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Only after the league expanded in 1961 to embrace 10 teams instead of eight was there an opportunity to finish ninth or 10th. The league broke into divisions beginning in 1969, after which finishing sixth was the worst one could do. The 1961-1968 period thus gave the Red Sox only two opportunities to finish ninth or 10th. They never finished 10th; that honor was reserved for the New York Yankees in 1966. But the Red Sox barely escaped – they finished just a half a game ahead of the Yankees. It was a back-to-back ninth-place finish for Boston.

Opening Day almost set the tone. The game went 13 innings against the Baltimore Orioles - but with two outs in the top of the 13th and a runner on third base, Jim Lonborg balked. The runner was waved home, and the Sox lost a 5-4 decision.

Tony Conigliaro was still only 21, and the team overall was a much younger one. Tony hit 28 homers. The infield featured George Scott (age 22) at first base, Rico Petrocelli (23) at short, and Joe Foy (23) at third.

Scott hit one of the longest home runs ever, a 500-foot blast against Whitey Ford, on April 26, into the third deck in left field at Yankee Stadium. He ended with one homer less than Conig, 27, and had 90 RBIs to Tony’s 93.

For the first time in their history the Red Sox finally had some African American players that could really play baseball. The best of them just got a September callup, Reggie Smith (age 21).

There was one really memorable game, beating the Yankees on June 4 – seven minutes before the curfew took effect. In the bottom of the 16th inning, Jim Gosger hit a Dooley Womack pitch into the bullpen for a 6-3 triumph.

Jim Lonborg and Jose Santiago (12-13, 3.66) and Jim Lonborg (10-10, 3.86) were the only pitchers with more than eight wins.

The team lost 90 games, and improvement of 10 over 1965, but it was the eighth straight year under .500, and Billy Herman was fired. First-base coach Pete Runnels took over for the last 16 games of the year, going 8-8.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Billy Herman, George Scott, Jim Gosger, Jim Lonborg, Joe Foy, Jose Santiago, Pete Runnels, Reggie Smith, Rico Petrocelli, Tony Conigliaro

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