Beyond the Sixth Game. What’s Happened to Baseball Since The Greatest Game in World Series History. By Peter Gammons. Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Do you remember when you first realized that the Size-XXL Dominican Gentleman with the big smile was a Red Sox ?
The Red Sox team that already had Manny, Nomar, ‘Tek, Pedro, Millar, Mueller, Lowe & Foulke. ?
Felt pretty good, didn’t it, Red Sox Fans ?
For the Fenway Faithful, things become aligned in a special way every decade or two.
Sox fans of a certain vintage got a similar high 33 years ago after looking in the sports section and seeing TWO Red Sox players, unknown, right smack in Baseball’s Top 10 Al Hitter list ! Jeesus ! What’s going on here, we thought.
It came to pass that Jim Rice and Fred Lynn were young blue chippers sent by the Baseball Gods and Dick O’Connell, to join Yaz, Rico, Spaceman, and the best Red Sox pitcher ever – Luis Tiant.
Euphoria set in. The Sox were LOADED and could win several pennants !
If you can relate, or if you just want to dig a little into an intriguing baseball book, Peter Gammons’ Beyond the Sixth Game is for you. Gammons has captured the Red Sox of 1975 to 1983, a team history backed up to the late Sixties for perspective.
Gammons peppered this book with golden nuggets.
Here are a few of my favorites –
Rick “Tall Boy” Jones’ claim to fame came in high school, when he was suspended with 3 members of the Lynard Skynard band, caught by gym teacher Leonard Skinner.
Carlton Fisk, a well rounded New England boy who could fight; on 8-1-73, he pinned Gene Michael to the ground with his left hand while he pounded Munson with his right.
Dennis Eckersley, a cocky & talented 23-year-old, who had his own language, offering batters ‘cheese for their kitchen, and a yakker for their kudo.”
George Scott, rugged 1st sacker, who, when asked about what he thought about Biafra, said, “I never faced the muddafuka, but by the 3rd time I do face him, I’ll hit a tater.”.
The Rooster, Rick Burleson, commenting on the Sox collapse of 1978, “….the abuse we must be prepared to take for the entire winter, we richly deserve.”.
Luis Tiant, a pitcher for the ages, on the Sox brilliant run to force the 1-game playoff of ’78, “If we lose today, it will be over my dead body. …bleep those guys who want to throw in the towel.”.
There are funny & touching details on Yaz through the various stages of his career, and much on how he handled his farewell weekend. For anyone who was at Fenway on Oct. 1 or 2, 1983, this book is meant for you to read.
Gammons measures the Sox over 9 seasons. The Sox rose. They promised a dynasty. They failed to adjust to changing times. They won a pennant, nearly won one more, then slid into mediocrity & their first losing record in 17 years. They enjoyed an historic influx of young talent and then released, traded away and otherwise squandered the talent, as the front office lost their way in an ownership battle.
Among the leading factors in the decline was Jean Yawkey. Why would the aging doyen prefer to sell the Sox to two jokers with $400,000 on hand rather than to men with $14 Million in cash-money ?
The Yawkeys take the brunt of the criticism for mismanaging the Sox.
In 1965, Tom Yawkey replace old drinking pal Pinky Higgins with Dick O’Connell as G.M. Dick O’Connell designed the regeneration of the Sox from ’67 to ’75.
And when Jean Yawkey and the Sullivan/LeRoux team fired O’Connell in 1977, a costly series of stupid decisions ensued, resulting in the departure of Fisk, Lynn, Lee, Carbo, and Tiant.
The Sox pushed away pitching, said goodbye to their bench strength, and hoped that the salary spiral caused by free agency would correct itself. Meanwhile, they hung back, stayed out of the bidding, and waited for the market to cool down.
They led us into the Valley of Mediocrity.
But where there is pain, there is also JOY. You can’t go wrong reading BEYOND THE SIXTH GAME.
Younger fans will better understand the burden endured by more experienced ones. Older fans will smile with the memory of quirky talents, and the long dark road that ultimately led home.