In “Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America’s Pastime” (Hyperion Books, $26.99, 406 pages, Amazon.com link here; Powells.com link here), Mark Frost knows a good baseball story when he sees one. Even 35 years later.
Even better, he knows how to tell it. Vin Scully, who Frost said he listened to growing up as a kid in L.A., provided all the baseball education he needed.
“I met him two years ago at Bel Air, and had lunch with him and just thought the world of him,” said Frost of Scully, whom he dedicated the book to. “I just felt that growing up here, hearing him talk baseball my whole life, I really learned baseball from him. His has such an omniscient point of view about the game, but the game always comes first. It’s never a partisian point of view. That was my education even though I had my dad, a big Red Sox fan, who moved the family out here in ’58 and I grew up in Silver Lake, less than a mile from watching this new stadium go up, then lived in Glendale awhile. I had to dedicate the book to him.”
To understand more all that happened in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series — the Red Sox won in the 12th inning on Carlton Fisk’s homer, to force a decisive Game 7 — here’s a Q-and-A with Frost, who also authored acclaimed books such as “The Match” (linked here) and “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (linked here), and has a background in novels (“The List of 7″ and “The Six Messiahs”), TV producing (“Twin Peaks”) and scriptwriting (“Hill Street Blues”):
Q: How were you able to glean more information about the game from Sparky Anderson, who lives in nearby Thousand Oaks?
A: I got to sit and watch the entire game with him, and really plug into the manager’s thought process pitch by pitch. I went to his home and he is so accomodating. I always liked that about Sparky, how he took the club over at age 35 in 1970 but he had that grandfatherly look already.
Q: What drew you to writing about this particular Game 6, rather than the compelling playoff game from the Angels-Red Sox in 1986, or the Red Sox-Mets Game 6 from the 1986 World Series?
A: Having watched the game from my apartment in Minneapolis, with my dad who’s a big Red Sox fan, on my little 12-inch black and white TV set with the rabbit ears, it was something so compelling that I never let go of how powerful that feeling is when a game rises to that level. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be.I thought of recreating that night and let people know what it felt like to be on the field and in the booth, to see if we could go back in a time machine.
It was really a touchtone game. The fact that 76 million people saw it is ridiculous with today’s TV audience. That’s a Super Bowl and a half. I saw where the Monday Night Football game on ESPN with Brett Favre against Green Bay last week had a cable record 21 million viewers. That Game 6 (in ’75) had four times that many people watching.
The other important element was that this was the start of baseball’s free agency era and it was starting to loosen up. There was more TV and cable coming. The whole country isn’t what it was then. And a great moment like that showed how baseball was still in the hearts and minds of people. It was the major cultural event of the fall, but that’s not the case any more. It doesn’t have the same cache as it used to.
Q: Can you compare this Game 6 to “The Match: The Day The Game of Golf Changed Forever” in some way – that perfect storm of sport hitting one place, like baseball’s version of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson squaring off against two top amateurs, Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi, in 1956?
A: That’s sort of what I look for, the compliment of a great event in and of itself in the confines of its sport that has a larger social ramification and is populated with colorful, dramatic lives.
The challenge I set for myself is how to tell the whole history of the sport through the lens of a single game. When I discovered the lineage of someone like Sparky Anderson to Rod Dedeaux to Casey Stengel … and these are the two oldest franchises in each of their leagues. This kind of made the most sense. I saw it as a whole and it’s driven by my own curiosity.
Q: What things did you discover that you may not have known so much about before that really made it worthwhile to you?
A: Two things really came out.
First, was the relationship between (Red Sox outfielder) Bernie Carbo and (Reds manager) Sparky Anderson. That was really an emotional high point. Carbo was drafted by the Reds ahead of Johnny Bench but he had so many personal demons and drug and alcohol problems that precipated his sad parting with the Reds. He got into a fight with Bob Howsman (the Reds GM) over a contract negotiation and had to be physically restrained.
Before the first game (of the ’76 Series), Carbo manned up and apologized to Sparky, who had been like a surrogate father to him for so many years. It was very emotional and they had tears in their eyes. That underscores the amazing achievement that Carbo had in the series, with two pinch-hit homers, including the astonishing one in Game 6 (a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth) that’s really essential. Without that one, there isn’t a Fisk moment. Carbo went from a great hero to a great unsung hero at hour later.
The other part was, historically, I wasn’t aware of all the allegations of throwing games that was around in 1903, with the first World Sereis. It was a really tough and tumble era for gambling in both team’s hotels. At least one player appeared to have taken a bribe to throw a game. In light of all that happened, there’s the life of Pete Rose taking place on the field in Game 6.
Q: Were you able to track down Pete Rose, who lives in Sherman Oaks, for his insights?
A: I tried but he’s very dodgy with writers these days, feeling that no one is on his side.
== More on “Game Six”
== A review in the Oct. 4 New York Times (linked here)
== An excerpt from page 282:
(NBC director Harry Coyle had to decide which replays to use of Fisk’s homer):
In the broadcast truck, director Harry Coyle tried to hail his left field cameraman, Lou Gerard, stationed inside the Green Monster scoreboard, on his headset. Fisk’s ball was headed straight down the left field line, a high towering shot, exactly the kind of flight path they’d planted a camera in there to pan up and capture. Gerard, at that moment, stood frozen in terror at his post, staring down at the biggest rat he’d ever seen in his life — the size of a frickin’ housecat — that had just crawled across his foot. Half-paralyzed with fright, he couldn’t swing his camera around; he held the close-up he’d established on Fisk … Fisk didn’t run. He turned sideways and took three abbreviated hops down the first base line, wildly waving his arms at the ball like a kid in a Little League game, urging, willing, begging to stay fair.”
And what happened to the ball. Reds outfielder George Foster picked it up and, to this day, is said to still have it.
== An excerpt from page 286:
(In the moments after Fisk homered to end the game):
In the press box, as a hundred others around him scrambled for superlatives agains tthe sudden pressures of their impending deadlines, Peter Gammons of the Boston Globe, his senses whirling with wonder and amazement, cranked a fresh sheet of paper into his Underwood and prepared to quickly compose a single pass one of the most lyrical, inspired and impressionistic columns ever written about a baseball game. But first he had to ask a colleague to remind him what the final score had been.
Good point. What was it?
Check this link.