It’s been 44 years since I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to deliver what has been the signature call of my career. This past week was my call of Carlton Fisk’s dramatic 12th inning home run in the 6th game of the 1975 World Series.
At the time, it was regarded by most observers and myself as a big moment in that World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
With few exceptions, no one really responds immediately to a play in any sports event, and forecasts long-lasting memories.
But when it stands the test of time, and is historically looked upon as a truly standout moment, then you know.
This one did. The call, “if it stays fair….home run”, has stood the test of time, and I am grateful.
It was game 6. I was assigned to the telecast along with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. Curt Gowdy, who I had worked with earlier on both TV and radio, was on the radio side, with Marty Brennaman, representing the Reds, as I was representing the Red Sox on the NBC broadcast.
NBC wanted their man, Garagiola to work the last four-and-a-half innings so that if Cincinnati won the game and the Series (they were ahead 3-games-to-2), the network commentator and not the voice of the local addition to the Series, would be the call of record.
Up until that point, either Gowdy or Garagiola would do the first half of the game, and Brennaman or myself would do the last half. Marty, by the way, just retired as the 40-year plus voice of the Reds after this past season. He’s been a legend, as well as a Hall of Famer.
When the nine innings were completed and the game tied 6-6, the big question became, what do we do now?
NBC’s Director of Sports, Chet Simmons made the decision that we would alternate innings for as long as the game would last.
That meant, I would work the 10th, Joe the 11th if necessary, and so on.
There is no way that arrangement would happen today. The demands of the top voice of any network would result in one voice calling the rest of the game. That wouldn’t be me.
So, when the magical 12th inning came around, it was my turn again.
The Reds didn’t score in the top half of the inning.
Fisk was the leadoff hitter for the Red Sox in the bottom half.
He lined the second pitch from Pat Darcy down the left-field line toward the famed Green Monster wall 37-feet high.
Fair or foul? I had to make a quick, instinctive call.
My gut produced, “if it stays fair”……
It hit the foul pole which meant, home run.
If I had made a premature declaration which wasn’t the right one, I would be nothing more than a footnote in sports broadcasting annals. Fortunately I didn’t.
The rest is history.
The Red Sox had forced a seventh and deciding game, which Cincinnati won.
They were the World Champions. The next year they made it two in a row by sweeping the Yankees.
Frequently I have run into Johnny Bench, the Reds catcher and Hall of Fame icon, who always reminds me that despite the dramatic home run by Carlton Fisk, it was his team that won the World Series.
I always reply, that I always thought, tongue in cheek, that the Series was called off after the sixth game and was declared a tie.
We both laugh.
He had his first World Series ring.
And I had the greatest moment of a memorable career.
That was 44 years ago. Now the Houston Astros are playing the Washington Nationals in the World Series.
It may not be the marquee event baseball fans envisioned. Not with the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals in the post-season.
Don’t tell that to the fans of the Astros who have known championships, or the long-suffering fans in Washington who have not been in the World Series since 1924 and endured countless years of utter failure.
The Washington Senators played in the American League, and usually finished in last place.
Many of you might remember the phrase, “first in war, first in peace, last in the American League.
That was the Senators. Approaching the 1960’s, the lowly Senators started to assemble a decent team, for a change.
They produced the likes of Harmon Killebrew, Jim Allison, Earl Battey, Jimmie Hall, Jim Kaat, and others were were developing quickly.
Then, the Senators moved to the Twin Cities. They became the Minnesota Twins, and four years after they made the move, they played in a World Series. The Twins lost to the Dodgers in seven games, but they were a league power.
Washington received an expansion franchise, and their one claim to fame was that the great Ted Williams was their manager for a spell. They played like an expansion team, with cast-offs forming a good part of their roster.
They were named the Senators and they played like the old Senators. They lost most of the time.
Believe it or not, the Washington baseball team moved out of town again. To Texas, where they are known as the Rangers.
They’ve been there since 1972. But the nation’s capital would not be without a major league baseball team.
In 2005, the National League Montreal Expos relocated in D.C.
They became the Nationals and they started winning division titles. But the Washington Nationals would ultimately disappoint, not reaching their potential by not winning any playoff series.
A cruel turn of events for Washington baseball. Once upon a time the laughing stock of the American League, now, a good ballclub that couldn’t reach the promised land.
One of the most ironic stories of this baseball season involves Bryce Harper.
Harper has been one of the elite players in the game most of the past decade. He was a Rookie of the Year, and a Most Valuable Player for the Nationals.
He became a free agent, and this season disappointed the Washington fans by signing with division-rival Philadelphia.
After losing Harper, a major blow, the Nats now find themselves in the World Series.
Perhaps the worm is turning for those fans in D.C.
Now it’s Houston and Washington battling in baseball’s biggest show.
Sometimes, it’s the battles that don’t excite you going in, that produce everlasting memories when it’s over.
We’ll see if this one does.
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