Fenway. It was indeed a wonderful perk. The rectory was the priests’ home, but if somebody worked there and was not a priest, he could probably use it as well.  I think you had

to pay 50 cents or a dollar to get it. You would go in and find your own seat, but it was not hard to find a seat in those days.  In 1967, when the crowds came back, that was the end of that. 

A crowded Fenway Park in that era before ’67 was an anomaly. Weird weather conditions were not. Fans from the start of play in 1912 brought umbrellas, jackets, blankets with them – even in mid-summer. On  April 25,1962 the ocean breeze dropped the temperature at Fenway from 78 to 58 degrees in 10 minutes.  One August day in 1967 pea-soup fog caused a couple of stoppages of a game --  outfielders could not see.

But an even stranger sensation was at Fenway Park on the  18th of August - - pennant fever. The Red Sox were in fourth place,  were hosting the fifth place California Angels in a four game series.

Tony Conigliaro  singled his first time up off Angels starter Jack Hamilton. In the fourth  George Scott led off with a blooper to short left center field and was cut down trying to stretch the hit into a double. A fan in the leftfield grandstand tossed a smoke bomb onto the outfield grass delaying play. 

When play resumed, Reggie Smith stroked a line drive single. Conigliaro batted next.

DAVE MOREHEAD: I was sitting on the top step of the dugout, charting pitches, right there by the corner closest to the on-deck circle. I was talking to Fitzie, the clubhouse man. I was watching Tony. Jack Hamilton threw the pitch.

An inside and high fastball hit Tony C. him flush on the cheek below the left eye. Dropping to the ground, his cheekbone crushed, his eye ball imploded, Conigliaro writhed in pain.

DAVE MOREHEAD: He had to have lost sight of the ball. It was frightening. His left eye was closed before our trainer, Buddy Leroux, got to him.

 Coaches and players raced out to the unconscious young star. A silent and stunned crowd watched as one of their favorites was taken off the field on a stretcher.

 More than a year and half later, Conigliaro would return to play baseball for the Sox. He had some small successes. But the injury left him with some brain damage and vision problems and ended what should have been a brilliant career.


About the Author

Dr. Harvey Frommer received his Ph.D. from New York University. Professor Emeritus, Distinguished Professor nominee, Recipient of the "Salute to Scholars Award" at CUNY where he taught writing for many years, the prolific author was cited by the Congressional Record and the New York State Legislature as a sports historian and journalist.

His sports books include autobiographies of sports legends Nolan Ryan, Red Holzman and Tony Dorsett, the classics "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," "New York City Baseball: 1947-1957 (original issue)." The 1927 Yankees." His "Remembering Yankee Stadium" was published to acclaim in 2008. His latest book, a Boston Globe Best Seller, is "Remembering Fenway Park." Autographed and discounted copies of all Harvey Frommer books are available direct from the author. Please consult his home page:   

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