Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Lastish At Bat

Just to prove I'm an equal-opportunity out-caller: I was watching the Ken Burns' Baseball marathon the other day, and Bill Lee was talking wistfully about his final at bat in a Red Sox uniform, before the designated hitter rule took the lumber pitchers' hands after the '72 season. He described a triple to right field. Al Kaline (who he said had bird crap on his shoulders, as he was already a statue by then) couldn't catch the deep liner and Lee would have had an inside-the-park home run, had he been able to pick up the short third base coach in time. By the time he picked him out of the crowd, he had put up the stop sign. Bill ended up with that triple as his final performance as an American League hitter, September 23, 1972.

Great story. One problem: He had three more at bats after that.

He pitched in relief four days later, getting the win and going one for three at the plate with a single. He scored on Aparicio's triple, so his last run scored for Boston came on a three-bagger. But his last A.L. at bat was a groundout to the pitcher (on which the second baseman covered first, so at least he can say something odd happened) on September 27, 1972.

He appeared on the mound two more times that season, including October 3, when the Tigers clinched the division with a 3-1 win over the Red Sox in Detroit. Lee was due up third in the ninth, but was pinch-hit for. Ben Oglivie made the last out in Lee's place. That put Boston 1.5 games behind with one game left. (1972, as some younger people might not know, is an underrated heartbreak season for the Red Sox, as a strike allowed them to actually finish the season a half-game out of first place.)

Epilogue: Look, people, I'm impressed that these guys remember so much stuff, and I understand they're going to get some things slightly wrong. It's just funny that they always tell it like fact, seemingly without realizing that the details of their particular occupation are all documented. You could tell me that the last cracker you tested at the cracker-testing facility job you had in 1984 was octagonal, and I'd pretty much have to settle for that. But if you played MLB, just know your story can be checked out.

[Photo by me, Cooperstown, NY, June 2011]

Update on the Futures thing--schedule now showing no game at all! PawSox sked still shows them playing at Fenway that day though.

And I should also point out that of course Bill Lee got hits in the majors after this, when he played for the Expos years later....was just talking A.L. here...
I wish his final pitch of Game 7 of the '75 World Series had been the one right before he hung that stupid lollipop curveball that Tony Perez deposited somewhere on the Mass Pike.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States