SI Vault
 
YANKEES GO HOME
Ron Fimrite
September 26, 1988
Boston bullpen ace Lee Smith saved the day—and two games—as the Red Sox sent the Yankees packing and took control of the American League East race
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 26, 1988

Yankees Go Home

Boston bullpen ace Lee Smith saved the day—and two games—as the Red Sox sent the Yankees packing and took control of the American League East race

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

"I was a Triple A player, period," he said. "But what the bleep, I got more bleeping stories and I know more people—including some I don't want to know—so what the bleep. I played for five major league teams, and all that added up to was a year and a half and about 30 hits [36, to be exact]. But what the bleep. I was going to write a book about all this. I'd have called it How's Your Old Tomatoes. That was a signal for the squeeze play I learned from Joe Schultz when he managed me at Triple A in Atlanta. Joe would coach third and say to the runner, 'How's your old tomatoes?' And that runner would go."

In the fourth inning on Saturday, Morgan called his own squeeze play without the tomato code, but for all the good it did him, he might as well have said, "How's your old man?" With the game scoreless, Mike Greenwell on third and Todd Benzinger at bat against the Yankee's Charles Hudson, Morgan flashed the sign. Greenwell broke for the plate, but Benzinger, transfixed, only vaguely attempted to bunt. New York catcher Don Slaught had Greenwell trapped, but instead of throwing the ball, he tried to run him down between home and third. Slaught finally caught up with him just short of third but dropped the ball attempting a diving tag. Greenwell never did score, though, and that's only fitting because he had no business being on third base in the first place. He got to first after he struck out on a Hudson pitch in the dirt that got away from Slaught. Boldly, he tried to steal second, and when Slaught, having one of those innings, threw the ball into centerfield, Greenwell reached his final stop at third. To complete his awful sequence, Slaught struck out leading off the next inning. So it goes for the Yankees, the 1988 model.

The Red Sox did get a run in their half of the fifth, but not without controversy. Baby-faced Jody Reed, whose mustache makes him look like a kid dressed up for Halloween, doubled and reached third on Rich Gedman's sacrifice. Then Wade Boggs lifted a high fly down the leftfield line. A fan, leaning out of the stands that angle out almost to the playing field, had a shot at catching the ball but missed. Henderson did catch it, falling awkwardly backward against the wall, while Reed tagged and scored easily from third. Piniella rushed onto the field in a rage, claiming correctly that third base umpire Ted Hendry had called fan interference, but incorrectly that the run, therefore, should not count. Umpire crew chief Jim Evans said Reed would have scored in any event, and the run counted, whereupon Piniella announced that the game was being played under protest.

The freak plays could not detract, however, from a magnificent pitching duel between Hudson—starting in place of Tommy John, who had a stomach virus—and Bruce Hurst, who over the last two months has stood in for Clemens as the ace of the Boston staff. Hudson had allowed only one run and two hits going into the eighth when Evans led off with a rising drive into the screen, which proved to be the game-winning run. The packed house rocked, and even the most devout disbeliever was now shouting hosannas. The homer gave Evans 100 RBIs for the season, the third time in a distinguished 16-year career he had passed the century mark. Benzinger scored a gravy run on Larry Parrish's double, but this was Citizen Hurst's game. He allowed only three hits and a run, while walking two and striking out nine. It was his 18th win against five losses, his ninth win in his last 10 decisions and his 13th this season in Fenway, the supposed graveyard of left-handers. "I think this team has come to realize that pitching is an important part of our game," he said, earnestly emphasizing the obvious. "And Roger [Clemens] is a big reason for that. He's been a dominant force." But not as dominant lately, Hurst was too modest to say, as Bruce Hurst has been.

On Sunday, Boston sent the Yankees packing with a 9-4 thrashing as the Sox pounced on poor Ron Guidry—now a sorry imitation of his once invincible self—for six runs in just 1⅓ innings. A three-run homer by Ellis Burks in the first and a two-run shot by Evans in the second led an early attack that put the game out of reach for the now dispirited New Yorkers. They had come to town confident of repeating history. They left 6½ out, in fourth place, with their pennant hopes all but dashed.

The Sox may well have exorcised forever the demons of 1978. But they're not without some sorcery of their own: Out of character though it may seem, Morgan keeps a little metal witch on his desk, professing, however, that he attaches no importance to the talisman. "Some woman sent it to me," Morgan says. "I don't know what it is—the wizard of bleep, maybe." Besides, he says, he doesn't need anything exorcised, least of all the ancient events of '78. "I can't even remember the '70s," he says. "I was in the minor leagues." But after last weekend at Fenway, one could hazard a guess that '88 might just possibly have some meaning for him.

1 2