It came in,
scratchy and wispy, on hand-held transistor radios that were tuned to WSAR in
Fall River, Mass., which carries broadcasts of Yankee games, and someone in the
bleachers yelled out the news just as a kid in a Red Sox hat thrust his arms
triumphantly heavenward behind home plate. "I was standing there at second,
watching the hitter, and all of a sudden I knew someone had gone deep for
Cleveland," said Boston's Jerry Remy. "My knees started shaking."
Slowly, row by row, section by section, the crowd began to rise until up it
went on the scoreboard: Cleveland 2, New York 0. The place exploded.
afternoon, as the Indians' margin mounted, there was a succession of such
outbursts in Fenway Park until, in the fifth inning, the Red Sox gave the old
master, Luis Tiant, two runs to work with. Then there was an atomic blast of
cheering as Bostonians sensed that the team they had given up on was going to
have another chance—in a playoff—to win the American League East.
Sunday's game, the Red Sox, who had been killed two weeks before in New York
and buried a week later in Toronto, had won their last seven games and 11 of
their last 13. They were playing as well as they had in July, when they led the
Yankees by 14 games. They had gone seven games in a row without an error. Their
pitchers had an earned run average of 2.77 down the stretch. But it had done
little good, because the Yankees, too, were on a tear, having won six straight.
"When I went out to my position, I looked up and saw that instead of
listing all the American League games, they only had Cleveland at New York on
the scoreboard," said Third Baseman Jack Brohamer. "That's when I said
to myself, 'This is something special.' But I kept wondering how Cleveland
could win. Then I heard that roar from the bleachers, and I thought, 'Damn,
tomorrow's going to be the biggest game of my life.' " Brohamer, like all
his teammates, never considered the possibility of Tiant losing. But they had
not given the Yankees much chance of losing, either, and a Boston win and a New
York loss was the only way the season would continue for the Sox.
The Sox' desperate
straits were the result of an 18-day stretch that began with the second game of
an Aug. 30 double-header and lasted through Sept. 16. During that span Boston
had lost 14 of 17. "I've never seen a good team do absolutely everything so
poorly," says Manager Don Zimmer. Boston hit .192; Tiant was the only
starting pitcher to win a game; the fielders made 33 errors.
The darkest moment
came on Sept. 16 with a ninth-inning, 3-2 defeat in Yankee Stadium. It was the
Sox' sixth straight loss to New York and left them 3� games behind. Privately,
the players conceded the race was over.
The next day
Boston's ace, Dennis Eckersley, turned both teams around. With relief from Bob
Stanley, he beat the Yankees 7-3, bringing Boston back to some form of life and
putting New York's bats into a mild slump that would last five days. Boston
went to Detroit and won three out of four, and then had one more dismal moment
before the final week. It occurred on Friday, Sept. 22 in Toronto, when the
Blue Jays rallied in the ninth for a 5-4 win. Meanwhile the Yankees were in the
process of scoring three ninth-inning runs in Cleveland to force their game
into extra innings. "It's over," Rick Burleson told Quincy Patriot
Ledger writer Bob Finnigan. Then word came that the Indians had won the game.
"You'd better not write that for a day or two," Burleson said, and when
Tiant beat Toronto 3-1 the next day and the Yankees again lost to Cleveland,
the lead was down to one with seven to play. "We've gone from the deathbed
to the street in 19 hours," said Sox owner Haywood Sullivan. "From that
time on, any player who said he wasn't looking at the scoreboard was a liar or
a fool," said Bob Bailey.
The Sox won 7-6
that Sunday, while Ron Guidry threw a two-hitter in Cleveland. Then the two
teams headed home; the Blue Jays were coming to Yankee Stadium, the Tigers to
If the Yankees
thought that these parallel series would give them another game or two of
breathing room, they did not realize how well the Red Sox were playing.
"Sure, we have to win, but the pressure's on the Yankees more than it's on
us," said Eckersley. "When you're in second place, all you can think
about is winning. When you're in first and the blue light's flashing in the
rearview mirror, you have to think about not losing. There's a difference, as
we found out."
series opener against the Tigers, Eckersley got three runs in the first inning
to work with and fired a seven-hit, 6-0 shutout for his 19th win. The next
night, with Tiant pitching, the Sox again got three in the first on key hits by
Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn, and Boston won 5-2. Then on Thursday the final
missing cog was found. Mike Torrez had been without a win since Aug. 18, an
eight-start, six-loss span. With the help of four double plays, he threw a
three-hit shutout at the Tigers and ended his slump, 1-0, when Jim Rice hit a
home run. Boston had swept the Tigers, but the Yankees had swept the Blue
That brought it
down to a one-game lead, three games to play, with the Indians arriving in New
York and the Blue Jays in Boston. The Red Sox blew out Toronto as Stanley came
out of the bullpen for his third start of the season and had a no-hitter going
into the sixth. The victory was so easy that the time of possession was Boston
77 minutes, Toronto 37. It was 8-0 Red Sox by the third inning. At the end it