For the past week, like much of New England, I have been staying up close to midnight most nights to watch the exciting, and tension-filled, World Series games between the Red Sox and the Cardinals. I’ve also been thinking back to an earlier Red Sox-Cardinals fall classic — not the 2004 Series, when Boston swept St. Louis after breaking the “curse of the Bambino” in an epic ALCS come-from-behind victory over the Yankees — but the 1967 Series, when the Red Sox’ “Impossible Dream” season came to an end on an October afternoon in Fenway Park when St. Louis pitching legend Bob Gibson overpowered the Red Sox in Game 7. So please excuse me for taking a trip down baseball’s memory lane, rather than writing on politics, this week.
I was in my junior year in high school, in the Boston area, in 1967. All the World Series games were played in the afternoon, so I would rush home from school to catch the second half of the weekday games on television. (The climactic Game 7 was played on Oct. 12, Columbus Day, a no-school day, so I was able to watch that game in its entirety.) NBC’s broadcast crew for those games was first-rate. The principal television announcer was Curt Gowdy, who had been the Red Sox’ local TV announcer from 1951 through 1965, before joining NBC the following year. Gowdy was assisted by the two teams’ lead announcers, Ken Coleman for the Red Sox and Harry Caray for the Cardinals (the same Caray who later went on to a celebrated career with the Chicago Cubs). For a break, one could also turn down the TV and listen to the local radio coverage on Boston’s WHDH-850, “The Voice of Sports,” presented by the learned and ironic Ned Martin.
Back in 1967, the umpires all wore suits for World Series games, as did many of the men sitting in the expensive seats by the field. The games took much less time to play than this year’s version. The shortest game in 1967 took 2 hours and 5 minutes, the longest 2 hours and 48 minutes. For one thing, there were not 2 minutes and 55 seconds of commercials and promotional announcements every half-inning. Pitchers did not dawdle between throws, stepping on and off the mound. Batters did not step out of the box to adjust their gloves or helmets, or take a practice swing or two. The games moved along at a brisk and steady pace.
The 1967 Red Sox captured New England’s heart, in some ways similar to this year’s team. Led by Triple Crown-winning Carl Yastrzemski at the plate, righty Jim Lonborg on the mound, and aggressive manager Dick Williams in the dugout, the Red Sox overcame a serious head injury to star outfielder Tony Conigliaro, who was hit by a pitch in August 1967, to win the American League pennant for the first time in 31 years. After a hard-fought World Series with St. Louis, in which the Red Sox won games 5 and 6 to force a decisive Game 7, the “Impossible Dream” season came to an end on Oct. 12, 1967, when Series MVP Bob Gibson pitched a complete-game three-hitter, striking out Red Sox slugging first baseman George Scott for the final out.
Hopefully some young Red Sox fan watching this week’s games will be able, nearly 50 years from now, to recount memories of the 2013 Sox-Cardinals World Series, demonstrating baseball’s continuing ability to connect generations across time.
Eric L. Davis is professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College.