September 21, 2021

“The Boys of October”-Un libro magnífico (A Magnificent Book)

January 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Doug Hornig dibuja una radiografía que llega hasta las emociones más íntimas de su afición por los Medias Rojas de Boston y además revela varias interioridades del juego junto a lo que pensaban y sentían varios de sus protagonistas. Inspirado por la película de la Serie Mundial de 1975, Hornig decide escribir una especie de bitácora desde las entrañas de los recuerdos más apasionados de su época como empedernido seguidor de los patirrojos en Cape Cod, junto a su tío Oscar y el eterno cuento de los intentos fallidos de los bostonianos por alcanzar el Clásico de Octubre.

La obra desmenuza jugada a jugada los siete juegos de aquella épica Serie Mundial desde el aparente fácil triunfo bostoniano en el primer juego hasta el triste desenlance con un elevado corto al centerfield que empujó a Ken Griffey Sr. Con la carrera que le daría la victoria a los Rojos de Cincinnati.

Un box score con comentarios, gritos, olores, sónidos de tribuna y adrenalina, mucha adrenalina fluyendo a través de la tinta de cada página. Cada capítulo encierra la tensión y el suspenso de cada uno de los juegos de aquella Serie Mundial, con nombres, decisiones, entrevistas, puntos de vista.

Las alternativas de aquella batalla épica considerada por muchos como la mejor Serie Mundial de todos los tiempos nos hacen regresar a octubre de 1975. La primera gran impresión ocurrió en el décimo episodio del tercer juego. César Gerónimo abre la entrada con sencillo rastrero por el medio del campo. Antes de esto el árbitro principal cantó bola una sinker de Jim Willoughby que estalló en toda la esquina de afuera. Sparky Anderson trae a batear a batear a Ed Armbrister luego de enviar a Terry Crowley al círculo de prevenidos. Con el juego igualado a 5 el toque es inminente. Armbrister logra tocar la pelota y esta rebota unos metros delante del plato. Armbrister arranca, luego se detiene. Carlton Fisk debe empujarlo para tomar la pelota y lanzar a segunda, la pelota sigue hacia el centerfield y Gerónimo llega hasta tercera y Armbrister a segunda. La discusión por la interferencia está encendida. Quizás por esta razón el árbitro de tercera base, Maloney, en primera instancia decretó el safe, pero no se percató que Gerónimo se salió de la base cuando Rico Petrocelli todavía lo tocaba con la pelota en el guante. El libro de reglas es muy claro al hablar de interferencias, aunque había una instrucción suplementaria de parte de MLB para los árbitros que los instaba a ignorar cualquier violación de las reglas si un cátcher y un bateador-corredor tenían contacto durante una jugada camino a primera base, sentimos una vez más caminar el viejo lugar común de las jugadas determinadas por la apreciación de los árbitros.

Luego viene el expectante juego seis. Primero el estacazo de Bernie Carbo en el cierre del octavo episodio para igualar la pizarra. “Nunca pensé que iba a tomar ese turno. Tan pronto como Darrell Johnson me anunciara Sparky Anderson iba a sacar a Rawly Eastwick y traer a Will McEnaney como siempre hacía cuando traían un emergente zurdo. Pero no lo hizo y tuve que prepararme para salir a batear”, dijo Carbo. Luego de parecer en desventaja ante Eastwick, Carbo logró pescar una recta y la sacó por todo el centro. Cuando iba alrededor de la tercera base le gritó a Pete Rose “¿No quisieras ser tan fuerte como yo?”

En el inicio del úndécimo Pete Rose se embasa por pelotazo de Dick Drago. Ken Griffey trata de sacrificarse pero Fisk a pesar de tomar la pelota fuera de balance saca a Rose en segunda. Entonces viene Joe Morgan, en cuenta de 1-1 suelta una línea dantesca destinada a las gradas del right field. Dwight Evans corre y corre, justo antes de chocar contra el muro de medio metro, salta y captura la pelota sobre su hombro, de inmediato choca contra la pared y suelta un disparo tres metros desviado de primera base, Carl Yastrzemski la busca allí y la pasa a Rick Burleson quién atravesó todo el infield para cubrir primera, Ken Griffey estaba a mitad de camino entre segunda y tercera, el dobleplay es 9-3-6 y el público estalla en aplausos. Esa jugada fue la mejor prueba para lo dicho por Don Zimmer en una entrevista con Hornig. El autor le preguntó “¿Qué tan buen rightfielder era Dwight Evans?” Zimmer respondió con otra pregunta. “¿Sabes la diferencia entre un doble por reglas y la interferencia de un fanático?” Hornig respondió que el doble por reglas era una pelota que rebotaba hacia la tribuna luego de pegar en zona buena y que la interferencia ocurría si el fanático tocaba la pelota antes de que esta saliera del campo de juego. Zimmer respondió. “Ok, el bateador se acredita un doble si la pelota rebota hacia la tribuna. ¿Qué le corresponde si un fanático toca la pelota?” Hornig respondió: “¿Un doble?” “No señor. El árbitro principal, de acuerdo a su criterio, coloca a los corredores donde el piensa que deben estar. Cuando Boston jugaba y había una interferencia de los fanáticos en una jugada en el right field ¿sabes que pasaba?” Hornig se encogió de hombros. Zimmer se frotó las manos. “Le ordenaban al bateador que se quedara en primera base. El otro manager llegaba a protestar furioso. ‘Eso es un doble, hubo interferencia del fanático’. El árbitro le replica. ‘Ah, ah. No con ese tipo ahí”.

Luego en el cierre del inning 12, Fisk en cuenta de 1-0 levanta una pelota a las rodillas y larga un largo fly por toda la raya de la izquierda que pega del poste de foul, jonrón , Boston gana 7-6, la Serie se iguala a 3 juegos.

Llegó el séptimo juego. Boston llegó ganando 3-0 al comienzo del sexto inning. Rose conecta sencillo a la derecha. Bill Lee domina a Morgan con elevado a la derecha y obligó a Johnny Bench a rodarla por el campocorto. Burleson se la pasó a Denny Doyle para forzar a Rose pero Doyle envió la pelota sobre la cabeza de Yastrzemski. Bench fue enviado a segunda. Lee estaba realmente enojado. Sin embargo ni el manager Johnson, ni Carlton Fisk, ni nadie del infield trató de ir al montículo para calmarlo. Lee trató de dominar a Tany Pérez con un lanzamiento lento (Leephus), este se sentó a esperarlo y la desapareció de jonrón. Boston 3 Cincinnati 2. Los Rojos empatan en el séptimo. Y ganan en el noveno con hit al centro de Morgan que trae la carrera de Griffey. Hornig da su punto de vista en cuanto a que Darrell Jonson debió dejar a Jim Willoughby lanzar el noveno inning dado que su sinker estaba rompiendo muy bien. Una vez más el lugar común de lo que debió hacer un manager para ganar.

English Translation

Doug Hornig draws a radiography that goes beyond his most intimate emotions as a Red Sox fan, and besides he shows some interiorities of the game through what the Sox players thought and felt. Inspired on the 1975 World Series film, Hornig decides to write a book from the inside of the most passionate rememberings of his years as diehard fan of the Red Sox in Cape Cod, along with his Uncle Oscar and the eternal tale of the failed efforts to win the October Classic.

The book shows play by play the seven games of that epic World Series, from the apparent easy victory of Boston in the first game until the sad result with a shallow fly to centerfield that batted in Ken Griffey Sr with the winning run for the Cincinnati Reds.

A box score with comments, shouts, smells, stands sounds and adrenaline, lots of adrenaline flowing through the ink of each page. Each chapter encloses the tension and the suspense of each one of the games of thar World Series. With names, decisions, interviews, points of view.

The alternatives of that epical battle, considered by many as the best World Series ever played, make the reader return to October 1975. The first great impression happened in the tenth inning of the third game. César Gerónimo opens the frame with a single through the middle of the infield. Before the hit, the chief umpire ruled ball a Jim Willoughby’s sinker that broke in the outside corner. Sparky Anderson brings Ed Armbrister to pinch hit after having Terry Crowley at the ondeck circle. With the game tied at 5 the bunt is imminent. Armbrister gets the bunt. The ball bounces some feet in front of the plate. “He takes a step and then stops and goes into a kind of crouch and Fisk runs into him. Fisk shoves Armbrister out of his way, fields the bunt, and elects to try for Gerónimo at second. He throws the ball into centerfield. When the dust has settled, both runners are ruled safe. Gerónimo’s on third, Armbrister is on second.” The argument about the interference is on. Maybe for this reason, the third base umpire, Maloney, makes the initial and accurate safe call, and then he apparently looks away to home plate. He misses Petrocelli making the putout.” The book of rules is very clear when talking about interferences. But in this World Series the umpires had received a “supplemental intruction” from the front office of MLB . That instruction read: “When a catcher and a batter-runner going to first have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called”. Once again we felt at that old common place of the plays determined by the umpires appreciation.

Then it comes that cardiac game six. First the unbelievable dinger of Bernie Carbo to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth. “I was completely unprepared. I went to the ondeck circle thinking there was no way I was getting into that game. Darrell Johnson would announce me and then Sparky would pull Eastwick and bring in the lefty, McEnaney. That’s what Sparky did. Always. Which meant that I’d then be pulled for a right-handed hitter. It wasn’t until I looked over at the Reds dugout and saw Sparky standing there, not coming out. I had to pull myself together mentally in a hurry,” said Carbo. After being behind in the count, Carbo picked an Eastwick fastball and sent it out to the centerfield bleachers. Whe he rounds through third base he yells at Rose: “Don’t you wish you were this strong? Don’t you?”

In the top of the eleventh Pete Rose gets hit by Dick Drago. “Ken Griffey bunts toward third, but not far enough. Fisk barehands the ball, and a bit off balance, guns a throw to second. Maybe he’s better when he hasn`t fully set himself, because the throw is perfect. Rose is forced.” Then Joe Morgan wait Drago’s fastaball and smacks a line drive that flies toward the rightfield fence. “Back goes Dwight Evans. Back, back, running full tilt. He reaches the warning track, leaps into the air, and over his shoulder, somehow, improbably, makes an unbelievable catch just before the ball falls into the first row of seats. He comes down and bangs into the wall. He’s made the Catch, the play of the game and of the Series, but he knows his job isn’t done yet. Immediately he pushes himself off the wall, whirls, and pegs the ball back to the infield. The throw is ten feet off the line,toward the dugout. It doesn’t matter. Yastrzemski is there, and Burleson has come all the way across the infield to cover the bag. With Griffey basically in denial, he was halfway to third, Yaz flip the ball to Rick to complete the double play.”

That play was the best proof for what Don Zimmer told Hornig in an interview for the book. “Just how good right fielder was Dwight Evans?” Zimmer repliedd with another question. “Let me ask you something. Do you know the differnece between a ground- rule double and fan interference?” Hornig said that a ground-rule double was one that bounced into the stands and that it was interference if a fan touched the ball before it left the playing field. “Right,” Zimmer said. “So a guy gets two bases if the ball goes into the stands on its own. What’s he get if the fan interferes?” Hornig wasn’t sure. “A double?” “Wrong,” said Zimmer. “The home-plate umpire, with his best judgment, places the runners where he feels they oughtta be. So… when Boston was playing and there was fan interference on a ball hit down the right field line, guess what?” Hornig shrugged. Zimmer clapped his hands together. “The hitter would be awarded first base. Period. Well, the other manager would always come storming out, screaming bloody murder. ‘Thats a double! Fan interference! Should be a double!’ And the home-plate umpire would just smile and point to right field and say, ‘Uh, uh. Not with that guy out there.’ Meaning that unless you hit it over his head, Evans always held you to a single. If you tried to stretch it, he threw you out at second.”

In the bottom of the twelfth, “Fisk takes ball one. Then he goes down and swipes at a Pat Darcy’s fastball on the inside part of the plate at the knees. He launches a long, high fly to left. If it stays fair… Carlton waves his hands and jumps up and down like a little kid, trying his damnedest to persuade that tiny sphere to stay fair. It does, of ocurse, although just barely. Pudge wills it. But it’s as close as you can get. It hits the left field foul pole an bounces back onto the playing field. Home run. Fisk thrusts his arms into the air, claps his hands together, and skips joyfully around the bases as fans stream past the police and onto the field.”

It arrived the seventh game. “Boston wins 3-0 in the top of the sixth. Rose threads a single through the right side of the infield. Bill Lee gets Joe Morgan on a fly to right. Then Bench hits a two-hopper to Burleson for the inning ending double play. But it doesn’t happen. Burleson flips to Doyle, who steps on second, then turns and… sees Rose, Pete’s face a twisted malice mask, barreling as fast as he can down the base path, fully intent of breaking the fielder’s legs. Denny leaps out the way and his relay throw flies over Yastrzemski’s head, over the dugout. Bench is awarded second base, and the inning is suddenly not over. Lee is upset, very upset. He thought he’d pulled his escape act again, and now he had to pitch to Tony Pérez.” When Hornig interviewed Lee, he said that he “wished Darrell Johnson or pitching coach Stan Williams had realized his distress and come to the mound, just to talk for a couple of minutes, to calm him down. And when nobody emerges from the dugout, there’s nothing preventig Lee from calling his catcher out for a chat, using Fisk to help him regain his own composure. Or he could even walk around for a bit, until he felt ready to go on. None of this happens. When Bill returns to the rubber, he’s still agitated. Perhaps, in light of what now transpires, he’s not thinking clearly. He misses with his first pitch, then makes a decision so poor that it becomes instant Sox history. Bad history. Miserable, heart-wrenching, weep-in-your-beer history. Because Space, guided by whatever intergalactic logic, decides to come back with the Leephus. Pérez crushes it and the ball soars over both the wall and the net.” Boston 3 Cincinnati 2. The Reds tie the game in the seventh. And win it in the ninth with Joe Morgan single to shallow centerfield to bring the Griffey’s run. Hornig gives his point of view saying that Darrell Johnson should have left Willoughby for the ninth inning because his sinker was excellent. Once again the commonplace of what a manager should have done in order to win the game.

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