Posted by athomeatfenway on December 19, 2012
Rico Petrocelli, the Brooklyn boy who became an all-time fan favorite in Beantown spent the evening of Dec. 17 with 180 rabid fans at the World Series Club dinner in West Hartford. http://www.worldseriesclub.com/
Rico was a multi-sport star athlete in High School. NC State, Cal & Wisconsin all offered the young quarterback a full scholarship. But he was too smart to bite on a football career. He was also a power pitcher in High School. 8 MLB clubs were after him until he snapped a ligament in his throwing arm. The interested teams dwindled to 4. The Sox signed him as an amateur free agent on June 2, 1961.
Rico’s talk at the WSC was frequently related to the tale of 2 teams: the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox.
Rico roomed with Dalton Jones when the Sox were a young and undisciplined team. They formed a keystone combination that was mostly in place from 1964 to 1969.
When Rico & DJ came up to Boston, the Sox led the league in batting average but committed the most errors with 330. They finished 8th. 3 years later they made 142 errors and approached the summit of baseball.
In 1967, the team was coming off 190 losses in two years. According to Rico, they could not field, throw or run. Dick Stuart (’63-’64) was a prime example of fielding incompetence. “For every 3 RBI he got, he allowed 4 unearned runs to score.”, said Rico.
In 1966, when the Twins were top-top, the Sox beat them only once, and they needed an error and an unearned run to make that happen.
The 1967 Sox hated Dick Williams because he was a stickler. Williams stressed fundamentals right from spring training. He had a conniption when Conigliaro air mailed a throw over 3rd into the 15th row of the grandstand. He roared. He laid down the law.
And things started to change in Boston. After 8 consecutive losing seasons some magic took hold. O’Connell, the new General Manager swung some deals. The discipline-oriented Williams established order. A young batting champ and slugger named Yaz reported in fantastic shape from an off season of heavy conditioning.
The pitchers were pitching, the hitters were hitting and the fielders slowed their rate of making errors.
Rico pointed out, “We came out of the All Star break and went on a 10 game winning streak. That’s when it happened. We never looked back.”
That streak was July 14 to 23, 1967. The morning it started, the team stood at 42 – 40. They went 50 – 30 the rest of the way, a .625 clip.
The big difference between the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox was the tension level.
The ‘75 Sox were laid back. When Manager Darrell Johnson wandered out to the mound to pull the pitcher, they’d tell him to get back in the dugout…and he did !
One of the closest friendships that Rico continues to keep with a ’75 teammate is with Luis Tiant. “Luis Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame. He belongs.”
Tiant was Mr. Laid Back himself, speaking in a calm, high pitched voice. He enjoyed creating special nicknames for his mates. Petrocelli was Salami for obvious reasons. Bob Montgomery was Mr. Ed because he had a head the size of a horse’s. Carlton Fisk, due to his imposing & squarish build, was tabbed Frankenstein, and Tiant delighted in doing the Frankenstein walk with extended arms when he teased Pudge about it.
–When asked about how it was to face Koufax, Rico said, “The ball whistled when it went past. You had no chance.”
–When asked what moundsman he hated to face, Rico said, “Well, there was this guy named Nolan Ryan who threw 98, but when he needed to crank it up he threw 102. Sure, when Nolan was pitching and I got in the on deck circle, he just used to get this little smile on his face.” A contented smile, to be sure.
–Rico has 4 sons: Michael, James, Bill and Danny, and improbably, one of them is 6 foot 7 inches tall.
–On John Lackey: “If he had been on one of our Sox teams and had stared down his teammates like he did (in 2011), we’d have freaking choked him right there on the mound.”
–On Ted Williams: “Ted came to spring training. I talked to him many times about hitting. I should say HE talked to ME about hitting. You didn’t talk to him about it, he did the talking. And he was always loud. Ted was a loud person. It was like he had 3 lungs.”
Gotta love Rico.
Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant, RED SOX, Ted Williams | Leave a Comment »
Posted by athomeatfenway on July 6, 2008
Gammons book a must-read
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.
Dear Captain, we miss you.
Gammons book a must read
Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS, Bill Lee, Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Peter Gammons, RED SOX, roger clemens, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »