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Before the season, Carl Yastrzemski signed a three-year $500,000 deal said to have made him the highest-paid player in the history of the game.
Once again, the Orioles surpassed 100 wins (101-57) and, once again, the Red Sox finished third, with an 85-77 record that still left them 18 games behind the O’s in the East – though they held first place from late April through the entire month of May and into early June. It was a slow slippage to third; for the entire month of July and well into August they had sole possession of second place.
One of the reasons for the early start was the pitching of Sonny Siebert. He didn’t lose a game in April nor a game in May and was 9-0 by June 1. His two-run homer in the May 23 game against the Orioles was all he needed to win that game, 2-1. By year’s end, he’d hit six home runs.
The Sox were 29-18 at the end of May, atop the standings. Siebert inevitably cooled down, winding up the year 16-10, with a 2.91 ERA. Gary Peters and Ray Culp each won 14 games, Peters losing 11 and Culp losing 16, despite a distinctly better earned run average.
Luis Tiant had been a May 15 addition to the roster, when he was released by the Atlanta Braves and the Red Sox snapped him up. He was a disappointment in 1971 (just 1-7), but wound up winning 121 more games for the Sox over the years to come.
When the Angels came to town on June 4, the two Conigliaro brothers played against each other. Tony singled in his last at-bat, in the top of the ninth, but the Angels lost the June 4 game, 10-1, with Gary Peters pitching a complete game for Boston. Billy had two hits and scored twice. The next day, Tony singled and doubled but was thrown out at the plate trying to score and picked off second. His eyesight was failing him. A little over a month later, Tony C retired in early July.By Bill Nowlin