What do former Red Sox pitchers Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Jim Lonborg, Bill Lee, and Bruce Hurst all have in common? First, they are four of the better pitchers in the team’s history and are all members of the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Bill Lee’s ninety-four wins with the team ranks thirteenth among Red Sox career pitching leaders, trailing only Mel Parnell and Lefty Grove for wins by a Boston left-hander, and Bruce Hurst ranks 19th with 89 wins.
And the four former pitchers are among the more interesting Red Sox alumni. Ferriss was the long-time baseball coach at Delta State University and their state-of-art baseball facility is named in his honor. Lonborg has maintained a thriving dental practice in Hanover, Massachusetts, and he has participated in fund-raising events for the Jimmy Fund since 1965.
Bill Lee has written several books and opines on subjects ranging from the designated hitter to climate change. And Bruce Hurst has spent 14 years with MLB International helping baseball to grow worldwide.
Most importantly, these four outstanding pitchers share a unique experience: they all started a World Series’ Game Seven for the Boston Red Sox. Many years later, they each have a strong memory of their date with destiny.
SPORTSMAN’S PARK: ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Tuesday Afternoon, October 15, 1946
A crowd of 36,143 fans jammed venerable Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis as the Cardinals and the Red Sox met to determine the 1946 World Series winner. The Cardinals started veteran pitcher Murry Dickson, who had won 15 games during the regular season. The Red Sox countered with 24-year-old Boo Ferris, who had led his team with 25 victories.
Pitching the deciding game of the World Series in St. Louis had a certain irony for Ferriss. He had grown up in Shaw, Mississippi, rooting for the “Gashouse Gang” Cardinals in the early 1930s.
“I was a real diehard Cardinals fan as a kid,” he reminisced. “I can remember listening to them on KMOX radio, and following Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul. I remember listening to Game even in 1934 when Dizzy beat the Tigers for the World Championship.”
Boo doesn’t remember a specific conversation with manager Joe Cronin about starting the final game of the Series. “It was my turn in the rotation,” Ferriss recalled from his long-time home in Cleveland, Mississippi. “I had plenty of rest because I hadn’t pitched since Wednesday in Boston. And I had pitched pretty well in Game Three.”
Ferriss was excited about his starting assignment, but he doesn’t think he was overly nervous. “I can remember the night before the game, my brother and I went to the movies. He couldn’t sit still he was so worked up.” Laughing at the memory, Boo recalls telling his brother, “Will you relax? I’m the one pitching tomorrow.”
“I wasn’t any more excited before Game Seven than I was before Game Three. My childhood hero, Dizzy Dean, came up to me before Game Three and said, ‘You’ll do fine. Once you throw that first pitch, it will be just like any other game.’ I looked around at the big crowd, and all the media gathered around, and said, ‘I don’t think this is just any other game.’”
Game Three was more than just any other game, and Boo Ferriss rose to the occasion. He held the potent Cardinals lineup in check for a 4-0 win, giving the Boston Red Sox a two-games-one lead in the Series. His pitching line in the third game was six hits and no runs, matching the pitching line of his idol Dizzy Dean in Game Seven of the 1934 World Series.
Boo Ferriss pitched well in the early innings of Game Seven. The Red Sox drew first blood with a run in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals countered with a run in their half of the second inning, but Ferris retired the St. Louis side in order in the third. Boo walked Stan “The Man” Musial to begin the Cardinals fourth inning, but he retired the next three batters without incident.
But Boo ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth inning. After giving up four hits and two runs, manager Cronin brought in Joe Dobson to relieve him. “They had to replace me. I wasn’t getting them out and the whole season was on the line. We had to try to keep it close,” Boo recognizes.
Ferriss spent the rest of the game on the Red Sox bench, and watched as Enos Slaughter dashed from first base to score what proved to be the winning run on a Harry Walker double in the last of the eighth inning. “Give Slaughter credit. He made a very aggressive play,” Boo acknowledges.
Boo has a singular recollection of the Red Sox clubhouse after their heartbreaking 4-3 loss. “You couldn’t hear a sound. There was complete silence. And it was a very long train ride back to Boston.”
The 1946 World Series left Boo Ferriss with two lasting memories. “For me personally, winning Game Three was my biggest thrill in baseball. And losing Game Seven was my biggest disappointment.”
FENWAY PARK: BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Thursday afternoon, October 12, 1967
Fenway Park was filled to capacity, with 35,188 looking on, as the Red Sox tried to cap their Impossible Dream season with a World Championship and avenge their 1946 Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The game was played on a beautiful Columbus Day afternoon, and fans looked forward to a classic World Series pitching match-up. Fire-balling right-hander Bob Gibson was on the mound for the Cardinals, facing Boston’s best pitcher, “Gentleman Jim” Lonborg, who was pitching on only two days of rest.
First-year Red Sox manager Dick Williams had added “newspaper columnist” to his resume during the World Series. The headline over his article in the Boston Record-American that morning read: “LONBORG AND CHAMPAGNE.”
Jim Lonborg laughed when asked if he enjoyed Dick Williams’s journalism. “I know the Cardinal players enjoyed that headline. They had it plastered all over the walls of their clubhouse before the game. Not that they needed any more motivation.”
Cardinals’ starter Gibson had been immense in the Series so far. He had beaten the Red Sox in the Series Opener 2-1, limiting Boston batters to six hits while striking out ten. Back in St. Louis for Game Four, he was even more dominating, tossing a five-hit shutout as the Cards romped 6-0, bringing the Cards within one game of a World Series Championship.
But Lonborg had been even better than Gibson. In Game Two he had held the Cardinals hitless through seven innings. A Julian Javier double with two out in the eighth ended his hopes for a no-hitter, but Boston’s ace finished with a one-hitter and a 5-0 Red Sox victory. In Game Five, with Boston on the brink of elimination, Gentleman Jim threw a three-hit shutout to keep his team’s hopes alive. His achievement of limiting the Cardinals to only four hits over two complete games established a World Series record.
Jim Lonborg held the Cardinals at bay during the first two innings of Game Seven. Roger Maris had singled in the first inning and Julian Javier singled in the second, but neither runner advanced to second base.
“I felt pretty good warming up,” Lonborg remembers. “I had pitched on two days rest several times that year. I felt a little tired, but in a big game like that you are more interested in pitching command than power.”
In the top of the third inning, weak-hitting Cardinals shortstop Dal Maxvill led off with a triple off the centerfield wall. Lonborg retired the next two batters, but a single by Curt Flood, and a wild pitch, allowed the Cardinals to take a 2-0 lead. He retired the Cards 1-2-3 in the fourth inning, but Lonborg recalls that he was laboring.
“I think the Maxvill triple was the tip-off that I didn’t have my best stuff. We had hoped to score some early runs so I wouldn’t have to be quite so fine. But Gibson just overpowered us.”
Gibson, who had seven strikeouts through four innings, rubbed salt into the Red Sox wounds with a fifth inning home run. The Cardinals added one more run in the fifth, but George Scott put the Red Sox on the board with a fifth inning triple, scoring on an errant throw by Julian Javier.
The Red Sox were within striking distance, down 4-1, but Red Sox manager Dick Williams sent a clearly exhausted Lonborg out to pitch the sixth inning and to absorb a three-run pounding. The Red Sox added a run in the eighth inning, but the Cardinals took the game, and the 1967 World Championship, with a 7-2 victory.
Does Jim Lonborg ever wonder how the seventh game would have turned out if he had been pitching on three days of rest? “People ask me that. And I always remind them that Bob Gibson would have had one more day of rest as well.”
Jim Lonborg remembers that the Red Sox locker room was tomb-like after the 7-2, Game 7 defeat. Asked how long it took the Red Sox players to get over their heartbreaking loss, Lonborg responds, “Pretty quickly we realized that we had given it everything we had. And then we looked back on what we had accomplished as a team. It was a very special year.”
FENWAY PARK: BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Wednesday Evening, October 22, 1975
One of the largest television audiences in history at the time tuned in to watch Game Seven of the 1975 World Series. At 12:34 that morning fans across the country had watched Carlton Fisk’s dramatic 12th inning game-winning home run in Game Six. And the 35,025 fans at Fenway, plus the tens of millions of fans at home, were excited to see how the Series would turn out.
Red Sox starting pitcher Bill Lee was at Fenway Park at the time of Fisk’s historic blast, but he watched it on TV, just like the fans at home. “It was getting late,” Lee recalls, “and I knew I had to pitch the next game. I was in the trainer’s room, stretching out, trying to get some rest. I saw it on TV.”
Bill Lee had less than 20 hours to prepare for his Game Seven starting assignment, but he did find time to respond to a quote from Reds manager Sparky Anderson. Asked about the starting pitchers for the big game, Anderson told reporters, “I don’t know about that fellow for the Red Sox [Lee], but, sometime after this game, my fellow [Don Gullett] is going to the Hall of Fame.”
Responding to Sparky’s quote Lee countered, “I really don’t care where Gullett’s going, because after this game, I’m going to the Eliot Lounge,” referring to a popular Boston watering hole.
Bill Lee had pitched well as the starting pitcher in Game Two of the Series at Fenway. “When I was warming up before that game, I could see the guys in the Reds’ dugout laughing at all the junk I was throwing,” Lee remembers. “Then I struck out Pete Rose to open the game, and they stopped laughing.” Lee took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning that day, but following a long rain delay, the Reds bounced back for a 3-2 win.
Lee held the Reds scoreless over the first three innings of the World Series finale, limiting the Big Red Machine to just three hits. In the bottom of the third, the Red Sox took advantage of Gullett’s wildness, and a clutch single by Carl Yastrzemski, to jump out to a 3-0 lead.
The Reds opened the fourth and fifth innings with infield hits, but Lee continued his Houdini imitation, taking a five-hit shutout into the sixth inning. In the sixth he threw a pitch to Tony Perez that Lee still ponders.
“I had been having good success against him with my slow, arching curveball. I thought it was a good spot to throw it again. But so did he [Perez] and he timed his swing perfectly. He hit that pitch over the left field screen and several small buildings.
“Everyone remembers that pitch,” Lee offers with emotion. “But what was I supposed to do? Throw him four 86 miles-per hour fastballs in a row? And if we had turned the double play on the hitter [Johnny Bench] before we would have been out of the inning. I never should have had to throw that pitch.”
Lee developed a blister on his pitching hand and Roger Moret relieved him in the top of the seventh inning. Bill suffered along with Red Sox fans in the ninth inning when Joe Morgan blooped a single into centerfield to drive in the winning run for a 4-3 Reds victory and a World Championship.
“I still think that I should have started Game Six,” Lee insists. “Then Luis [Tiant] would have had another day of rest before he pitched Game Seven. I think we would have won the whole thing. Of course there are so many great memories about Game Six, maybe its best that it happened the way it did.”
Bill Lee remembers the somber tone in the Red Sox clubhouse after the tough loss. What did he do to shake off the gloom? “I headed over to the Elliot Lounge,” Lee laughs, “and I never looked back.”
SHEA STADIUM: QUEENS, NEW YORK:
Monday Evening, October 27, 1986
Bruce Hurst never expected to start the Game Seven of the 1986 World Series. “I had pitched Game Five on Thursday in Boston, and Oil Can [Boyd] was scheduled to pitch Game Seven on Sunday,” Hurst recalls. “But then it rained [on Sunday] and I got my chance on Monday.”
Lou Gorman was the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox at the time, and he has a firm recollection of the decision-making process for the Game Seven starter. “I remember sitting in John McNamara’s [Red Sox manager] hotel room on Sunday night after the rainout. McNamara said, ‘The Mets have trouble with left-handed pitching and Hurst has pitched well against them. I know it’s Dennis’s [Boyd] turn, but I’m going to go with Hurst. If we can get seven innings out of him, then I’ll use Schiraldi in the eighth and close out the ninth with Clemens.’”
Bruce Hurst had pitched extremely well against the Mets earlier in the Series. In the Series opener at Shea Stadium he had pitched eight innings of shutout ball, holding the Mets to four hits and allowing only one runner to get as far as third base. Calvin Schiraldi shut down the Mets in the last of the ninth to preserve a 1-0 Red Sox victory.
And in Game Five at Fenway Park, Hurst held the Mets scoreless through seven innings. The Mets finally broke his scoreless streak at 15 innings scoring single runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but Hurst persevered for a complete game and a 4-2 Red Sox win.
“I was used to four days of rest during the regular season,” Hurst recalls looking back on his Game Seven starting assignment. “But I was confident that I could pitch well on three days of rest. I really wanted to pitch and help us win the World Championship, especially after Saturday night. And I knew I had all winter to rest up.”
Pitching before more than 55,000 fans, Hurst retired the Mets in order in the first inning. Then Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman hit back-to-back homers as the first two hitters in the top of the second inning for the Red Sox. Hurst’s sacrifice bunt helped the Red Sox to manufacture an additional second inning run, and Boston took an early 3-0 lead.
When Bruce Hurst took the mound in the last of the sixth inning, the Red Sox held a three-run lead, and he had retired ten Mets batters in a row. The Red Sox were twelve outs away from their first World Championship in 68 years.
But in the sixth the Mets put together two singles and a walk to load the bases, and with one out, the ever-dangerous hitter Keith Hernandez stepped to the plate. Hernandez singled into left field scoring two runs. Years later, Hurst still regretted the pitch to Hernandez.
“As soon as the ball left my hand, I knew I had made a bad pitch. I knew he would be able to hit it cleanly. I still think that if I had made a good pitch instead of the one I made, we might have won the game.”
Bruce Hurst gave up one more run in the sixth inning and he left the game for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. The Mets scored three times in the last of the seventh on their way to an 8-5 win, capping an amazing comeback to earn their World Championship.
“I just plain ran out of gas in the sixth inning,” Bruce Hurst remembers. “I tried to reach back for more, but it just wasn’t there. I wish I could have hung on to get it done, but my tank was empty. I honestly didn’t have a thing left.”
BUSCH STADIUM: ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Wednesday Evening, October 27, 2004
Almost sixty years had passed since Boo Ferris took the mound in St. Louis for Game Seven of the 1946 World Series. Suffering from a bad cold, Boo was undecided about making the long drive from Cleveland, Mississippi, for the games in St. Louis. But when ESPN called and asked Boo to appear on Baseball Tonight in St. Louis, the eighty-two-year-old Ferris and his wife Miriam set out on the 400-mile journey.
Boo relishes his memories of Game Four victory. “Somewhere about the eighth inning, I said to Miriam, ‘I have to pinch myself. I believe the Red Sox are going to win the World Series.’ When the game ended, we moved down behind the Red Sox dugout and celebrated with all the other fans.
“I have to admit, that for a moment I thought to myself, ‘This could have been us. We came so close in 1946.’ But mostly I just thought about how wonderful it was for the great Red Sox fans all over New England. They really are the best fans.”
About 1,200 miles from St. Louis, Jim Lonborg settled comfortably in his living room in Scituate, Massachusetts, to watch Game Four of the 2004 World Series. “I really enjoyed the way the Red Sox pitching dominated those great Cardinal hitters. And I truly believe that it was just meant to be.”
Asked if he thought about his Game Seven experience in 1967 after the 2004 Red Sox won their World Championship, Lonborg emphasizes that he is not one who dwells on the past. “To the extent I think back on it at all, I think about how lucky I was to wear a Red Sox uniform, and to even be in a World Series. It was my childhood dream and I got to experience it.”
Not surprisingly, Bill Lee was in the most unusual location for Game Four. He was in Mesa, Arizona, and he was playing baseball. “I was playing in an MSBL Father and Son tournament with my sons Andy and Michael,” Lee recalls. “We watched Game Four at the Blue Adobe Restaurant. It was great!”
Ever the iconoclast, Lee was happy for all Red Sox fans, but adds, “According to the mathematical laws of probability, it was inevitable. It was just a matter of time.”
Like Lonborg, Bruce Hurst chose to watch Game Four at home. He and his family watched the game in their Gilbert, Arizona, residence about ten miles from Phoenix.
Bruce remembers his reaction when the Red Sox won, “I was jumping up and down on the couch and high-fiving everyone…all my family and the kids, and whoever else was watching it there with me. I was a kid!”
Lou Gorman had been a Red Sox fan all his life, and he remembers his reaction while the Red Sox celebrated their World Championship, “I thought back to all the Red Sox games I had seen over the years.
“I went to my first Red Sox game back in the mid-1940s when Boo Ferriss was just breaking in. I was so happy for all the Red Sox fans,” Gorman emphasized. “And I was really happy for the players who had come so close over all those years.”