The Greatest Red Sox Home Run You Have (Probably) Never Heard Of

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Everyone is familiar with the home run hit by Carlton Fisk in the twelfth inning of the epic Game 6 in the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.  The shot of Fisk waving the ball fair as he hopped up the first base line is forever engraved in baseball lore.  However there was a home run that came earlier in that game that was even more dramatic, and had it not occurred, Fisk’s walk-off would have never happened.


Bernie Carbo celebrates his pinch hit homer, trailed by Fred Lynn (left) and Rico Petrocelli (right)
Photo courtesy of youtube.com

The name Bernie Carbo may not be as well known to Red Sox fans under the age of 50.  He was a journeyman outfielder who had a pair of stints with the Red Sox from 1974 through mid-season 1976, and again in 1977 and 1978.  He also played for the Reds, Cardinals (two separate times), Indians and Pirates in his 12 year MLB career.  But like Steven Pearce in 2018, Carbo’s World Series performance made him a fan favorite, and Carbo was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 1975 the Red Sox were the surprise of the American League, led by rookie sensations Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, dubbed the “Gold Dust Twins.”  The Reds were the dominant team on the mid-70’s, winning 108 games in the regular season, and were heavily favored to easily dispatch the Sox in the series.

The Red Sox trailed the Reds in the series three games to two coming into Game 6, splitting the first two games at Fenway before dropping two out of three in Cincinnati.  The Red Sox had their ace starter Luis Tiant on the mound.  Tiant’s gyrations baffled the Big Red Machine in Game 1, allowing only five hits in a 6-0 shutout.  Game 4 was a little different story, as the Reds had a better read on the Sox righty, and though the result was another complete game victory for Tiant, it took him 163 pitches to get a 5-4 win.

The Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a three run homer by eventual Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player winner Lynn.  But the Reds finally got to Tiant, who clearly didn’t have his best stuff after his heavy workload in his previous two starts, with three runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh.  The Reds tacked on another run in the eighth off reliever Roger Moret to go up 6-3 with only six outs left to get to win the series.

As they had done all season, the Red Sox battled back in the bottom of the eighth.  Lynn lead off with an infield single, and Rico Petrocelli followed with a walk to put two men on with no outs.  The Reds then brought in their top reliever (this was before the days of the closer) Rawley Eastwick.  Eastwick tied for the lead league in saves that year with 22, and like Lynn was also the eventual Rookie of the Year winner in the National League.

Eastwick momentarily quieted the crowd by strking out rightfielder Dwight Evans and getting shortstop Rick Burleson to line out to left, bringing up the pitcher’s spot with two outs.  It was then that Manager Darrel Johnson turned to his bench for left-handed hitting Carbo.  Carbo had delivered a pinch-hit homer in Game 3 of the series, and Sox fans were hopeful he could come through again in a clutch situation.

Eastwick ran the count to 2-2 to Carbo before busting him inside with a pitch that Carbo barely fouled off to stay alive.  “He threw me a cut fastball, a little slider and I took it right out of (Johnny) Bench's glove,” said Carbo years later.  “The ball just dribbled out. I step out and I’m thinking, "Aw man, I almost struck out. I was lucky."

Bench said after the game that Carbo’s swing “looked like a Little Leaguer learning how to hit”. Third baseman Pete Rose said it was the worst swing he had ever seen, and Petrocelli later said it looked like a pitcher who had hurt his arm, trying to make a comeback as a hitter.

What was about to follow was a complete 180, and one of the biggest swings in Red Sox history to that point in time.  On the very next pitch, Carbo drilled a three run homer into the bleachers in center field to tie the game at 6-6.  The Fenway crowd went ballistic as Carbo flew around the bases in a full sprint, approaching home plate with his arms extended out to his sides as if he were a plane gliding in for a landing.  The Red Sox had life, it was a new ball game.

If you have never seen the home run, check it out here.

Carbo was a first round draft pick in 1965 by the Reds out of Livonia High School in Michigan, ahead of future Hall of Famer Bench.  He came up to the big leagues with the Reds in 1969, and was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1970.  He had played with many of the Reds he faced in the ’75 Series.  As he rounded second after the pinch-hit home run, he reportedly yelled to third baseman Rose "Don’t you wish you were this strong?"
Of course, Fisk went on to be the hero in Game 6, and deservedly so.  But without Carbo’s heroics in the eighth, when the game was severely in doubt, Fisk may never have gotten the chance to hit in the twelfth and the Red Sox may have lost the series in six games.  Instead, the Sox forced a Game 7 and, well, we don’t need to talk about that right now.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Greatest Red Sox Home Run You Have (Probably) Never Heard Of
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