By Jim Churchill
I had a chance to visit “Little Fenway” in Delray Beach, Florida this past week while broadcasting some UMaine baseball games. It is always great to escape the Maine winter and be around the ballpark this time of the year. The weather was delightful and the baseball was pure joy with the Black Bears splitting 6 games against St. Bonaventure and UMass during the week in Delray.
There was one aspect of Little Fenway at Miller Park that I had to “endure” however. I couldn’t escape it. It was painted on the “Green Monster” in left field!
You see Little Fenway was built by Bucky Dent, the former Yankee shortstop, who put a dagger in the hearts of Red Sox fans back in 1978 when “The Curse” was alive and well. Dent hit only 40 home runs in his 12 year Major League career which is part of the reason why the homer he hit on October 2nd in 1978 was so crushing for Red Sox Nation.
In 1978, the Red Sox and Yankees finished with identical 99-63 records, which forced a one game playoff. The game was played at Fenway Park after the Sox won a coin toss. It had been crazy season. The Red Sox at one point led the Yankees by 14 games in the AL East. The New Yorkers turned it on in the final 74 games going 53-21 while the Sox went 38-36 over that same stretch. In the end, Boston had to go 7-0 to finish the season and force the tie. Game number 163 for the Sox and Yanks was a fitting end.
I remember it vividly. The game started at 2:30pm. I rushed home from school and parked it in front of the television filled with anticipation and nervous energy. New York had won the 1977 World Series and started Ron Guidry who was 24-3. The Boston starter was Mike Torrez who had signed with Red Sox as free agent after winning 2 games for the Yankees in the ’77 Series. Yaz drove one into the seats beyond the Pesky pole to get the Sox on top 1-0 in the second. Jim Rice added an RBI single in the 6th. Then with 2 out and 2 on in the top of the 7th Dent hit a fly ball to left that just cleared the green wall and gave the Yanks a 3-2 lead. Yaz crumbled against the Monster and Fenway went silent. It is that moment in time that is painted on the Green Monster at Little Fenway in Delray Beach.
The game was far from over. New York added another run in the 7th and Reggie Jackson hit a home run in the 8th to make it 5-2 Yankees. The Sox would tally two in the 8th against Rich Gossage, but Yaz would pop out to 3B Graig Nettles to end the ballgame. New York would go on to win the 1978 World Series and Dent would be named the Series MVP.
And thereafter, Russell Earl Dent became known as “Bucky Bleeping Dent” among Red Sox fans. And 1986 was still eight years away!
Jim Churchill is the host of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.