Game Six: The Machine and the Sox

I guess that I have to admit that the sixth game of the 1975 World Series is the most famous of all the sixth games in baseball history. Part of the reason has to do with the teams involved and part has to do with it going into extra innings. Much of it has to do with one iconic image. In that way it’s much like the sixth game of the 1947 World Series that I chronicled earlier. And that’s only one of the things it has in common with 1947.

Pat Darcy with some guy named Fisk

1975

The date was 21 October 1975 when the Cincinnati Reds, known as “The Big Red Machine”, took on the Boston Red Sox in game six of the World Series. Boston was down 3 games to 2, but had both games at home in Fenway Park. For the Red Sox, ace Luis Tiant took the mound, the Reds countered with Gary Nolan. In the bottom of the first, Sox center fielder Fred Lynn connected for a three run home run. Nolan lasted one more inning before being pulled for a pinch hitter. The Reds bullpen proceeded to shut down the BoSox for the next five innings as Cincinnati clawed back into the game.  They got three runs in the fifth to tie the game, then put up two more in the seventh, then got a home run from eight hitter Cesar Geronimo in the top of the eighth.

So far it had been a fairly one-sided game. The Sox had six hits, the Reds 11, and with six outs to go, Cincinnati’s bullpen had been spectacular. Then with two out and two on, pinch hitter (and former Reds player) Bernie Carbo slugged a game tying home run. As a short aside, Carbo had a spectacular World Series going 3 for 7 with a double and two home runs. He drove in four, scored three and had a slugging percentage of 1.429, but he’s remember strictly for this one hit. Kind of a shame, isn’t it?

For the next three and one-half innings, nobody scored although the Reds left three men on base and the Sox two. Then, facing journeyman Pat Darcy, Carlton Fisk led off the bottom of the 12th with one of the more famous home runs ever hit. The camera, lingering on him, turned it into the “Body English” homer. So the Red Sox tied the Series at three games each. Unfortunately for Boston, it wasn’t enough. They lost an equally impressive game seven the next night sending Cincinnati home with the world championship for the first time since 1940.

Over the years the legend of this game has grown. In my opinion, it has grown too much. For much of the game it wasn’t all that big a deal. After Lynn’s first inning home run, the Big Red Machine took over and moved steadily toward victory through the top of the eighth. Everything changed in the bottom of the eighth and that’s when the game got interesting. I’ll admit it was a good game, it was even a great game for four innings, but it’s taken status as the “greatest game” ever or of the last 50 years (Take your pick which title you want to give it. I’ve seen both). It seems to me that it fails to meet that criteria, and thus is greatly overvalued. And maybe that’s part of the problem for me. It was a good enough game, but to rank it the “greatest” anything makes it overvalued and thus it gets into the “overhyped” category for me. It was a good enough game, but better than game one of 1954 or game one of 1988 or game six of 1993 (and don’t get me started on game seven of 1991, or any other game seven for that matter)? Not to me.

And there’s one other problem, and in this way it reminds me of game six in 1947. The team that wins the game loses the World Series. The playoffs are about finishing and winning a great game six is fine, but you gotta win game seven (if there is a game seven) to totally validate the game. I realize that doesn’t change the game in isolation, but it isn’t played in isolation, it’s played as part of a “Series” and you have to win four of that “Series” to claim victory. So props to both the Reds and Red Sox, but do me a favor and don’t overhype this game (particularly after taking a look at game seven the next night). Feel free to disagree, I know several people will.

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2 Responses to “Game Six: The Machine and the Sox”

  1. Bill Miller Says:

    I won’t be one of those people who disagree with you on this one. But, then again, I’m not a Red Sox fan.
    I’ll take Game Six of the 1986 Mets vs. Astros NLCS. Greatest game I ever saw. Although, as a Mets fan, I can’t complain about the outcome of Game Six of the ’86 World Series. But the NLCS game was even better.
    Great topic you got here.
    Bill

  2. verdun2 Says:

    thanks, Bill. I’m getting to both ’86 games eventually. Got a couple of others on the way there.
    For those who don’t read Bill’s “On Deck Circle” you should. He has a nice series going too. His is about the players that were replaced by Hall of Famers. Worth a good read any day.
    v

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