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Mike Torrez to the Red Sox. Luis Tiant to the Yankees. There was a little back-and-forth in these days. For their new manager, post-Zimmer, the Red Sox turned to veteran skipper Ralph Houk – “The Major” – who had managed the Yankees from 1961-1973 and the Tigers from 1974-1978.

Following up on the postmark faux pas of December, arbitrator Raymond Goetz ruled in March that Carlton Fisk a free agent. That’s how Fisk wound up spending the next 13 seasons playing for the Chicago White Sox; they made the most attractive offer to him. The Sox were left empty-handed, though it presented a good opportunity for 21-year-old Rich Gedman. He and Gary Allenson shared most of the catching duties, with Geddy batting .288.

Opening Day was like Fisk’s revenge. The schedule had Chicago in Boston and Fisk, in his first appearance as a member of the White Sox, faced his old team. The Red Sox had a 2-0 lead, but Fisk came up in the top of the eighth and hit a three-run homer over everything in left field. The final score was Chicago 5, Boston 3.

Before losing Fred Lynn without compensation, the Red Sox engineered a trade with the Angels, getting Frank Tanana and finally (after Commissioner Kuhn had squelched the Charlie Finley sale) got Joe Rudi.

The team also lacked two other accustomed faces – both Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson were traded to the Angels, for third baseman Carney Lansford and pitcher Mark Clear. The Sox struck paydirt with this one – Lansford batted .336 and won the American League batting title. Clear was 8-3 in 1981, but won more than any  other Red Sox pitcher in 1982.

Dwight Evans came into his own, leading the team both in home runs (22) and runs batted in (71) – yes, that’s all it took to lead the Red Sox in RBIs in 1981.

It was a weird season. The players went on strike right in the middle of the season and baseball fans sat around twiddling their thumbs from June 11 until August 10. With that two-month chunk carved out of the heart of baseball season, the decision was taken to split the season into two halves. The Red Sox finished fifth in the first half, and in second place in the second half. The Milwaukee Brewers won the East, but it was a tightly-bunched five in the final standings. There were four teams above the Red Sox, but the Sox were only 2 ½ games behind the Brewers.

The September 3 game couldn’t be finished on the day it began. The Red Sox came from behind with three last-minute runs in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game 7-7 - but then neither the Mariners nor the Red Sox scored for the next 10 innings. The game was suspended until the following day; when play resumed, the Mariners quickly scored one run in the top of the 20th and Boston was unable to match it.

With just a week to go, the Red Sox crept as close as half a game out of first place on September 25, but then lost five of the next six games.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Bowie Kuhn, Butch Hobson, Carlton Fisk, Carney Lansford, Dwight Evans, Frank Tanana, Fred Lynn, Gary Allenson, Joe Rudi, Luis Tiant, Mark Clear, Mike Torrez, Rich Gedman, Rick Burleson

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