Do you remember Oct. 21, 1975? Game 6 of the World Series? Reds versus Red Sox? Carlton Fisk’s 12th-inning home run that ended what many baseball observers still consider the most exciting game in World Series history?
It was 40 years ago tonight – and tomorrow morning – yet for those who were there or watched on television or listened on radio, it was yesterday.
Cincinnati, leading the series, 3-2, was going for the clincher in Game 6 at Fenway Park. Boston, trying to stay alive, was going for the equalizer. Three days of gusty rainy weather resulted in three postponements that just increased the tension and heightened the drama.
Oh, the highlights of this epic. Cigar-chomping Luis Tiant, winner of Games 1 and 4, making his third start for the Red Sox. Hard-throwing Gary Nolan going for the Reds. Center fielder Fred Lynn, the American League’s rookie of the year and most valuable player, putting the Red Sox ahead with a three-run homer in the first inning. The Big Red Machine, which had lost the 1970 and 1972 World Series, tying the score in the fifth on Ken Griffey’s two-run triple and Johnny Bench’s RBI single. Lynn crashing into the wall at the 379-foot mark trying to catch Griffey’s drive, slumping to the warning track but getting up and remaining in he game.
George Forster’s two-run double in the seventh and Cesar Geronimo’s solo homer in the eighth, giving the Reds a 6-3 lead. Lynn’s single and Rico Petrocelli’s walk setting the stage for the most improbable home run in Red Sox history, a two-out, 2-2 pitch from Cincinnati relief ace Rawley Eastwick that pinch hitter Bernie Carbo launched into the center-field bleachers after having looked like a Little Leaguer flailing at and fouling off the previous pitch. The Red Sox loading the bases with nobody out in the ninth, Lynn lifting a shallow fly ball down the left-field line, and Denny Doyle, mistaking third-base coach Don Zimmer’s “No, No, No” for “Go, Go, Go” failing to beat Foster’s throw home to Bench.
In the 11th inning, Reds second baseman Joe Morgan driving the ball toward the seats in right-field near the bullpen, Dwight Evans sprinting with his back to the plate, turning, reaching up, making the catch of his life just before hitting the low fence and then firing back to the infield to double up Griffey, who, thinking the ball uncatchable, was racing toward third.
And in the bottom of the 12th, 33 minutes after midnight on Oct. 22 and four hours and one minute after the first pitch on Oct. 21, Carlton Fisk, swinging at a Pat Darcy delivery, knee high and over the plate, and lifting it high down the left-field line. Fisk leaping and waving his hands to his right, leaping and waving, leaping and waving a third time, willing the ball fair, and then jumping unabashedly when it hit the foul pole and fell into Foster’s glove. Home Run! Red Sox Win, 7-6! The Shot Heard ‘Round The World! Unbelievable!
I was there, high above the third-base line in what were then the Fenway Park skyboxes, seats on the grandstand roof that for the World Series served as an auxiliary press box. I was 25 years old and had become the sports editor of The Woonsocket Call a month earlier. All around me reporters jumped and clapped and cheered. Below, 35,000 fans roared as organist John Kiley playe the “Hallelulijah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah”. In Boston, college students burst from their dorm rooms and roared. Throughout New England baseball fans jumped up from their living room couches and bar room stools and roared. We all knew we had just witnessed a game for the ages. Photographer Tom Hunt of The Call captured the image of Fisk leaping and landing on home plate and into the arms of the Red Sox. That framed photograph still hangs on my office wall and still makes me shake my head and smile.
Cincinnati won Game 7, 4-3, on Morgan's RBI single off rookie Jim Burton in the ninth. It was another thriller, this time a heartbreaker for Boston. But Game 7 never would have occurred if not for the events of Oct. 21, 1975. Game 6 of the World Series. Where were you? Do you remember?