1975 World Series

After sweeping the A’s and denying them any hope of a “three-peat” as World Series champs, the Red Sox had to face Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” – a nickname well-earned through their dominance of the NL from 1970 through 1976. In the ’75 season, the Reds had won twice as many games as they’d lost: they were 108-54 and then swept the Pirates in the League Championship Series. The Red Sox had been 95-65. 

Cincinnati’s .271 team average almost matched Boston’s .275, but the staff ERA of 3.37 was distinctly better than the 3.98 of the Red Sox. It’s remarkable that not one Reds pitcher had more than the 15 wins each by Gary Nolan, Jack Billingham, and Don Gullett. They had three other pitchers with 10 or more wins, but Boston had Rick Wise with 19 wins, Luis Tiant with 18, Bill Lee with 17, Roger Moret with 14, and Reggie Cleveland with 13.

As in the ALCS, the Red Sox turned to Tiant for Game One. He’d won the one fewer than Rick Wise, but excelled in the postseason. He was perfect through three, and held the Reds scoreless through the top of the seventh. Don Gullett had shut out the Red Sox, too, but when Tiant led off in the bottom of the seventh, he singled to left field. Dwight Evans laid down a bunt to sacrifice him to second, but reached base safely. Denny Doyle singled, loading the bases with nobody out. Yaz singled in one. Reds manager Sparky Anderson brought in Clay Carroll in relief, and he walked Fisk, forcing in a second run. Will McEnaney was brought in, and he struck out Lynn, but Petrocelli and Burleson singled and Cooper hit a sac fly, and it was 6-0, Sox, by the end of the seventh. Tiant never did let in a run, and the 6-0 score stood.

Bill Lee started Game Two for Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson. The Red Sox got a run in the bottom of the first on three hits off Jack Billingham. A walk, a single, and a groundout by Tony Perez tied it in the fourth. Then a single up the middle scored Yaz in the bottom of the sixth. It was 2-1 Boston heading into the ninth. After Lee allowed a leadoff double, Johnson called on Dick Drago. He got a couple of outs, but then Concepcion singled to tie the game. He stole second and scored on Ken Griffey’s double, and the Reds had the lead and Drago had a loss when Rawly Eastwick retired the Red Sox in order.

Game Three ended in controversy. The starters were Rick Wise and Gary Nolan. Though Fisk hit a homer in the second, Johnny Bench hit a two-run homer in the fourth and the score at Riverfront Stadium was 4-1 with Pete Rose on third with a triple when Wise was asked to leave the game in the bottom of the fifth. Bernie Carbo hit a pinch-hit homer in the seventh and then Dwight Evans clubbed a game-tying two-run homer in the top of the eighth. The game went into extra innings. After Geronimo singled off Jim Willoughby to lead off the 10th, Ed Armbrister laid down a bunt to push him to second – but collided with Carlton Fisk, whose throw sailed into center field. Home plate umpire Larry Barnett didn’t call interference, and the Reds had men on second and third with nobody out. The obvious call was made: an intentional walk. Joe Morgan’s single drive in the winning run.

Doubles by Griffey and Bench put across two runs at Tiant’s expense to kick off Game Four, but the Red Sox scored five times off starter Fred Norman (12-4, 3.73) and Pedro Borbon in the top of the fourth, the first two on a triple by Evans. Tiant singled again, as in Game One, and scored again, too – in fact, scoring the winning run. He allowed the Reds two more runs, but it was 5-4 Red Sox at the end. Now the Series were tied, two games apiece.

Game Five went the other way, a 6-2 Reds win. Boston scored once in the first and once in the ninth, but the biggest blow of the game came on Reggie Cleveland’s last pitch: a three-run homer by Tony Perez in the bottom of the sixth. Gullett got the win, giving up just five hits and one base on balls, and pitching 8 2/3 innings.

It looked like the Red Sox were going to lose the Series in Game Six. Though they’d taken a 3-0 lead in the first inning off Nolan, they were down three games to two, and were down 6-3 (all the runs off starter Luis Tiant) after 7 ½.

In the bottom of the eighth with two outs, Bernie Carbo pinch-hit for Moret and banged a three-run homer into Fenway’s center-field bleachers to tie the game. It was his second pinch-hit homer of the Series. Pat Darcy retired the Red Sox 1-2-3 in the 10th and the 11th, but in the bottom of the 12th, on a 1-0 count not long after midnight, Carlton Fisk hit one out that stayed just inside the left-field foul pole, while Fisk leapt up and down on the first-base line trying to will the ball to stay fair.  Rick Wise had pitched the top of the 12th and pocketed the win.

A still-exhilirated crowd filed into Fenway Park later that same night and saw the Red Sox take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Bill Lee tried his modified eephus pitch against Tony Perez in the sixth, but Perez stepped into it and hit a two-run homer. Pete Rose singled in Ken Griffey off Moret in the seventh and tied the game. Jim Willoughby pitched a perfect eighth, not allowing the ball out of the infield but was taken out for pinch-hitter Cecil Cooper with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Rookie Jim Burton was given the ball in the top of the ninth; he had a 2.89 ERA through 53 innings. A walk, a sacrifice bunt, a groundout, another walk, and then Joe Morgan singled in a go-ahead run, which proved the game-winner – they’d come from behind in every one of their wins. Reds fans rejoiced; for many other aficionados, it felt like anticlimax. One wonders how the Red Sox would have fared, had Jim Rice been able to play.

Lynn had barely escaped a serious injury crashing into the wall in center field. Two weeks after Game Seven, the Sox announced that they would install padding on the outfield wall and put in a new electronic scoreboard over the center-field bleachers.  The Reds continued in their winning ways and won the World Series the next year, too.

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