Book Review – Game Six

Sure, yesterday was a big anniversary in Red Sox history, but today is another one.

What were you doing 34 years ago tonight?

If you can remember that far, (I can’t) no doubt you were engrossed in a little baseball game that was taking place over at Fenway Park. The date was October 21st, 1975  and after a three days of rain delays, the Red Sox were set to play the Cincinnati Reds in game six of the World Series.

It turned out to be perhaps the most memorable game in World Series history, ending on the famous Carlton Fisk home run off the foul pole in the 12th inning which gave the Red Sox the win, and tied the series at three games apiece. Beyond Fisk, there were too many heroes to name – for both sides.

Writer Mark Frost has spent two years reading, digging, exploring and talking to players, managers, broadcasters and spectators from that historic night. He made numerous visits to Fenway Park, to the Hall of Fame, talked with as many people involved as he possibly could in order to weave all their stories together into a story that actually ends up encompassing a hundred years of baseball history within the confines of a single game.

The result is Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America’s Pastime.

At most, I’m what you would call a casual golf fan. However, I had read Frost’s books The Greatest Game Ever Played and The Grand Slam and couldn’t put either one down. So I was particularly enthused when I learned about this book and that it was Frost that had written it.

It doesn’t disappoint. If you read the two books mentioned in the previous paragraph, you are aware of Frost’s attention to detail and gift of narration. They are on full display once again here in this work. With eight Hall of Famers prominent in this game, Frost tells their stories as well as those of sportscasters such as Dick Stockton – you learn for instance that he had quite the rep as a “ladies man” back in the day, and that he got the phone number of future wife Lesley Visser in the press box prior to this game.

It’s not just the stars that get detailed however, the bit players, the network execs, the cameramen, the umpires, groundskeepers, and fans all have the night chronicled from their perspective, along with how they got to that night, and what it all meant for them at that time in their lives.

Asked about his favorite discovery that he unearthed in the course of his research, Frost says:  “Many discoveries: the story of Luis Tiant’s moving reunion with his parents, who’d been caught and left behind in Cuba after Castro came to power; the rise and fall and rise of Bernie Carbo; the remarkable relationship between Sparky Anderson and his quartet of superstar players. This is my favorite era in baseball, because I followed the game much more closely then, and to revisit it through the personal experience of the people involved brought it all back in vivid and memorable ways. Every player in this game has a story, and they are all, in one way or another, remarkable.

The book spends a fair amount of time focusing on what baseball was like before free agency. When asked how the game has changed since then, Frost responds: “Games Six and Seven of the ’75 World Series are the last baseball games played before the advent of free agency. The rules of the game off the field, for better or worse (certainly worse for the players), had remained unchanged for 100 years; within a year that structure had been dynamited, and all of sports — and its increasing obsession with the dollar — hasn’t been the same since. You couldn’t invent a more revealing time capsule to show us where we were in 1975 and where we’ve traveled since.”

It really is a time capsule, giving you the most complete picture you can imagine some 34 years after this game was played. The two golf books mentioned took place in 1913 and 1930 respectively, and Frost made those time periods come to life in living detail. To bring 1975 back, then, is a piece of cake.

If you hadn’t guessed, I really enjoyed this book.

Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America’s Pastime

  • Tony

    I think I’m putting this book on my Christmas list for sure. I was a kid in 1975. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to stay up to watch all of Game 6. I think I had to go to bed not long after Lynn’s 3-run homer in the first inning put the Sox ahead 3-0. I was, however, allowed to stay up for all of Game 7–obviously, my mother should have flip-flopped those two dates.

    One thing I’ll always remember about the ’75 World Series is the Sox losing Jim Rice 10 days before the end of the regular season, and wondering if he would have made a difference in the end. After all, 5 of the 7 games were decided by a single run, with Cincinnati winning 3 of the 5.

    Another thing that stands out about Game 6, in particular, was that Rick Wise, who was the Sox staff ace for most of the ’75 season (19 wins, a near no-hitter in July and the winning pitcher in the ALCS clincher at Oakland), was the winning pitcher in relief, I believe. That was back when managers didn’t hesitate to use starting pitchers in relief during the post-season; something that I wish John McNamara had remembered back in the Fall of ’86 when he had a two-run lead in the bottom of the 10th of Game 6 at Shea Stadium, and had Bruce Hurst, who had dominated the Mets in that series, on his bench, needing just three outs to win the championship.

  • Brian

    Looking forward very much to reading this. I was 10 back then and Carlton Fisk was already my favorite player; the home run cemented that for life. There were so many memorable moments of that game – Lynn slamming into the wall (no padding back then), Carbo’s HR, Dewey’s great catch to take away a HR and then the subsequent double-play, Denny Doyle getting thrown out at home after mis-hearing Zimmer’s “No! No!” call. It’ll be great to hear the inside stories from those who were there and who were part of the game.

  • J.T. Pinch

    IIRC Bill Lee was just three outs away from closing out Game 2 with a CG when the rains came. After the delay and the Reds trailing by a run, Bench led off the ninth with an opposite field semi-bloop double. Darryl Johnson immediately summoned Drago but regrettably he couldn’t shut the door and the Reds evened the Series.

    Did Ned Martin call Carbo’s homer? I seem to think it was his voice saying “we’re all tied up.”

    Frost’s book “The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever” is another must read.

  • T-man

    34 years ago tonight I was in section 25, row 3 of the 3rd base grandstand. Before that season I purchased a partial season ticket plan (opening day, holidays and Sundays- about 15 games) using money I made working for a couple hours a day after highschool classes. So I saw the great 75′ season, the playoffs, and WS. (on the downside, I was in those same seats for Bucky “Bleepin’ Dent 3 yrs later) I remember the stands erupting when Fisk hit the homer, and walking down Brookline Ave about 1am heading home and all the way car horns were honking, people were yelling. It was incredible. HOWEVER, I still maintain that Bernie Carbo’s homer was even more amazing. That game was over, the team was dead, the crowd was down, and Carbo’s homer was so unexpected. The pitch before he BARELY fouled off. What an amazing night.

  • T-man

    BTW, I’m now looking at 1 of my 75 WS tickets, and I erred: I was in row 4, not row 3, seat 22. The price? $12.50. Less than a beer and a hotdog today. As I recall, my regular season tickets were $2.50.

  • dz

    I’m really looking forward to this book. I too was at that game, Sec 21, row 5, seat 19. A night I will never forget. I have read “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and “The Match” and thoroughly enjoyed the in depth background on all the players. If this book is half as good as those two, it will be a wonderful read. Someone tell Mark Frost to write a book about Game 4 of the ALCS-2004. I was in the bleachers for that one. I’ll bet there are lots of stories surrounding the characters in that contest.