Great Baseball Moments: Red Sox fans and Yankee haters -[count me in that group] will not even 43 years later consider this a ‘great moment’- but especially for Red Sox fans of a certain age it has to be a painful memory.
On July 14th the Red Sox enjoyed a 14 game lead on the Yankees. The World Champion Yankees had suffered from many injuries and on the field and off the field issues. Fiery Billy Martin had been fired and replaced by laid back Bob Lemon. Things then started to change- the rest of the season- the Yankees caught fire going 52-21 over the last 73 games. The Red Sox meanwhile were just playing over .500 at 38-35 in the same period of time.
Going into the final day of the season- October 1- the Yankees had a 1 game lead. To force a playoffs the Red Sox had to win and the Yankees would have to lose to the lowly Indians. Believe it or not it happened- both teams finished the season with records of 99-63. There would be a one game playoff at Fenway Park the following afternoon.
I missed the first few innings of the game due to school [but I had my trusty transistor radio and ear plug with me to keep tabs on the game. Looking back I should have skipped school that day.] When I got home and turned the television on the game was approaching the middle innings and the Red Sox behind pitcher Mike Torrez enjoyed a 2-0 lead.
Top of the 7th -2 outs and 2 on and light hitting shortstop Bucky Dent -a good shortstop but a lifetime .247 hitter who was by no means a power threat came up to the plate. With the count of 1 ball and no strikes Dent fouls a ball off of his foot- which requires attention from the Yankee trainer. The bat boy also brings Dent out a new bat. Dent gets back in the batters box. Dent hits a ball that at first looks like just a routine fly to left field where Carl Yastrzemski was under it- certainly looked like the 3rd out. But the ball kept going and Yaz kept drifting back to the Green Monster. The ball disappears over the wall- 3 run home run. This would be the blow that really sunk the Red Sox. Their 2-0 was gone- they were now down 3-2. The Yanks would add another run in the 7th and one in the 8th for a 5-2 lead. In the 8th the Red Sox scored twice making it 5-4. The Red Sox in the bottom of the 9th rallied but with two outs and two runners on- Carl Yastrzemski popped up to Craig Nettles at third base and it was all over.
The two best teams in baseball had met -and the Yankees had won- they would go on to win the World Series. Bucky Dent an ordinary player- is now a part of baseball history and is remembered by Red Sox fans as Bucky F’in Dent. A most unlikely hero for the Yankees. The Curse of The Bambino would continue for 26 more seasons.