Like Yastrzemski, Conigliaro also seems to have matured this year. He still talks about the good single life and his records, which he dedicates to baseball people. When You Take More Than You Give, for instance, is for Billy Herman, because Herman fined him $1,000 for an incident that happened in New York one night. Why Don't They Understand is for umpires and Limited Man, his latest recording, is for Bo Belinsky. Playing the Field he dedicated to himself. But Tony now seems more sensible about everything.
"I think I did what every 19- or 20-year-old kid would have done in the same situation," said Conigliaro, looking back at the past few years. "I threw temper tantrums and partied, but now I realize my responsibilities. Besides, Williams always is checking on us, and there's no way he's going to fine me." Actually Williams has imposed very few fines this year. He pulled bed checks on successive nights in Kansas City last week and did catch at least one player out past curfew, but he did not fine anyone.
The Red Sox have been in a mild slump the past three weeks, during which they have won only eight of 22 games. Nevertheless, they have dropped only a couple of games in the standings. And now, for the rest of the season, the schedule is somewhat in their favor. They play 28 of their last 45 games in Fenway Park, where they generally are favored. They have completed their three trips to the West and have only two games left with the Twins, who always beat them. And they have nine games remaining with the White Sox, including five next weekend in Chicago. So if they are going to win any pennant they possibly can do it for themselves. That is why they purchased Elston Howard from the Yankees. Howard, as Pitching Coach Sal Maglie explained, has been through nine pennant races, and there is only one other Red Sox player, pinch-hitter Norm Siebern, who has ever played on a championship team. The Red Sox hope that Howard can think for some of their young pitchers—like Darrell Brandon, who throws curves all the time instead of his good fast ball, and Reliever Sparky Lyle. The other night Lyle came on in the ninth inning with the Red Sox holding a three-run lead, and he went to a three-two count on the first batter. Howard signaled for a fast ball, but Lyle shook his head. Howard signaled for a fast ball again, but Lyle shook his head again. He wanted to throw a curve, so Howard let him—and the batter singled into center field. Sparky lasted only a few more hitters before he himself needed relief, and after the game Howard took him aside for some avuncular advice. Watching Howard graphically demonstrate to Lyle what he should do on three and two, Yastrzemski said to the pitcher, "Sparky, how do you figure it? You've been up here now about two months and Ellie's been here 13 years—and you shake him off twice." They all laughed.
"We've got to teach our pitchers to get tough now, too," said Dick Williams. "They're going to play games they've never played before. Heck, it's easy to pitch when you're 26 games behind all the time."
But it's the middle of August now and the Red Sox, for a change, are not 26 games behind. No, these are not the same old Red Sox anymore.