A Red Sox fan looks back to September of 1967


The resurgent Red Sox of 1967 have taken on a mythical aura as stories are magnified and embellished regarding the dynamic run for the baseball roses. This was a twelve team division with only one body without a body bag when the tally was done Sunday evening after the last outs when Dick McAuliffe grounded into his second DP of the season in Detroit to give the Red Sox an impossible pennant.

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In Boston there was jubilation as the area around Fenway was crowded with those of us who attended the game, drifters coming in for a potential party and the usual swarms of college kids primarily from Northeastern and Boston University.

Was it really that great? Were fans going all DEFCON for tickets? We have heard the stories such as a traffic tie-up at the Sumner Tunnel while a motorist refuses to drive so he can hear an at bat on the radio. But there is more.

I did not attend many games that season until fate intervened. Marriage, work, a bit of school and a new child put a dent into my former Fenway excursions, but back to fate. I had a motorcycle and one day on the way to work in mid-August a motorist simply cut in front of me and the result was a broken bike and a broken wrist. No work for six weeks. Ballgames!

I went in and bought tickets – mostly bleachers – for every home game in September. The team was a surprise, but the bigger surprise was in the ballpark. Where was everybody?

I will focus on the two game set at home against Cleveland. This was the down to the wire point with four games left and four potential winners. Fenway was half filled, if that, for two losses to the Indians. I checked the attendance and it was 16,652 and 18,415. So much for an “energized” fan base.

The two games set in motion the series against the Twins for Saturday and Sunday. They were both “must” wins for the Red Sox and I remember on Saturday some empty seats. A quick attendance check showed 32, 909 or about 1,000 under seating (not SRO) capacity. Sunday was much different.

Sunday was a nightmare. Scalper city if I wished to dump my lower grandstand (now upper boxes) ticket. Folks were slipping ticket takers green to get it – this was pure paper days with nor coding or electronic marvels. The place was jammed.

What I remember is the impossibility of getting to the men’s room – loved those troughs – and the fact vendors could not navigate the aisles. Fans were sitting in the aisles since standing room was jammed into the back wall. The figure listed was 35,770 and that was the legitimate number. The real number had to be closer to 39,000.

The 5-3 game, it came down to three items: Jim Lonborg went the distance for his 22nd win, the Sox had a five run sixth inning and Dean Chance, a splendid 20 game winner in 1967, getting tapped for those runs.

Carlton Fisk and his dramatic theatrics in game six in 1975 represent a legendary piece of Red Sox history, but in my opinion the more significant one was Rico Petrocelli waving his arms to catch the last out of the game. Then we all had to wait for Detroit. Tigers lose and we win.

What 1967 represented was a period historians refer to as a “watershed.” A watershed is a turning point or a change in direction. Prior to 1967 the Red Sox were a loathsome collection. A ninth place team in 1966 and a list of failures that went back decades. The fans were few and far between. I actually saw Dave Morehead toss a no hitter with about a 1,000 of us being a witness. The name “Dead Sox” truly applied. So why the dramatic change?

Tom Yawkey actually made a move that resonated with players and fans by hiring Dick Williams as manager. Williams had a take no prisoners style and didn’t give a damn who the player was – Carl Yastrzemski or a scrub on the bench. The players quickly formed a love-hate relationship, but this early version of Billy Martin got their collective attention.

The second point is what you actually see today and surfaced again in 1975 – an influx of talented young players such as George Scott, Petrocelli, the very talented Reggie Smith, Lonborg, Dalton Jones and they were supplemented by young vets such as Ken Harrelson (25) and Yastrzemski (25). The Red Sox had great pieces that contributed such as aging Elston Howard, the versatile Jerry Adair and Jose Tartabull.

In 1968 that attendance bounced and the Red Sox have never looked back. The ballpark gets filled, the fan base is energized, and the team is generally competitive – you also have money. Yawkey had money as he was the wealthiest owner in the game. The difference is Yawkey kept failure around – this ownership does not.

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