The 1964 season began with some dramatics – first of all, an extra-inning Opening Day game in The Bronx, with Boston winning on a wild pitch by starter Whitey Ford in the top of the 11th. Dick Radatz pitch 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the victory.
The home opener was the very next day at Fenway. Only a month after turning 19, area native Tony Conigliaro headed for spring training in Scottsdale. He made the team. Batting seventh in the order, Tony Conigliaro did not disappoint. The very first pitch he saw from Chicago’s Joel Horlen went soaring over the “Green Monster” in left field, and onto Lansdowne Street. The receipts from the day’s game were donated to help build the John F. Kennedy Library, for the President lost to an assassin’s bullet in November 1963.
He was no rookie, but Eddie Bressoud couldn’t have hoped for a better start, either. He’d come to Boston in November 1961 for Don Buddin. In 1964, he hit safely in every one of his first 20 games, making for the longest batting streak to start a season any Red Sox hitter has ever enjoyed. But Conig was the word - Tony had 20 home runs by July 26, but he crowded the plate too much and he kept getting hit. He had his forearm fractured by a Pedro Ramos pitch on the 26th, and spent more than a month on the disabled list. He finished the year with 24 home runs and a .290 average. Dick Stuart’s 33 homers and 114 RBIs led the team.
Dick Radatz added to his wins total. The starter with the most wins was Bill Monbouquette with 13. Earl Wilson won 11, but neither won more games than they lost. The true “ace” was The Monster. Radatz earned more wins than anyone on the team, winning 16 and losing 9 without ever once starting a game. He struck out 181 batters in 157 innings, the total remains a record. He led the league with 29 saves and with a 2.29 ERA at year’s end. Winning 16 games and saving 29 more was a pretty good total given that the team was sub-.500 again, in eighth place, 72-90.
Radatz pitched in his second All-Star Game, but lost it on a three-run homer by Johnny Callison in the bottom of the ninth.
Again, Pesky’s team had gotten off well out of the gate. They reached their peak in the June 10 game. The Yankees took a 6-5 lead in the top of the 10th. Tony C tied it with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the 10th, and then Dick Williams won it with a walkoff home run. The Sox were two games over .500 at the time, but everything began to fall apart and Higgins wouldn’t make any of the moves Pesky was requesting. Fans just stopped coming; the game on October 1 saw 306 fans, apparently the lowest attendance ever.
Higgins fired Johnny Pesky and all his coaches with just two games to go. Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch said that Pesky “should get the manager of the year award for all he’s put up with…No team can win with a bunch of Humpty Dumpties.”By Bill Nowlin
- Bill Monbouquette, Dick Radatz, Dick Stuart, Dick Williams, Don Buddin, Earl Wilson, Eddie Bressoud, Joel Horlen, Johnny Pesky, Pedro Ramos, Pinky Higgins, Tony Conigliaro