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Darrell Johnson was the new manager of the Red Sox in 1974. Eddie Kasko was fired – sometimes you gotta wonder about timing – one day before the end of the 1973 season. In March, Johnson restored Yaz to the captaincy of the Red Sox.

Captain Carl led the team in the big three offensive categories, though none of the numbers were all that special - a .301 average, with 15 homers and 79 RBIs. The team did well for much of the season. As late as August 23, the Red Sox held a seven-game lead in the division.

They built that lead despite a couple of key injuries. Early on, the Sox lost the services of second baseman Doug Griffin, hit in the head by a Nolan Ryan fastball on April 30. His next game back was on July 1, just three days after the team saw Carlton Fisk go down for the season with a serious knee injury suffered when Cleveland’s Leron Lee came in hard on Fisk at the plate. Fisk had been hitting .299 at the time.

There were three pitchers who reached double digits - Luis Tiant won 20 games again (22-13, 2.92) and Bill Lee won 17 again (17-15, 3.51). Reggie Cleveland won 12, but lost 14.

An eight-game losing streak, part of losing 11 of 13, did the Sox in. The Labor Day doubleheader against the Orioles was the most disheartening. Tiant held the Orioles to one run in the first game; Bobby Grich’s solo homer was one of just three Baltimore base hits. But Ross Grimsley shut out the Red Sox. In the second game, Bill Lee held the Orioles to just one run, a brought in by a Paul Blair sacrifice fly in the third inning. But Mike Cuellar shut out the Red Sox. And then Jim Palmer shut out the Sox in the third and final game of the visit to Baltimore, leaving the two teams tied for first place. It was only the next night, hosting Milwaukee in Boston, that the Sox were knocked out of first. To echo in advance a saying GM Dan Duquette later made famous, the Sox spent more days in first place than any other team – 101, including most of the time from May 22 to September 8, but where you finish is what counts, and the Red Sox finished in third place, eight games behind Baltimore.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Bill Lee, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Darrell Johnson, Doug Griffin, Luis Tiant, Reggie Cleveland

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