Forgotten Game 7 of Reds-Red Sox '75 World Series Still Haunts Players, Coaches

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistOctober 29, 2015

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Will McEnany (37) celebrates his team's World Series championship victory with catcher Johnny Bench and third baseman Pete Rose (14) in Boston, Ma., Oct. 22, 1975.  McEnary came in to pitch for the Reds in the ninth inning of game 7.  The Reds beat the Red Sox, 4-3.  (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)
HARRY CABLUCK/Associated Press

It is the baseball equivalent of losing American Gothic. Misplacing the master tape of Springsteen's Born to Run. Suddenly being unable to locate the Empire State Building or the Washington Monument.

Forty years after it was played, the clinching game of the 1975 World Series has become lost in the fog of time.

Somehow, Game 7 between the Reds and Red Sox wandered off into the shadows over the years while everyone was watching endless replays of Carlton Fisk frantically waving that home run ball fair (Game 6). It took a wrong turn and it just kept going while fans looked back at the Ed Armbrister controversial non-interference call (Game 3).

"I really don't remember much about that game," Fred Lynn, the star center fielder of that Boston team, emailed last month. "Couldn't tell how we scored or who pitched. Having said that, I'll do what I can to help."

"It's going to be like pulling teeth," said Dwight Evans, the cannon-armed former Red Sox right fielder. "I'm trying to think. I remember the bloop single…."

Fred Lynn retired in 1990 after a 17-year career in the majors.
Fred Lynn retired in 1990 after a 17-year career in the majors.Andy Hayt/Getty Images

"I remember we won," said Terry Crowley, pinch-hitter extraordinaire for the Big Red Machine, struggling for details. "I remember Joe Morgan got a hit. It wasn't a bullet line drive. We were fortunate it fell in."

"It won't take long," said Bob Montgomery, the backup catcher who pinch hit in the ninth inning and made the second out in his only World Series at-bat. "I really don't remember much about it."

"I thought the Red Sox won that World Series on Carlton Fisk's home run?" sneered an email from Cincinnati.

Indeed, for years, Fisk has joked to people that the Red Sox did win that World Series, three games to four.

There no doubt are legions of fans who believe that is exactly what happened, following four decades of focus centered on Fisk's iconic, 12th-inning, walk-off Game 6 homer that set up one of the most overlooked Game 7's in history.

A few years ago, MLB Network named Game 6 as the greatest World Series game ever played. ESPN named 1975 as the second-greatest World Series ever played, behind the Twins-Braves (1991).

And yet, its decisive Game 7 draws blank stares and scratched heads…until you poke a few memories.

Then, the tales come pouring forth: The Spaceman, the pitching coach banished to the bullpen, biblical rain, a lost bus driver causing Sparky Anderson to stomp into a gas station for directions in full Reds uniform, too-tight kangaroo-skin cleats (hey, it was the 1970s), lobsters on airplanes and a manager who had lost the respect of many of his players.

Game 7 was played on Oct. 22, 1975, just 11 days after the debut of a brand new hipster television show called Saturday Night Live, less than two months after the Aug. 25 release of the seminal album Born to Run and just hours after Game 6 bled into the early morning hours of Oct. 22.

Some American masterpieces, you just shouldn't let slip away.

The story of Game 7 really begins in the wee hours of the morning of Oct. 22, after Fisk's suitable-for-framing home run crashed down and the church bells rang in his hometown of Charlestown, New Hampshire.

"We basically played a doubleheader," Fred Lynn said one morning last month, sitting in a Southern California coffee shop not far from his home, wearing shorts, flip flops and, yes, a vintage Boston Red Sox cap. "Because we played the next game the same day."

While the New England poets filled their ink quills, poised for what surely would be Boston's first World Series title since 1918, the Red Sox felt they had plenty of material to feed them. Fisk's home run was only the latest rallying cry.

"We weren't even supposed to be there," Evans recalled over the telephone from his home in Florida. "We weren't even supposed to beat Oakland in the playoffs.

"Now, we're facing the Big Red Machine and we're not even in the equation."

Said Crowley: "When the series started and we lined up for introductions on the field, I knew the firepower we carried. The team was loaded with future Hall of Famers. I looked at both teams and said, 'This is going to be OK. I doubted it was going to go very many games. I was really overconfident in our team.

"Then, as the series started, they were a resourceful, competitive, clutch, tough team. Really tough."

The Red Sox had finished 95-65 that season and witnessed the spectacular emergence of two rookies, Lynn and Jim Rice. They had shocked Oakland with a three-game sweep in the American League Championship Series.

Fred Lynn  and Jim Rice finished first and second, respectively in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, as well as first and third in the MVP vote in 1975.
Fred Lynn and Jim Rice finished first and second, respectively in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, as well as first and third in the MVP vote in 1975.Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

And now, after playing an epic and draining instant classic long before the term became part of our everyday lexicon, they were one win from polishing off the Reds despite the fact that exactly one month earlier, on Sept. 21, they had lost Rice for the season to a broken wrist suffered when Detroit's Vern Ruhle hit him with a pitch.

"We knew who we were playing but, individually, for me, coming out of Southern California [both geographically and, following high school, the university], we had never lost a championship game," Lynn said. "We won every tournament we played. We won the College World Series three times in my three years there. We had won the Triple-A World Series.

"My teams had never lost a championship game. So I was right where I should be. To my way of thinking, this is where I was meant to be. We were never overconfident, but we knew we were going to win. And the rest of the team knew it, too.

"But not the Reds."

It had been 35 years since Cincinnati won a World Series. Not since a Reds club led by Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer nipped the Detroit Tigers in seven games in 1940 had the title resided in Cincinnati.

The Reds finished lower than second in the NL West only one time under the managerial guidance of Sparky Anderson from 1970-78.
The Reds finished lower than second in the NL West only one time under the managerial guidance of Sparky Anderson from 1970-78.Anonymous/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Under Sparky Anderson, the Reds were defeated by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1970 World Series and by the Oakland A's in the 1972 World Series. In 1973, they were beaten by the New York Mets in the NLCS. In 1974, they failed to make the playoffs despite going 98-64. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West by four games.

Now, heavy favorites to win it all in '75, the Reds returned to the tiny visitors' clubhouse in Fenway Park just after 1 a.m. with the Series even at 3-3 and the noise still deafening from Fisk's home run.

Just when the walls should have been closing in, there was a surprising calm as the Reds digested what had just happened to them.

"We don't feel down," Hall of Famer Tony Perez said over the telephone from his Florida home. "We know we lost, but we know we've got another game to play and we know we still have a chance to win the series.

"I remember after the game we were sitting in the clubhouse—Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, myself, a few of the guys. Dan Driessen. We were talking, and Pete was saying it was one of the greatest games he's ever seen. We and the Red Sox both made great defensive plays. We waited three days to play this game. (Following a travel day on Oct. 16, three straight days of rain delayed Game 6 until Oct. 21.)

"As he was saying that, Sparky came by and said, 'We just lost a chance to win the World Series. We're supposed to be the Big Red Machine. We lose tomorrow we'll lose our reputation.'

"We were like, 'Hey, we've got another game tomorrow, it was still a great game tonight and we're going to win tomorrow.' Sparky just looked at us and said, 'You guys are a bunch of crazies.'

"He called us 'Crazies.'"

Anderson wasn't feeling much better as Game 7 started several hours later. His pitcher, left-hander Don Gullett, was fighting himself from the beginning, walking five batters in four innings and digging a serious hole for his team in the third. 

Bernie Carbo hit .429 with four RBI against the Reds in the World Series.
Bernie Carbo hit .429 with four RBI against the Reds in the World Series.Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Gullett delivered a one-out walk to Bernie Carbo, who already had tormented the Reds by smashing two home runs in the first six games. Up next, Denny Doyle singled and Carl Yastrzemski followed with an RBI single.

In the dugout on the NBC national telecast, Anderson is seen pacing like a condemned man. He phones the bullpen. He stuffs his hands into his jacket pockets. Pedro Borbon and Jack Billingham warm up in the Cincinnati bullpen as Fenway Park roars.

Three batters later, Gullett, who led NL starters that season with a .789 winning percentage by going 15-4, lost Rico Petrocelli on a full count and delivered a bases-loaded walk. Next, he walked in another run by throwing four consecutive balls to Evans.

"I didn't know it was four straight balls," Evans says. "But I knew Petrocelli walked and then I walked.

"I didn't have anything to offer at. It kind of seemed to me that Gullet was working quick. He liked to work quick, but he was out of sync."

In the dugout, trailing 3-0, Sparky is seen on TV pulling off his hat and running a hand through his hair.

In the Cincinnati bullpen, the man whose pivotal moment was still five innings away allowed his mind to wander.

"Me personally, I'm thinking, 'Gosh, what's a loser's share of the World Series? What's a National League Championship ring going to look like?'" reliever Will McEnaney, a 23-year-old in his first full big league season in '75, said over the phone from his home in Florida.

"And I'm an optimistic person by nature. But it's not looking good for the Reds."

Watching that night's NBC broadcast today is like viewing a time capsule. There are no advertisements on the green walls in Fenway Park, making the deep, dark night seem even deeper and darker. Many men in the crowd are dressed in coats and ties. The warning track appears to be pure mud.

Just getting to this point was a challenge. Once the Nor'easter blew in, it seemed like the rain would never stop. This was a time before fields were built to drain and dry quickly. There were no indoor batting cages or workout facilities.

The Reds' 108 wins in 1975 was the seventh-highest win total in MLB history at that time.
The Reds' 108 wins in 1975 was the seventh-highest win total in MLB history at that time.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

So during the three days of rain, trying to keep the Big Red Machine from going completely stale, Anderson arranged for an indoor workout at Tufts University, located just outside of Boston. The Reds dressed at Fenway and then clambered onto their bus. Which promptly got lost en route to Tufts.

Finally, the livid future Hall of Fame manager ordered the bus driver to pull into a service station.

"It was funnier than hell," McEnaney says. "You've got Sparky walking into a gas station with the bus driver, wearing our road uniform, to get directions.

"Finally, we get to Tufts University, we're walking through campus in our uniforms, all of these college students are gawking at us. We get to the gym, and this gym is huge. Absolutely huge. They've got it all netted off, they've got mounds for us to throw off of for batting practice, we get our running and throwing in, and then we went back to the stadium to shower and change and then we went back to the hotel.

"Ironically, during those rainouts, the Moody Blues were playing in Boston. I couldn't get a ticket to go."

You'd think a key relief pitcher on a World Series team could score a ticket to a concert in town, wouldn't you?

"One would think," McEnaney said. "But I'm young and stupid and didn't know the right people to contact. I didn't get to see the show.

"But I figured I'm there for a reason, and it wasn't to see the Moody Blues."

The rain also interfered with the amateur writing career of Crowley, who had been asked before the Series started to author a short, daily column during the World Series by his hometown newspaper, the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance.

Terry Crowley hit .250 over two seasons with the Reds before eventually rejoining the Orioles.
Terry Crowley hit .250 over two seasons with the Reds before eventually rejoining the Orioles.STEVE MITCHELL/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

"I said, 'I'm not a writer,'" Crowley says. "They said, 'You put together the first paragraph, talk to a writer who's a friend, and he'll ghostwrite it for you.'"

Deal. So Crowley made his debut as a columnist after Game 1.

"Real easy to do," Crowley says. "I wrote about Sparky, my honest-to-God feelings about how I felt about him as a manager and as a man. We played another game and I did a story on one of our pitchers, Gary Nolan. Fabulous guy, he was a star at one time, then his shoulder started hurting and a lot of people questioned his makeup.

"Then they operated and took a golf-ball sized piece of calcium out of his shoulder. I wrote about that.

"Then we got three rainouts in a row and finally I told the Advance, 'Look, I have the utmost respect for writers, because after two days of rain and having to write, I have no more stories.'

"So they put it on hold until another game was played."

The Big Red Machine came out of the monsoon only to run into Fisk, Carbo, Lynn and Luis Tiant in Game 6.

And now, in the middle innings of Game 7, with Billingham relieving Gullett to start the fifth, it most certainly was not looking good for the Reds.

Nevertheless, when they came off the field to bat in the top of the sixth, Perez bumped into Sparky in the tunnel behind the dugout.

Tony Perez is honored in Cincinnati for a career that saw him hit 379 home runs and reach seven All-Star Games.
Tony Perez is honored in Cincinnati for a career that saw him hit 379 home runs and reach seven All-Star Games.Tom Uhlman/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

"He was walking up and down, scratching his head, worried," Perez says. "I was hitting that inning and I said, 'Sparky, what happened?'

"He exploded: 'We're down 3-0 in the sixth inning. What happened?!' I said, 'Don't worry about it. We still have three innings to go. We get somebody on and I'll hit one.'"

Perez was due up fourth in the top of the sixth.

On the mound, one of the game's most eccentric characters was dealing.

Known as "The Spaceman," Bill Lee was as far out in the groovy '70s as the baseball establishment would allow. Born in Burbank, California, and, like Lynn, a product of the University of Southern California, Lee was a free-thinker who consistently drove authority figures bananas.

Bill Lee posted his third consecutive 17-win season with the Red Sox in 1975, along with 17 complete games.
Bill Lee posted his third consecutive 17-win season with the Red Sox in 1975, along with 17 complete games.RAY STUBBLEBINE/Associated Press/Associated Press

"His father is here tonight, and he says Bill Lee is not as far out in space as everyone says he is," Curt Gowdy says on the national broadcast just before the first pitch. "He says, 'Sometimes I don't understand him, but he's a very sensitive, intelligent young man who's a lot of fun to be around.'"

Lee was particularly fun for Bostonians to be around on this night for the first five innings, being that he was shutting out the Reds. Chapped because Boston manager Darrell Johnson picked Tiant over him to start Game 6 following the Mother Nature-induced break in the Series, Lee crowed that it was fine, because that made the Game 7 spotlight even brighter.

Facing Perez to lead off the second inning, Lee's first pitch was a ball outside. His second pitch floated through the New England air like a slow-moving beach ball: His famous—infamous?—eephus pitch. A big, slow, looping curve that broke over the plate for a called strike.

"Look at Tony's expression," Tony Kubek says in the NBC booth as they showed the replay. "As the ball loops over the plate, he wants to go, he wants to go, but he can't pull the trigger."

Lee made as much news for his off-the-wall quotes as he did for his pitching in a career that spanned 14 seasons.
Lee made as much news for his off-the-wall quotes as he did for his pitching in a career that spanned 14 seasons.Associated Press/Associated Press

At 9:29 p.m. ET, as Lee stepped into the box to lead off the bottom of the fourth, the Spaceman narrative continued on television. The broadcasters talk about how Lee brings honey and ginseng to the park, enjoys transcendental meditation and "reads Kurt Vonnegut."

What kind of freak reads Kurt Vonnegut?

In the fifth inning, as Lee overcomes Davey Concepcion's leadoff single to preserve Boston's 3-0 lead, Kubek talks about how determined Lee is, and of the "purpose" in his walk to the bullpen to warm up before the game.

"He usually is determined," says Ned Martin, the Red Sox broadcaster whom NBC also was employing for the Series. "Despite all the shenanigans and the Frisbee throwing."

In a rigid society not nearly as open as it is today, Lee dared to question authority.

Unfortunately for New England, he would do so one too many times on this evening.

The Cincinnati sixth started with Rose rapping a single to right field, a hard ground ball between the first and second baseman. The Red Sox bullpen immediately saw its first action of the evening: Jim Willoughby stretched and started to warm up.

Pete Rose was named the MVP of the World Series after batting .370 and tallying 13 total bases.
Pete Rose was named the MVP of the World Series after batting .370 and tallying 13 total bases.PB/Associated Press/Associated Press

Lee retired Joe Morgan on a fly ball to right. Then, Johnny Bench smacked a ground ball to shortstop that appeared to be the first part of an inning-ending double play. Shortstop Rick Burleson's feed to second baseman Denny Doyle was true, but Rose barreled into the bag like Boobie Clark, coach Paul Brown's star fullback that year for the Cincinnati Bengals, hitting the hole. Doyle's throw to first was out of Yastrzemski's reach, and Bench was safe and advanced to second.

Years later, Doyle would tell Peter Gammons, then the Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe, that the baseball's seams were coming apart and that's why the ball slipped out of his hand.

"So many weird things happened that night," Gammons said.

Up stepped Perez.

"And Bill Lee decided things were going so good that he was going to throw that big, slow curve to Perez again," says Stan Williams, pitching coach for the '75 Red Sox and the only member of the coaching staff still living.

Not only did Lee go back to the eephus pitch on Perez, but he did it in the exact same spot: on the second pitch of the at-bat, after throwing ball one.

It was the third time Lee teased Perez with the eephus during this World Series. He also had thrown one in Game 2. Perez swung and missed so badly at that one that it resembled a Saturday morning cartoon.

"My teammates were laughing at me in the dugout," Perez said, chuckling. "It bounced, and I swing at it anyway. Everybody was laughing."

Here in the sixth inning, with Boston up 3-0 and now just 10 outs from winning its first World Series title since 1918, Lee's slow curve did not bounce.

Kaboom! Perez unloaded on the pitch like he knew it was coming, drilling it over the Green Monster in left to pull Cincinnati to within 3-2.

"He almost looked like he was waiting for it," Kubek analyzed on television. "You wonder if Bench had something to do with it, down on second relaying signs.

"Which can happen with a catcher on second base."

But that wasn't what happened.

"I remembered in the back of my mind that he stopped his motion with his right leg down" when he was going to throw the eephus, Perez says. "When I saw that, I said, 'Hey, it's coming.' When he threw his sinker or fastball, he didn't stop. He'd go right through his motion.

"He threw one too many, that's what happened."

Says Lynn: "As soon as he hit it, I went, 'Uh-oh.' It was a no-doubter."

Promise to Sparky fulfilled. Reds back in the game.

"Billy was a fine pitcher, very, very intelligent, but sometimes he just couldn't leave well enough alone," Williams said. "When things were going too good, he had to get cute.

"That's just Billy. He's still that way."

"We made it pretty clear to Bill that Tony was to see none of those pitches, period," Montgomery said. "In Game 2, Lee threw one to Perez and he took the pitch. And I remember thinking to myself, 'Don't do that again.'"

Tony Perez's two-run homer off Bill Lee jump-started the Reds into an eventual Game 7 win against the Red Sox.
Tony Perez's two-run homer off Bill Lee jump-started the Reds into an eventual Game 7 win against the Red Sox.Associated Press/Associated Press

From right field, the view Evans had sticks with him to this day.

"I can remember Tony seeing it, taking a stride, backing up and reloading, and then hitting it out of the ballpark," Evans said. "That's an exceptional thing right there."

When Perez returned to the dugout and saw the faces of his teammates, he had one thought.

"You know what it's like when you are sick and then you get medicine and you can get up again?" he said. "That's how everyone reacted. When I see that, I said, 'We're going to win.'"

While Lynn always thought the Red Sox would have been better off being on the road instead of at home during all of those days of rain because they would have felt more together, the players nevertheless left Fenway Park after Game 6 certain that the World Series had turned in their favor.

"We were emotionally high," Evans says. "Positive. There's no time, no tomorrow. We knew that. We were happy for the opportunity. We felt we had the upper hand.

Tom Yawkey owned the Red Sox for 43 years after purchasing the franchise for $1.25 million in 1933.
Tom Yawkey owned the Red Sox for 43 years after purchasing the franchise for $1.25 million in 1933.Frank C. Curtin/Associated Press

"We were very, very confident that we would win. We wanted to do it for Mr. [Tom] Yawkey. He owned the team since 1933 but never had a championship team. He had come close in '46, and '67. He was such a great owner."

In fact, in the hours leading up to Game 7, the telephone rang in the visiting manager's office. When Anderson picked it up, it was Yawkey, thanking him for helping to put on such a great World Series.

Now the seventh inning arrived on a very seasonable, 62-degree evening, and Gowdy promotes an exclusive interview coming soon on NBC with Dave DeBusschere, commissioner of the American Basketball Association, "on the explosive situation in his league."

Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka and Joe Namath.
Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka and Joe Namath.Jim Kerlin/Associated Press/Associated Press

Earlier on that very day, the renegade World Football League folded, leaving Gowdy and Co. to wonder between pitches what would happen to former star Miami Dolphins running backs Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick.

On the field, The Spaceman delivered a one-out walk to Ken Griffey, and Boston manager Darrell Johnson called for 26-year-old reliever Roger Moret. In three years, Moret would slip into a catatonic trance while playing for the Texas Rangers, his arm extended, holding a shower slipper in the middle of the Rangers clubhouse, before a game against Detroit. He was taken to a psychiatric facility, placed on the disabled list and by season's end, his career in the majors was finished.

On this night, he induced a pop to shortstop from Cesar Geronimo. But with Armbrister pinch-hitting for Billingham, the fleet Griffey stole second base. Moret lost Armbrister on a full-count walk, and Rose followed with an RBI single up the middle.

Now, it was 3-3.

Sparky Anderson shares a lighter moment with Boston manager Darrell Johnson, who was fired 86 games into the 1976 season.
Sparky Anderson shares a lighter moment with Boston manager Darrell Johnson, who was fired 86 games into the 1976 season.Associated Press/Associated Press

As the tension boiled, Williams, Boston's pitching coach, could do nothing about it except watch from the bullpen. Johnson had decided to station Williams in the Red Sox's bullpen during the home World Series games. Pitching coaches then and now always work from the dugout.

"I remember going to the mound to calm Luis Tiant in Cincinnati," Williams said. "But in Boston, I was in the bullpen. I didn't really like being in the bullpen. I liked to be hands-on with my starter."

Williams says he has his own ideas about why Johnson banished him from the dugout, but he will not share them. Not even off the record.

"A lot of our staff didn't think a lot of our manager," Lynn said. "I'm a rookie, so I didn't think much of it. I'm used to respecting my manager. But the veteran players know what's going on.

"Bill Lee said we won despite our manager."

Johnson did not communicate well with the players. Many people around the team believe he appeared to have a drinking problem.

Don Zimmer won 411 games in five seasons with the Red Sox after being promoted from bench coach to manager in 1976.
Don Zimmer won 411 games in five seasons with the Red Sox after being promoted from bench coach to manager in 1976.Associated Press/Associated Press

"He had a bench coach by the name of Don Zimmer," said Montgomery, backup catcher to Fisk. "To be honest with you, a lot of the stuff that went on there, the winning side of stuff, other than the fact that we caught lightning in a bottle with Rice and Lynn, was Zimmer.

"Zimmer did a lot of strong work in the dugout as bench coach, assistant manager, whatever you wanted to call him."

After the start of the next season, Zimmer would be named to replace Johnson as manager, and the man known as "Popeye" served as Boston skipper until he was fired during the 1980 season.

Perhaps the most important decision made that evening by Johnson, and one that remains a buried scar for some of the Sox players 40 years later, came as the ninth inning started when he summoned a 6'3" rookie left-hander named Jim Burton into a 3-3 game.

Burton had worked in just 29 games in 1975, starting four, and had gone 1-2 with a 2.89 ERA. His only appearance in the first six games of the World Series came in Game 3, when he faced just two batters working in relief of Rick Wise.

Now, as Boston's only left-handed reliever, he was plopped onto a stage that could not have been more enormous.

"Warming up, my whole body went numb," Burton, who passed away in December 2013, told author Doug Hornig for the book The Boys of October. "It was surreal, like an out-of-body experience. In those days, they'd sent a golf cart to bring you in, and when it came for me, I knew I couldn't ride in it. I had to trot in from the bullpen just to feel my feet on the ground. Otherwise, I might have floated away.

"I wasn't ready. I'd hardly pitched all the previous month. I was rusty. When I was warming up, I couldn't get loose. I could tell I didn't have anything."

Ken Griffey drew four walks in 30 plate appearances in the 1975 World Series, including a crucial walk late in Game 7.
Ken Griffey drew four walks in 30 plate appearances in the 1975 World Series, including a crucial walk late in Game 7.Harry Cabluck/Associated Press

First batter: Burton threw three straight balls to Griffey before Griffey took a strike and then fouled off a pitch. But Burton delivered the next pitch high to issue a leadoff walk.

Next, Cesar Geronimo sacrificed Griffey to second, a play on which third baseman Rico Petrocelli raced in to field the ball but slipped on the wet infield and landed on his rear end. Then, Driessen, the lefty pinch-hitting for Clay Carroll, pulled a ground ball to second, moving Griffey to third.

Now, with the lineup rolling over to the top of the order and Rose, Morgan, Bench and Perez due up, Burton had a hellacious battle on his hands.

With the pitching coach stationed out in the bullpen, Johnson, looking stern with the mutton chop sideburns that were fashionable at the time, walked to the mound for a chat.

"His wife calls him 'Old Stoneface,'" the television broadcasters informed.

Rose worked a full-count walk.

Up stepped Morgan. Burleson scooted in to the mound for a quick visit with Burton. The tension was almost too much for the 35,205 fans in Fenway Park to bear.

With 17 homers, 67 stolen bases and a .327 batting average in 1975, Joe Morgan won the first of his two consecutive MVP awards.
With 17 homers, 67 stolen bases and a .327 batting average in 1975, Joe Morgan won the first of his two consecutive MVP awards.Associated Press/Associated Press

It quickly became clear: Burton's mission was to work Morgan away. First pitch: Slider away, ball one. Second and third pitches: Sliders away, foul balls. Fourth pitch: curveball, foul.

With the count at 1-2, Morgan stepped back in, flapping his left elbow four times, as was his custom, as he held his bat up and waited for the pitch.

In center field, out of necessity because of the field conditions and respect for Morgan's power, Lynn was playing a few steps deeper than usual.

"The ground was wet, so my shoes were soaked," Lynn said. "We only had two or three pairs of shoes back in those days. And they were waterlogged. They were Wilson[s], and they had leather bottoms and kangaroo skin. That was the big deal back then. You got them a size too small in spring training and you'd break your shoes in.

"It would kill your feet. But then the kangaroo skin was soft and pliable and would mold to your foot. But with leather bottoms, they'd get wet.

"You put my shoes on in Game 7, guys today would say, 'I'm not wearing that. I'm not wearing that. It's too heavy.'"

Right-center field is the most vulnerable spot in Fenway Park because of the depth and angles of the fence. At its deepest point, it angles out to 420 feet from home plate. Morgan could run. Lynn was worried about a ball scooting past him for a double, triple or even inside-the-park home run.

Looking back, the problem for the Red Sox probably was that Burton's next pitch to Morgan was a tight, nearly perfect slider—one of the best he had ever thrown, he told Hornig. It slid low and away from the swinging Morgan, who connected with the pitch on the end of his bat.

The ball flared toward shallow center field and sliced away from Lynn.

"If he got wood on it, it would have been an easy fly ball," Lynn said. "And had he hit it at their place on the fast track [Riverfront Stadium's artificial turf], I still might have caught it."

But the three days of rain, the waterlogged field…Lynn had no chance. The ball fell in for a single, and Griffey danced home from third.

"To Joe's credit, he got wood on it and it was in no-man's land," Lynn said. "A Texas Leaguer, a gork, a duck fart, whatever. And to lose that way…"

Forty years later, in the coffee shop in Southern California, wearing his vintage Red Sox cap, Lynn groans.

"It's like missing a three-footer in golf and you lose like that. You'd rather have a guy drain a birdie to beat you."

The Reds now leading 4-3, Johnson bounded out of the dugout, calling for Reggie Cleveland to replace Burton. But it was too late.

Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk and Bill Lee take a moment to celebrate their Boston careers.
Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk and Bill Lee take a moment to celebrate their Boston careers.Elise Amendola/Associated Press/Associated Press

Forty years later, at a Red Sox reunion of the 1975 team in Fenway Park this May, Lynn and his wife sat at a table with Tiant and his wife and the former reliever Diego Segui and his wife.

"Diego was telling me he should have been in Game 7," Lynn said. "He had a great forkball, and the Reds couldn't hit him. He's telling me this, that he was watching Burton warm up and his eyes were like this [Lynn makes big circles with his fingers here].

"I'm just learning this and going, 'Really? S--t.'"

Forty years later, Montgomery still questions the move, too.

"I've always believed in the theory that whatever you're doing, you do with your best,' he said. "If you win, you win with your best. If you lose, you lose with your best."

Dick Drago was Boston's closer that year and collected 15 saves with a 3.84 ERA. Already burned was Willoughby, who had worked 1.1 perfect innings of relief but, dominating, was inexplicably pinch hit for by light-hitting Cecil Cooper with two out and none on in the eighth.

So, Burton.

"The Burton thing was left against left," Williams said. "That's why Darrell made that decision. Sure, the guy's a rookie. But he had been there the whole year. He did a good job for us.

"I don't hold anything against Jim Burton. He gave his all."

In the Cincinnati bullpen, the game was sucking the air out of another kid.

At 23, McEnaney was two years younger than Burton and had shared late-inning relief responsibilities that season with rookie Rawly Eastwick. But Eastwick had served up Carbo's home run in Game 6 and Anderson, the notorious Captain Hook who had little patience with pitchers, did not trust him for the Game 7 moment.

After Rawly Eastwick (left) had given up Game 6,  Will McEnaney got the call to close out Game 7 for the Reds.
After Rawly Eastwick (left) had given up Game 6, Will McEnaney got the call to close out Game 7 for the Reds.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

So McEnaney had been delivered to the Reds dugout via one of those old golf carts fashioned to look like a baseball that once ferried relievers in from the pen, complete with a Red Sox cap atop it.

"Sparky comes up and says, 'OK, this is what we're going to do,'" said McEnaney, who today is the scoreboard operator at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, the spring training complex of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. "I said, 'Shut up, I know what I'm doing.'

"This is my first full season in the big leagues and for me to say something like that was unheard of. So he says, 'OK, OK, OK' and walks off. I collect my thoughts, walk out to the mound and I'm scared to death.

"Literally, I am scared to death."

The scouting report detailed Juan Beniquez, pinch hitting for Rick Miller to lead off the inning, as a first-ball, fastball hitter. So McEnaney started him off with a couple of breaking balls before Beniquez cracked a line drive to Griffey in right field for the first out.

Next, Montgomery pinch hit for Doyle. It was his first career World Series at-bat and, as he settled into the box, Gowdy noted on television that Montgomery "is a licensed pilot and model train enthusiast." And there was another oddity: In lieu of a batting helmet, Montgomery was wearing a regular cap with a plastic insert, the last active player in the majors who had been grandfathered in and allowed to do this after batting helmets were mandated.

It was quick: First pitch, Montgomery drilled a sharp ground ball, but it was right at Concepcion, who was shaded toward the hole up the middle.

"Sparky used to tell me after that when I saw him, 'We had a scouting report and you hit the ball up the middle all the time, and that's why we had Concepcion positioned right there.'

As the five-time Golden Glover often was, Dave Concepcion's defense proved crucial in clinching the 1975 World Series for Cincinnati.
As the five-time Golden Glover often was, Dave Concepcion's defense proved crucial in clinching the 1975 World Series for Cincinnati.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

"Had Concepcion been playing normal shortstop, it would have been a base hit."

Said McEnaney: "Now we've got two outs and Pete Rose is at third base going, 'C'mon Willie, this is it, this is it! You're the money pitcher!' Of course, that puts a little more pressure on me.

"Now, with two out, here comes Carl Yastrzemski, a boyhood idol for me. I remember when I was a teenager [in Springfield, Ohio], we'd play with a tennis ball in the backyard and I'd be Carl Yastrzemski hitting. I'd imitate his style.

"This is going through my mind. I'm thinking, 'This is the wall I've got to climb.'"

The climb was brief. On a 2-1 pitch, Yastrzemski lofted a routine fly ball to center field. Geronimo squeezed it into his glove. McEnaney thrust his arms into the air and then leaped into Bench's arms. A Sports Illustrated photographer snapped what would become an iconic cover.

The Big Red Machine stamped its place in history.

The next week, McEnaney was at his parents' house in Ohio when the woman who was his first coach in youth baseball visited. In her hand was the Sports Illustrated magazine with McEnaney and Bench on the cover.

"I signed that magazine for her, and that was the first time I knew I was on the cover," McEnaney said. "So I went out looking for it and couldn't find it. I ended up finding it in a drug store. There were four copies left and I bought all four. Then Sports Illustrated sent me about a dozen copies. It was pretty nice.

"I was an instant success in my hometown, that's for sure. Of course, everybody I knew in youth baseball, they all got a hit off of me. Remember when we played and I got a double off of you? If I gave up all of those hits, I never would have gotten drafted."

Four decades later, Fisk and Game 6 continues to dominate memories of the 1975 World Series.

But just as Saturday Night Live's history would not be nearly the same without the John Belushi or Eddie Murphy years, and just as Born to Run would be much less a work of art without Thunder Road or Jungleland, so, too, would this American classic not pack the same punch without all seven of its games.

Anderson and Johnny Bench celebrate the first of the Big Red Machine's two World Series crowns.
Anderson and Johnny Bench celebrate the first of the Big Red Machine's two World Series crowns.Associated Press/Associated Press

Six Hall of Famers wound up playing key roles in the legendary series: Anderson, Morgan, Bench, Perez, Fisk and Yastrzemski. Another, Rice, was a part of that Boston team but inactive.

And then there's Rose.

Pete Rose's surpreme confidence helped the Reds bounce back from a draining Game 6 loss to grab the franchise's first championship in 35 years.
Pete Rose's surpreme confidence helped the Reds bounce back from a draining Game 6 loss to grab the franchise's first championship in 35 years.Anonymous/Associated Press/Associated Press

"It wasn't the end of the world, so to speak," he told MLB Productions years later in an interview for the DVD edition of the '75 World Series, of the Game 6 loss that set up the Game 7 classic. "We got to spend another night in the great city of Boston.

"Hey, man, when you're in the World Series, you wish it would go on for 30 days."

The scene in the Cincinnati clubhouse in the immediate aftermath of what everyone immediately recognized as a classic appears a mixture of pride, awe, relief and joy. Marty Brennaman, the legendary Hall of Fame voice of the Reds who joined the late Joe Nuxhall on the club's radio team in 1974, was covering the Cincinnati clubhouse for the NBC broadcast that night.

"It looked like we were dead," Morgan told Brennaman in a postgame TV interview. "But we never died."

Said Rose: "Most teams would have quit. You can tell I'm hoarse from yelling the whole game. … This is the happiest moment of my life. I'm scared I'm going to have a coronary."

Bench all but admitted that the Big Red Machine had come into the World Series overconfident when Brennaman asked him about the Red Sox and their effort.

"I think a little more of them now," Bench said. "We didn't know what we were getting into, I believe. Give them credit, but I think we just looked at them and said they can't do the things that they sure did."

There was champagne. Beer. And, yes, lobster on Cincinnati's flight home.

"It was like, my God, what else could happen?" McEnaney said. "It was one big party. And when we got back to Cincinnati, you couldn't even move at the airport, it was so crowded."

The Red Sox were just exhausted.

"Personally, at that time of year, that's the most baseball I had ever played," said Lynn, who batted .280 with one homer and five RBI in the Series. "I was running on fumes. I missed pitches in that series that in June or July I would have crushed.

"I lost weight. I was skinny as hell. I'm not big anyway, If I was 180 going into the season, which I doubt, by the end of the season I was 170 for sure. You'd lose a little bit. Just a little bit. And it was enough. There wasn't much margin for error in hitting anyway, especially if you're facing Gullett or McEnaney."

When it was over, 24 hours after the highest of highs with the Fisk homer, the Red Sox didn't know what to think.

"Remember, I had never lost a championship game before," Lynn said. "I had no idea what I was feeling. Never felt it before. Never been there. It was empty. Empty. Not numb, but just like, 'Really? That's it?'"

Said Montgomery: "I remember having the feeling when the game was over that you play and work hard to get yourself into a World Series, and having lost that one there may never be another chance for it again. That's the only thing I can remember going through my mind.

"And as it turned out, that's what happened."

Another long, cold New England winter had arrived.

Lynn remembers that he did not go home to Southern California right away. Instead, he and Rice had been signed to appear at a small, traveling auto show that was going to three towns: Hartford, Connecticut, Boston and "some other place," Lynn said.

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

"So we did that, three weeks, and I didn't get out of there until November," Lynn said. "It was a different auto show each week in a different area. I made as much money doing that as I did in the season almost."

But as things turned out, it wasn't just the money that helped.

"At least I had something to do," Lynn said. "It was good for me. It was good for me to be in public and do some things. People were very nice to us."

On his drive west later that month, Lynn was named not only the AL Rookie of the Year, but the MVP, too. And on the MVP plaque, they spelled Fredric Lynn's name as "Frederic." One MVP run, one incredible debut hit, one error on the engraver.

He still has that plaque, misspelling and all, displayed at his home today.

What he does not have, despite the fact that he, like Fisk, homered in Game 6, is a World Series ring.

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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