A Series to Shout About: 1975, the Cincinnati Reds vs. the Boston Red Sox

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Game 1 of the '75 Series turned up in my YouTube recommendations, so--I don't take advantage of this like I should--I sat down and watched it. All seven games are on there, so I'm going to work my way through them one by one. Seems like a separate thread is in order--it'll be more like a monologue thread, but I want to do this, and I'll want to write about them.

Took the thread title from Sports Illustrated, their cover of Will McEnaney jumping into Bench's arms after the final out. If you polled 100 sportswriters today on the greatest World Series ever, I think it would still win. Not sure--more of them would have seen 2001 and 2011 (and 2016), but I think it would still eke out the #1 spot.

clemenza, Sunday, 5 November 2023 16:23 (five months ago) link

Game 1

*basically, it's the Luis Tiant Show. 5-hit CG shutout, 2 BB, 3 K, 100 pitches. (I didn't think they kept pitch counts then--maybe added after the fact from the same YouTube clip I'm watching?) When he comes up for the first time, Curt Gowdy says he's a good hitter. He's a terrible hitter--the first few pitches he swings at and misses, it's like his entire body twists around. But he gets a walk midway, and then he gets a seeing-eye single to lead off the 8th, the inning where the Red Sox break the game open. (The game was scoreless to that point.) On the basepaths, he's something else. Evans bunts him to second in the 8th, Gullet's throw sails into CF, Geronimo throws behind Tiant and almost gets him out at second. Leaving third base after a single to right, he stumbles; when he gets there, he misses the plate and has to sneak back to touch it. On the mound, he's amazing. I'm pretty sure he strikes out Rose early on with his hesitation Eephus pitch, but it's called a ball. He and Morgan engage in some cat-and-mouse midway: Tiant almost picks him off, and then on the next pitch he gets called for a balk. By the ninth inning, with a 6-0 lead, he's really putting on a show: throws the hesitation pitch three or four times. Taking him out in the 8th doesn't seem to be a consideration. The CG is really impressive. It's always pointed out how much easier CGs were then, because most teams only had three or four hitters you really had to worry about. True--but not the '75 Reds, who one through seven had one of the greatest lineups ever (Rose, Morgan, Bench, Perez, Foster, Concepcion, Griffey).

*Boston in the era of Orr and Esposito: they talk about Tiant's son (in the crowd, along with his father, a legendary pitcher in Cuba), whether Tiant wants him to follow a baseball path, and he says his son wants to play hockey anyway.

*there are about five times in the game when a bunt is automatic. It's not even a question, even when the top of the order. Ditto IBBs.

*Tip O'Neill is in attendance; William Simon, Secretary of the Treasury, throws out the first ball and is heartily booed.

*Don Gullet, Cincinnati's starter, was 24 at the time; for his career, he was 80-41, with a career ERA of 3.04. Gowdy says at one point he's viewed as one of the four best pitchers in baseball, along with Seaver, Palmer, and Catfish Hunter. I'm wondering if that's a bit of an overstatement. Seaver and Palmer, definitely, and Hunter, probably him too. I know Blyleven was underrated at the time, but there was also Carlton and Ryan, Vida Blue, a few others. I don't know--but Gullet was thought to be headed for the HOF. He played three more seasons after that, pitched very well, and had to retire because of shoulder trouble. He's one of those pitchers whose career still sends up red flags.

*Most amazing moment to me: when Yaz makes a great catch, Gowdy says something about him being the greatest defensive outfielder ever alongside Al Simmons. We're at a point in history where you could still throw out Al Simmons' name and be reasonably sure it would mean something.

*Also: it's a Saturday, and there's a plug during the game for NBC's new late-night comedy show debuting that night. George Carlin will be hosting, and it will be live.

clemenza, Sunday, 5 November 2023 16:50 (five months ago) link

Hey, I checked formatting and those asterisks were supposed to be converted to bullet points.

clemenza, Sunday, 5 November 2023 16:51 (five months ago) link

I move pretty slow on things like this.

Correction to the G1 post; Gowdy called Yaz the greatest defensive leftfielder of all time, not outfielder.

Game 2 (the YouTube clip is missing the Reds' top of the 2nd)

-- pitchers' duel. But not a 2023 pitchers' duel, where you'd see 20-25 strikeouts. Bill Lee and Jack Billingham were, I think, considered two of the best 20-25 starters in the game at the time: Lee had won 51 games over the past three seasons, Billingham 53 (basically the #1 or #2 metric then). In '75, Billingham struck out 155 in 293 innings; Lee struck out 78 in 260. Which is incredible from the standpoint of today. They each struck out 5 in G2: Billingham was pulled in the 6th, Lee made it into the 9th. Great curveballs, both of them. Lee's is so slow and so 12-6, it's a borderline eephus pitch--he probably threw 10-15 of these during the game. Garagiola describes Billingham's as a "sweeping curve," which made smile, having listened to Sean Casey give a demonstration the other night of how Sonny Gray's "sweeper" is not a slider...are a "sweeping curve" and "sweeper" interchangeable?

-- Billingham plunks Evan in the 2nd, clearly trying to move him off the plate; don't think Aroldis Garcia would like Garagiola's explanation of what just happened.

-- many great plays on both sides. Same inning, Bench tries to pick off Evans at second; he bounces the throw, ball gets away, Evans gets back. On the next pitch, Bench throws down to second again; Evans heads to third and gets thrown out. One of the announcers says that Evans tried to set a trap for Bench; I almost wonder if the opposite wasn't true. Lynn makes a great diving catch in center, Fisk throws out Morgan trying to steal (Morgan was 67/77 in '75), and Bench gets Lee by half-a-step on a near-perfect bunt down the third-base line.

-- intangibles watch: talking about Yaz, Garagiola says "You just can't measure the value of this fella"

-- something to see: Kuhn and Kissinger sitting together in the Commissioner's Box (Joe Cronin also there)

-- Morgan's walk in the 4th breaks up Lee's perfect game

-- time-capsule stuff: a plug for "The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola," with a "poem by Foster Brooks." Also something about a bubble-blowing contest between Kurt Bevacqua and Johnny Oates.

-- in the 8th, in anticipation of Geronimo maybe getting on base, Ed Armbrister pops out of the dugout to pinch-punt; Geronimo flies out, Merv Rettenmund pinch-hits instead. Armbrister will be back.

-- I watched the game not remembering (and not checking, of course) who won; I had a vague sense Boston went up in the series 2-0. No: the Reds tied it and then went ahead 3-2 in the top ninth off Dick Drago. One game each, heading back to Cincinnati.

clemenza, Saturday, 11 November 2023 16:19 (five months ago) link


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