Guest author and faithful RLRS reader Gary Geiger Counter takes us back to 1973 and gives us a look at a pivotal moment in the history of the Red Sox’ relations with a certain division rival.
The last weekend of July had a Sixties feel to it. Summer Jam was at Watkins Glen. Six-hundred thousand people went to the upstate New York racetrack to see the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, and The Band perform. The audience was so big that it made the Guinness Book of World Records. It wasn’t the only concert that weekend. The Red Sox were in Cleveland that weekend and the Newport Jazz Festival was at Fenway. Newport couldn’t handle it any more.
Starting in 1969, the festival organizers began to invite rock and soul acts along with the jazz musicians. It was the age of fusion. Jeff Beck and Jethro Tull played there. So did James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. Led Zep was supposed to play but the promoters cancelled their appearance, fearing a riot. Two years later, the crowds rushed the stage while Dionne Warwick sang “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” The next year they moved the festival to New York, and in ’73 it migrated to Fenway. Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles were among the acts. It would be the last concert there for thirty years. There was pandemonium on the field, as Ned Martin might say. Fans rushed the stage at second base.
Some of that spirit lingered at Fenway into the next week. The Red Sox returned home to play the Yankees. Both teams were doing well. The Yanks had come back from the depths of the CBS era and the Red Sox had been competitive since 1967, almost winning the AL East in ’72. The Yankees were in first place and the Red Sox weren’t doing too bad for themselves either. The series ended with a day game on Wednesday, August 1st. Going into the ninth inning, the score was tied 2-2. Thurman Munson was at third with one out when Ralph Houk put on the suicide squeeze play.
Stick Michael was at the plate and he missed John Curtis’s pitch. Munson was out by a mile, but he crashed into Carlton Fisk and they started to brawl. As far as I can tell, there was no TV coverage of the game but Fisk’s fury was captured in a photograph.
The Red Sox were able to win the game when Mario Guerrero singled off of Sparky Lyle in the bottom of the frame. Bob Montgomery scored; small revenge for the trade that sent Lyle to New York for Danny Cater. The trade was so lop-sided that Guerrero was thrown in afterwards.
I don’t remember this fight. I did watch the one three years later when Graig Nettles separated Bill Lee from his shoulder. But some folks, Peter Gammons for one, say that this was when the Boston-New York rivalry was rekindled after lying dormant since the late Forties before the Red Sox swooned into mediocrity and worse.