Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boston Masacre

Not much to write about here that hasn't already been written.  We all know the Bosox built up a double digit lead by mid July and then somehow slumped and blew the division to the Yankees.  What many people don't know is that they actually rallied from being 3 1/2 down on September 16th to tie up the Yankees on the final day of the season.  If this was truly an epic collapse the Red Sox would never have even lived to see the 1 game playoff in Fenway on October 2, 1978.  History tells us that they lost 5-4 thanks to Bucky "F-in" Dent hitting a homer into the screen atop the Green Monster.  What history hasn't been allowed to tell us is that this team was left for dead after dropping 6 out of 7 to the Yankees in mid September, but somehow their tired regulars fought back.

Boston's real Achilles was fatigue, not the Yankees.  Manager Don Zimmer followed the practice that Leo Durocher followed 9 seasons earlier with his Cubs.  He overplayed his regulars to the point of no return.  7 Boston regulars had over 550 at bats.  Only the Boomer, George Scott had less than 450 and he had injury issues.  When your bench consists of Jack Brohamer and Frank Duffy your in big trouble, because a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

Tough to poke holes in a team that won 99 regular season games.  In most years that's more than enough to make the post season.  25 year old Jim Rice was at the height of his MVP powers smashing 46 homers with 139 RBI's and a .315 average.  Centerfielder Freddy Lynn chipped in 22 homers with a .298 average and Dewey Evans had 24 long balls himself.  Boston had the most potent outfield in the AL.  All 3 were in their mid 20's.  Other than Jerry Remy, 30 stolen bases, the team had little base stealing speed.  Carlton Fisk caught 157 games and still managed 20 homers and a .284 batting average.  The wild card was the old man, Yaz, who hit .277 with 17 homers and 81 RBI's.  1978 would be his last good shot at that illusive ring.

Typical Red Sox teams hit a ton, but lacked pitching.  The '78 Sahx were not typical in that respect.  Newly acquired 23 year old ace, Dennis Eckersley, won 20 and lost only 8 with a 2.99 ERA.  37 year old El Tiante' was brilliant (13-8, 3.31).  Mike Torrez and Bill "the Spaceman" Lee each rounded out the staff by winning in double figures.  Boston lacked a solid 5th starter, but how many teams had one ?  The bullpen by committee was led by 2nd year man Bob Stanley (15-2, 2.60, 10sv).  Dick Drago had 7 saves and Tom Burgmeier and Bill Campbell each chipped in with 4.  This staff was 4th in the AL in ERA, which says a lot considering they pitched in a hitters paradise like Fenway.

Due to the consistency of the franchise and the fact that Zim didn't really go to his bench that often I only had to create 12 new cards for this project.  Full disclosure:  I created them a year ago for a KOD season, where we played "Tragic Teams".

Ripley spent five and a half years in the Boston minor league system (1973–1978) and averaged 10 wins per season, including a 15–4 record for Triple-A Pawtucket in 1977. He entered the majors in 1978 with the Red Sox, playing for them in parts of two seasons before joining the San Francisco Giants (1980–1981) and Chicago Cubs (1982). His most productive season came with the 1980 Giants, when he had a 9–10 mark with a 3.54 ERA.   On April 22, 1978, Cleveland's Andre Thornton hit for the cycle in Fenway Park off four different Red Sox pitchers, with the single coming off Ripley; the triple off Bob Stanley; the home run off Jim Wright, and the double off Tom Burgmeier.  I had to colorize the photo that I used for this card, then I superimposed it on a Fenway Park background.
An interesting tidbit Hassler was never involved in a trade. His contract was purchased several times and he signed as a free agent twice.  He pitched two seasons at Fenway (1978-1979).  In '78 he posted a respectable 2-1, 3.00 record out of the pen.  His 14 year major league career would see him play in 6 different cities.  He pitched in the post season 3 times.  His final season, 1985, was with the pennant winning Cardinals, but he was left off the post season roster.
Sprowl is best known for losing two critical games in the 1978 pennant race between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Before he was called up to the majors, Sprowl had compiled a 9-3 record in the AA Eastern League.  Boston's minor league organization claimed that he "had ice water in his veins," and manager Don Zimmer gave Sprowl three starts late in the season.
His second start was against the New York Yankees. Zimmer passed over veterans Bill "Spaceman" Lee and Luis Tiant, who had dominated the Yankees during their careers. Sprowl allowed 4 walks, one hit and one run in the first inning before being pulled.
Sprowl went 0-2 with a 6.39 earned run average. The following season, he was traded to the Astros. He pitched in 19 games over the next three years, mostly in middle relief. He was sent back to the minors in 1982, and never pitched again in the majors.  I found this photo while searching SI archives.
On March 30, 1978 Eckersley was traded by the Cleveland Indians with Fred Kendall to the Boston Red Sox for Ted Cox, Bo Diaz, Mike Paxton and Rick Wise.  In most circles this trade is considered highway robbery.  Why would the Tribe dump a 23 year old who was a proven winner for a bunch of prospects and a retread vet ?  No one still has a clue.  "Eck" responded by winning 20 and having an ERA under 3.00, which earned him 4th in the AL Cy Young balloting.  In 8 seasons in Boston he would win 88 games and be viewed as a pretty good pitcher.  After bouncing around a bit he found Dave Duncan, Tony LaRussa and the fountain of youth in Oakland and for almost a decade he became the premier reliever in baseball winning pennants left and right.  Eck hardly walked a batter and was un-hittable except for a gimpy guy wearing #23 in Dodger blue.  This photo came from a fan's Spring Training shots.
Duffy acquitted himself quite well as a utility man for the Bosox in '78.  He capably played every infield spot except first.  In 64 games he hit .260, which was almost 30 points above his career average.  He is probably best remembered for being part of two of the most lopsided trades in baseball history.  First he was traded by the Reds to the Giants for a moody slugger naked George Foster.  Then later that year he was traded with future HOF'er Gaylord Perry from the Giants to the Indians, where he was their starting shortstop for 6 seasons.  1979 would be his final year in baseball.  Boston didn't need his services and used him sparingly (6 game, 0-3).  He was given his release on May 22, 1979 and never played again.
Came over from the Indians in the lopsided Eckersley trade.  As a 3rd string catcher he got into just 20 games and hit .195.  At the conclusion of the season he filed for free agency and signed back with the Padres for 2 more seasons.  His greatest successes occurred during his 10 seasons in a Padre uniform.  His best year was 1973 where he hit .282 with 10 homers in 145 games.  I colorized this photo from a B&W shot found on ebay.
Hancock was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for Jack Baker following the 1977 season. After batting .303 for the Pawtucket Red Sox through July 1978, he was called up to Boston. He remained with the club for the rest of the season as a fourth outfielder and left-handed bat off the bench, batting .225 with four runs batted in and ten runs scored.  He spent all of 1979 with Pawtucket and batted .325 to win the International League batting title.  He received his second call up to the majors in June 1980 and remained with the Bosox through 1981. after batting .294 with a career high 21 home runs at Pawtucket in 1982, he was called up to the majors again in September 1982. In fifteen plate appearances for the Bosox, he had one walk to show for it.
Native New Englander Remy played three seasons for the Angels as their starting second baseman before being traded to the Boston Red Sox after the 1977 season.
Remy continued as the Red Sox starter at second in 1978, being selected to play in the All-Star Game, in which he did not appear. He continued as their starting second baseman for the next six seasons, although he was often hampered by injuries. A knee injury in May 1985 led to Remy's release by the Red Sox in December 1985 and to his retiring during spring training a few months later in 1986.  Bill James, in his Historical Abstract rated him as the 100th greatest second baseman of all time as of 2001.  Known to all Red Sahx fans as the "Rem-Dawg" as he broadcasts their games on NESN.

Wright's breakthrough came in 1977 with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, where he went 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA.  Wright made the Red Sox out of spring training in 1978 and went on to pitch 3 shutouts in 24 games (16 of them starts) as a rookie. He posted an 8-4 win-loss record with an ERA of 3.57 by the end of the season.
Wright pitched six shutout innings in his first start of 1979. However, it wound up as his only start of the year, as he was moved to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for rookie Chuck Rainey. He did not pitch at all after an injury in early June, playing his final game on June 6. He finished with a record of 1-0 and an ERA of 5.09.
Another colorization that I superimposed on the Fenway background.  Look closely and you can tell that that this was originally a B&W photo.  On September 20, 1978, LaRose made a relief appearance against Detroit at Tiger Stadium. He allowed five runs (22.0 ERA), giving three hit and five walks without strikeouts over 2.0 innings of work. He did not have a decision and never appeared in a major league game again.
Bowen spent three seasons in the Boston minor league system before earning a promotion to the Red Sox in 1977, after hitting .265 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI for Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. He started 1978 in Triple-A and was recalled during the midseason to replace departed Bernie Carbo. After that, he led Pawtucket with 28 home runs and 75 RBI in 1979, and played his last professional season in 1980, while dividing his playing time between Pawtucket and Boston.  I used a minor league photo taken at Pawtucket and replaced the P with a B on the cap.
A solid lefty reliever, who pitched until he was 40, Burgmeier spent 4 highly productive seasons in Boston from 1978-1982. (21-12, 2.72, 40sv).  His worst season in Boston was '78 (2-1, 4.40, 4sv).  He was a first time All-Star in 1980 at the age of 36.

Fun Fact:  On August 3, 1980, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Burgmeier moved from the pitcher's mound to left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Skip Lockwood replaced Burgmeier on the mound and retired the final batter to save a 6-4 win over the Texas Rangers. Manager Don Zimmer elected to keep Tom in the game in case the batter got on base—in that case Burgmeier would have returned to the mound to face Mickey Rivers.

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