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Saturday, September 12, 2015

David Ortiz Countdown brings back memories of Yaz Watch -- and the Charlie's Angels Gaffe

Two who know the thrill of the chase.

My phone buzzed Wednesday night in the Staples parking lot with a text from my friend Scott reading only "498." The two photos below were attached, and I momentarily had a rush of excitement and jealousy that he was at Fenway Park while I waited in school supply lines. 


It was only the second inning. Perhaps, I texted back to Scott, David Ortiz could get two more homers in the game and reach 500 before the Red Sox went on a 9-game road trip the next day. He didn't, of course, and by game's end my thoughts returned as they often have in recent weeks to 1979 -- when Carl Yastrzemski was in pursuit of his 3000th hit

I was 12 that summer, and like most Boston-born kids had been cheering for Yaz all my life. I twirled my bat and tugged at my pants in Little League games, and made self-tossed leaping catches against the backyard wall of our house in imitation of Captain Carl's Green Monster heroics.

Like Ortiz, Yastrzemski had been in danger of missing his best chance to get his big hit at home back in '79.


Ancient Mariner (Topps)

He had a great first half-season, and slugged his 400th home run in July, but the march to hit No. 3000 was excruciatingly slow. Like this year's team, the Sox were essentially out of the pennant race that September, leaving fans not much else to cheer for but the "Ancient Mariner's" quest. 


Yaz hit .225 in August, the month he turned 40, and more often than not the "Yaz Watch" numbers that the Boston Globe noted on the front of its Sports page stayed unchanged from one day to the next.  He needed just 5 hits when the Red Sox started a six-game homestand on Sept. 7, and after getting 3 of them the first night against the Orioles his bat went stone silent.


Struggling in the stretch. (Getty Images)

The next three games against the Orioles he went 1-for-12, and when the hated Yankees came in for three more Yastrzemski was still one hit shy. He went 0-for-3 with a walk in the first contest, which I watched on the massive free-standing Zenith in our family's den -- flipping back-and-forth between Yaz's at-bats on Channel 38 and a Tuesday night ABC lineup of "Happy Days," "Angie," "Three's Company." and "Taxi" on Channel 5. 

Remember, this was before smartphones with their tweets and MLB.com Gameday updates made it easy to view a game in your hand while watching something else on TV. I guess I could have brought in a portable TV or radio and had both going at once, but hey, I was just 12. 

Wednesday's game pitted Yastrzemski against sore-armed New York pitcher Catfish Hunter. I tried my dual-channel tactics again, this time choosing NBC's "Eight is Enough" against the game. I caught Yaz walk in the first, fly deep in the third, and then ground out to end a 3-run Boston fourth.


Tough competition.

This knocked out Hunter, so Yastrzemski was facing struggling rookie Jim Beattie when he came up again in the sixth. By now my partner viewing was a "Charlie's Angels" movie on ABC (again, I was 12) but I still managed to see Beattie get Yaz to ground out -- leaving the captain with possibly one more late-game chance. I sighed and flipped back to Bosley's beauties.

Then, perhaps lost in my pre-teen fantasies, my timing fell off. While watching the ladies get to the bottom of their latest mystery, I saw the letters start scrolling across the bottom of the screen: "CARL YAS..." I immediately leaped up and flipped the dial, but I was too late -- there was my hero letting out a sigh of relief on first base after a seeing-eye single under Willie Randolph's glove. No. 3000 was in the books.

Finally.

I saw the replay, but was pissed at myself for weeks.

Fast forward to today. With Ortiz still 2 homers shy of 500, I am determined not to miss the big moment -- which will almost certainly come sometime during Boston's current nine-game trip. I'll have my phone and MLB.com with me at all times, and will run to a bigger screen if one is nearby. I can even watch the entire game all over again if I want (we didn't have a VCR back in '79 either).  

Still, it won't be quite the same without The Fonz and Jaclyn Smith.




Two more to go. (Boston Herald)


3 comments:

  1. I was at the game where Yaz recorded his 3000th hit, Sept. 12, 1979, when I was 10. it was late in the game and to this day I think Willie Randolph intentionally lifted his glove up just enough to let the ball through so Yaz could get the milestone.

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    1. I've always thought the same thing, Green, but it was close enough that it could at least look legit and not be embarrassing to Yaz. It helped that it was such a one-sided game too.

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