By TIM BARTO
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 1975 – World Series game six. Arguably the greatest game ever played.
In the bottom of the 12th, after the clocks passed midnight in Boston, Carlton Fisk hit a ball a mile high and toward the left field line, waving and willing it fair. Home run. Red Sox win. The series was down to one game.
I was 13 years old, and the Cincinnati Reds were my favorite team. Truthfully, they were most important thing in my life at the time.
Game seven would be held on the next night. It would decide the Series and cement the Big Red Machine’s place in history, or it would define them as a talented team that couldn’t win it all. Either way, the stage was set to be the biggest night of my young life.
Following the excitement of the end of game six, I heard a voice.
“Jon’s family is hosting confirmation class tomorrow night.” It was Mom. She was standing in the kitchen. She, too, had watched the game and seen the drama unfold, but the words I heard coming from her just didn’t make sense.
“Confirmation class is at the Burgess’ house tomorrow night.”
“Mom, please? Can I miss confirmation tomorrow night? Please? Just this once. It’s Game Seven.”
“Confirmation class is every Wednesday night. You know that.”
“I know that,” I said as I felt my eyes begin to water, “but just this once.”
Mom shook her head “no,” and I trudged upstairs for a night of fitful sleep.
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1975. I was, indeed, being made to attend confirmation class on the night of game seven. I had to get ahold of Mom’s transistor radio.
Mom owned a Westinghouse radio purchased with S&H Green Stamps. It lay in the junk drawer in the kitchen, where Mom was preparing supper.
Dad came home, kissed Mom, and joined me in the family room. The television tubes warmed to life and the picture focused on Fenway Park.
Boston had a three-run lead by the fourth inning, and I had to get going to confirmation class. Mom was getting her keys. “Alright Tim, let’s go.”
“Okay, I gotta’ get my workbook. I’ll meet you in the car.” Thankfully, Mom turned and walked to the garage. I went over to the kitchen, opened the junk drawer, grabbed the radio and ear jack, and stuffed them into my jacket pocket.
It was a quiet, four-minute drive to Jon’s house. “Call me when it’s time to pick you up,” said Mom as she drove off.
Mrs. Burgess was making her signature rectangular pizza, while Mr. Burgess was in the family room . . . watching the game.
“Alright guys,” said our group leader, Jerry. “Let’s gather around and say Grace.”
Following grace, we sat down, obscuring the TV screen. I took the opportunity to excuse myself and go to the bathroom.
I didn’t need to use the bathroom; I just needed to get the earpiece cord connected to the transistor radio, through my shirt and over the back of my right ear. Entering the living room, I chose a space at the end of the couch to the teacher’s right, so I could obscure my right side and the earpiece.
Putting my hand in my jacket pocket, I turned the radio on and adjusted it ever so slightly, listening for the game sounds. Got it! Tony Perez just hit one out of the park, bringing the Reds within a run.
Top of the seventh. Johnny Bench to the plate with bases loaded.
And the radio faded.
I reached into my pocket to readjust the tuner. A staticky click and then . . . nothing. I tried to tune it back in, but the radio was only reporting a faint crackle.
Completely oblivious to what was being discussed in class, I realized I needed to excuse myself to the bathroom again. Raising my hand and giving Jerry a grimaced look that implied an imminent need for a toilet, he simply said, “OK, go.”
Inside the bathroom, I took out the Westinghouse and looked at the little white numbers on the small black dial. It was right where it was supposed to be. Why wasn’t I getting any sound? I turned the volume all the way up but heard nothing.
Prying open the battery compartment lid, I removed the 9-volt battery, then placed the negative and positive terminals on my tongue . . . because that’s how we tested 9-volt batteries in the 1970s. There was no tingle. The battery was dead, and I didn’t have a spare.
Heading back to the living room, I really didn’t want to sit down again, so I stopped at the end of the hallway. To my right, now that I was standing, I could see the television screen. Mr. Burgess had the volume turned so low I could barely make out any sound, but I could see the screen.
Jerry waved his arm to get me to sit. Sitting down, of course, took the TV out of view. Am I really not meant to watch this game? Was God punishing me?
As I asked these questions to myself, Mrs. Burgess cleaned the kitchen, wiping down everything in sight, starting with her stainless steel refrigerator. As she moved away from the refrigerator, which stood at the opening between the dinette and living room, the side of the fridge glowed.
I was mesmerized by the soft blue glow of the TV screen bouncing off the side of the refrigerator. The picture was clear enough that in the reflection of that refrigerator I could see Reds runners on first and third. Joe Morgan was at bat.
Morgan took ball one, swung at strike one, and fouled off a couple pitches. Joe, you’re the best player in the Majors, get a hit here. He heard me, and lifted a dying quail into short centerfield, scoring Griffey and giving the Reds a one run lead. I didn’t want to jinx anything, so I just sat there, not breathing, quietly transfixed to the side of the Burgess’ refrigerator.
As the Red Sox came up in the bottom half of the ninth, Jerry ended the proceedings with another “Amen.” I stood and watched Yastrzemski fly out to end it. The Reds were World Series champions.
Tim Barto is Vice President of Alaska Policy Forum, President of Chinooks Baseball Boosters, and is saving his money so he can buy his own cornfield and turn into a baseball diamond where Covid tests will not be required to play.