Last Day at Fenway Park
Bill told about his parents 30 years ago making the same pilgrimage as he was today, journeying to Fenway to watch the play-off with the Indians, when manager Joe McCarthy played a bad hunch named Denny Galehouse and the pennant was lost. This, we agreed, spoke worlds both about the legacy of Sox fandom passed down from generation to generation and the nature of its anguish.
The game finally began, one of quiet tension interspersed with bursts of drama. The first came in the second inning when Yastrzemski caught a Ron Guidry fastball flush, stroking it in a long line drive out our way, just fair around the foul pole for a home run.
I abandoned the careful nursing of a searing sore throat and was screaming, “YAZ, YAZ,” and less intelligible things while repeatedly jumping up and down for joy for the first time since I couldn’t remember when.
Then came the slow accumulation of innings, Bill and I exchanging sporadic, shorthand appraisals, Mike Torrez after all his stretch drive disappointments mowing down the hated Gothams, then the addition of another Boston run in the sixth.
The grandstand and light-tower shadows were beginning to cut deeply into the field, the sun lowering to the blinding treachery level for right-fielders, when in the seventh New York for the first time put together two straight hits.
That brought up less-than-fearsome Bucky Dent, who looked even less fear-some sitting on the ground for several minutes after fouling a pitch off his shin. We were speculating on who would pinch-hit when he finally hobbled back to the plate.
Torrez came to the stretch, looked back at Chambliss on second and over his shoulder at White on first, then pitched.
Dent swung and lofted a fly ball toward left. The grandstand overhang blocked its flight from view, and I watched Yastrzemski looking up, looking up, as though setting for the catch. Then he turned around, still looking up, and staggered.
The ball did not come down. The worst had happened. Fenway Park was silent except for the pockets of Yankee fans emerging from their closets, on their feet shouting with glee.
The score mounted to 5-2 with a Reggie Jackson eighth-inning homer, and now I was not so much tired as empty.
“It’s gone,” I said, watching Jackson’s well-practiced October Cadillac trot.
“I don’t know,” Bill said bravely. “I think we’re going to see a real garrison finish. It’s the pattern of every classic game — go ahead, fall behind, come storming back.”
I held my skeptical tongue and watched him proven correct. The game, the season, had one more twist.
The league’s best reliever, Rich Gossage, had been overpowering on entering the game in the seventh, but Boston was rocking him with singles in the eighth while the revitalized Fenway Faithful rocked in approval: Yaz driving in another run, Fisk fighting off fastball after fastball before singling to keep the rally alive, before, finally, George Scott fanned to strand two runners.
Still, we were down only 5-4 now, and the top of the ninth was only an occasion for recharging voices. I looked at my scorecard. One batter, just one batter on, and Rice would have another shot.