On Friday night I got home at 10 PM Pacific Time to my house in San Francisco. Just in time to dial up my beloved Red Sox playing the Yankees in the Bronx in the top of the 17th inning. The Sox didn’t score and I went to bed. I googled Red Sox Nation next morning and found that they had won in 19 innings on a dynamite double play initiated by Red Sox stellar second baseman Dustin Pedroia from Woodland, California. This game was the longest, 6 hours and 49 minutes in the very long rivalry between the Bronx Bombers and the Bo Sox. But it is not the longest game in innings between the two teams. I was at the longest game; a twenty-inning marathon on August 29 and the following wee AM hours of August 30, 1967.
We were after all both suburban boys, and not real attuned to rustic customs and mores. We were able to bond with Jack over the Sox however.
First though a little background for non-fans and Sox die hards alike. I will always remember the summer of 67 as the “Impossible Dream” season when the Sox climbed out of mediocrity and against all odds won the American League pennant. It was also the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school. To make some summer money and to prepare my self physically for football season, I worked on Earl Foster’s dairy farm in North Andover, Massachusetts. Mr. Foster had 150 head of Ayrshire milking cows and he and his wife Bea managed the farm and employed two year round hired hands, Earl and Jack. Earl Woods was a wizened old Down-easter who spoke in gruff barely discernible tones and smoked a smelly pipe. Jack Hamill was a young Vermonter who had grown up on a farm and had been indentured to the Fosters. I worked on the farm picking up bales of freshly cut grass and loading them on a truck to be delivered to the cow barn. Then I sat up in the boiling hot barn receiving the bales on the conveyor and dovetailing them together into neatly packed rows to be stored for winter consumption.
Earl Foster needed more help that summer so I recruited my older cousin Mark to work with me. We worked as hard as we ever have, and we were covered with sweat and hayseed at the end of the day. Foster regaled us with barnyard tales and used a lot of animal metaphors to describe common human activity. Bea fed us steak with killer potatoes. My cousin sheepishly asked one day to gales of laughter from all the hands, “What do the bulls do?”
We were after all both suburban boys, and not real attuned to rustic customs and mores. We were able to bond with Jack over the Sox however. He was a huge Sox fan, but had never been to the bandbox of a stadium in the Fens. My cousin Mark and I were big sports nuts and had been to Fenway Park before so we invited Jack Hamill to join us in seeing a game. We decided that we would go to Fenway for a night game on Friday, August 19th. Earl Foster agreed to milk the cows that evening so Jack could escape early and drive in to Boston with Mark and I.
Turns out we picked a very historic game. Jack Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels beaned the Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro, Tony “C” to the Fenway faithful. Conigliaro was a local hero from the North Shore and had played at Swampscott High School and signed with the Sox upon graduating. He was what we call today a “four-tool player”: hit, slug, field and run the base paths. He had led the league in homers with 32 in his second season in 65 and was an All Star in 1967. That night a Hamilton fastball caught him high and tight and his cheek was shattered. While he would return and play again for the Sox and the Los Angeles Angels he never regained his all-star form. Tony C would die young from the kind of head trauma after effects that so many pro-football players are experiencing in the 21st century. The beaning put a big damper on the evening, but Jack was still happy to have been there, and Mark and I felt pretty worldly for having taken him to the Hub.
Later that summer after finishing our work at Fosters farm, my cousin and I decided it was our turn to go to Gotham, New York City, home of the hated Yankees to see the Sox play in the closing days of a wonderful season. We chose Monday August 29th to see the Yankees at the “House that Ruth built” in the Bronx. My Uncle John and Aunt Fran hosted us at their apartment in Tompkins Square in the East Village, and we trained out to the game, a day night doubleheader, on the IRT, the New York inter borough subway. Day night doubleheaders are extinct in this day and age, but we got to the ballpark ready for a full day and evening of baseball.
Gentleman Jim Lonborg, the brilliant Stanford educated pitcher who would win the Cy Young in 1967 pitched for the Sox in game 1. He won 2-1 and completed the game striking out two in the ninth, throwing as hard as he had in the first. The second game made history. It went on and on into the evening and the night. Around midnight my cousin and I started to sweat it. In Boston the MTA closes down at around 12:30 so we figured we were stranded in the Bronx if the game continued, but we decided to stay and were comforted by watching the IRT elevated train zip by beyond the center field fence throughout the game. We didn’t know the NYC system ran all night. The Yankees broke through in the 20th inning on a single by Yankee center fielder Horace Clark off Red Sox pitcher Jose Santiago and won the game 5-4. We got back to Tompkins Square circa 4: 00 AM.
The record of time duration was shattered on Friday April 10-11, 2015, but the inning totals from 1967 remains a record and my memory of the old Yankee Stadium and watching that IRT train is clear. The magical season of 1967 went from summer into late fall. On Saturday, September 30, my high school football team was playing the Tufts College Freshman team in Medford, Massachusetts. I was standing in the huddle listening to our quarterback call the next offensive play when the spectators filling the bleachers on both sides of the field exploded into clapping and uproar. Wow, we hadn’t even run a play, and they were going bonkers. But there was no gridiron action to observe. The Sox had beaten the Minnesota Twins. All the football fans were glued to their transistor radios and listening to the Red Sox broadcast. The Sox would beat the Twins again on Sunday (There were no divisions then) and moved on to the World Series against the St Louis Cardinals.
That was a summer of resurgence for the lowly Sox who despite losing to the Bob Gibson redbirds in the World Series would go on to great heights and great disappointments in 1975, 1978 and 1986 before finally breaking through and busting the curse of the Bambino in 2004. Who knows what would have happened if the brilliant Tony Conigliaro had not been beaned on that Friday night that my cousin and I took a Vermont farmhand to the park?