My friend JoAnn sent me this picture. She wanted to know what year it was from. It’s from a Red Sox game, and at a glance it was pretty easy to decide that it was either from the late 1960s or the early 1970s. I might have been at the game with her and her family when she took the picture. JoAnn’s father took me along on at least two games. They were good seats, in the grandstand behind home plate. I think he got them through the postal union: back in the day when regular guys could take the family to the game without breaking the bank.
I could go in a million directions looking at this picture, but I started with JoAnn’s question. She wanted to know when it was taken, so I put some Twitter friends onto it. They nailed it. Don Hewitt figured out the uniform numbers and Lou Flynn figured out the uniform styles and they were able to conclude it was 1971. It was impressive.
Number 8 is Yaz of course, and Number 37 is Bill Lee. Lee came up on June 25, 1969, so it couldn’t be earlier than that.
The other two numbers and the uniform styles offered the remaining clues. My friends on Twitter came up with 1971 based on the likelihood that number 22 was probably John Curtis, number 3 was probably Mike Fiore, and that 1971 was also the last year the Sox wore flannel uniforms.
(That would mean it wasn’t my first Red Sox game with JoAnn and her family, which was my birthday, June 9, 1967 when I turned eight and the Red Sox beat the Washington Senators, 8-7. I’ve written about 1967 elsewhere. It was a magical season, and that game didn’t disappoint. Yaz and Joe Foy homered twice and Reggie Smith homered once. Jim Lonborg got hit pretty hard but Jose Santiago did long relief for the win and John Wyatt got the save.)
(By the way, there’s another story right there in recounting the stars of the game. In 1959, the Red Sox infamously had been the last team to integrate in major league baseball. They carried very few black players through the early 1960s. Yet here they were in 1967–the year they turned their failures around–and Foy, Smith, and John Wyatt were black. Another favorite player of mine, George Scott (the Boomer!) was also black; he doubled twice that day. I would like to think the owners and management of the Red Sox put 2+2 together that day regarding their, um. hiring practices but apparently they didn’t.)
(Also related to that game, and another possible angle for writing. As great a day it was for the Red Sox, my most vivid memory was produced by a player from the opposing team. From my perch behind home plate, I saw Frank Howard hit a freakishly long home run that was slicing and still rising as it cleared the Green Monster and the netting atop it.To this day it might have been the most amazing sight I have seen in a game.)
OK, now back to the picture.
If it was indeed 1971, I was likely there. I remember an early 1970s game with JoAnn’s family when I wrangled her dad into staying after the game for a bit to try to get autographs. I don’t know why he tolerated it (I was a guest, he had his four kids plus me with him), but he did, and we hung around for a while. I remember getting a shot at one from Joe Lahoud, an OK player briefly famous for being the youngest in major league history to hit three home runs in one game. Lahoud wandered off, though, after signing a few and we made our way home.
I had a program from that game and on the way home I used my fifth grade penmanship to forge Joe Lahoud’s autograph, but I knew I wouldn’t fool anyone with it. I put the program in a drawer and forgot about it. It’s long gone, but the picture isn’t. There it is, full of more stories than I can possibly relate.