It may seem like a stretch to call any aspect of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series “unsung.” The praises of that game have been sung more often than Springsteen at a New Jersey karaoke bar.
Carlton Fisk and Bernie Carbo’s homers are the stuff of legend. And the unfolding of the game piece by piece has been analyzed as if it was a work of great literature. But one player in the drama came up big (with some help from the defense) and helped set up the spectacular climax and yet still fails to see his name included in the narrative. That would be Red Sox bullpen closer, Dick Drago.
The 30 year old native of Toledo had been a solid starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals when the Red Sox picked up up in a deal for Marty Pattin before the 1974 season. By 1975, he became a fixture in the bullpen and closed out the three time defending champion Oakland A’s to clinch the ALCS.
But Drago’s first World Series appearance was not effective as he blew Bill Lee’s lead and lost Game 2. He did not appear in any of the three games in Cincinnati and after Game 6 was delayed for rainy weather, he was well rested and ready to go.
Luis Tiant, who threw complete game victories in Games 1 and 4 pitched for Boston but fell behind 6-3 in the 8th inning. Roger Moret came in to finish the 8th and with the Reds up by 3, the Cincinnati titles seemed all but certain.
But in the 8th with 2 on and 2 outs, Bernie Carbo batted for Moret and blasted his celebrated game tying homer. Now a pitcher needed to come in and keep the Reds from taking the lead back and set up a title clinching in the 9th.
Dick Drago got the call. His job with the World Series on the line was to retire Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. No problem! He retired them 1-2-3.
Now all the Red Sox had to do was score a run in the bottom of the 9th and Drago would get the win and there would be a Game 7. Despite the fact that the Red Sox loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the 9th, they couldn’t score.
Onto the 10th. The task for Drago did not get much easier as he got George Foster out to start the inning. Dave Concepcion singled and stole second but was left stranded when Drago struck out Cesar Geronimo and got Dan Driessen to pop up.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Red Sox went down in order. Drago got the ball again for the 11th.
A questionable hit by pitch of Pete Rose led off the inning. Replay showed the ball probably never hit him. Rose was erased on a Ken Griffey bunt play that went wrong. Then up stepped Joe Morgan.
The future Hall of Famer and broadcaster hit a deep drive to right and Dwight Evans made his famous leaping catch that turned into an inning ending double play when Griffey was doubled off.
Drago was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 11th and in the 12th, Fisk hit his homer, making a winner out of Rick Wise.
Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson did not use Drago in the Game 7 finale, instead turning to rookie Jim Burton in the 9th inning of the last game. The Red Sox lost the World Series and their bullpen closer never got into the finale.
Drago’s legacy in Game 6 seems to be the guy who got lucky when Evans made that catch. But his final line was impressive: 3 innings, 1 hit, no walks and no runs.
The list of heroes for Game 6 of the 1975 World Series may be long but it should include one more. At least I am honoring Dick Drago as the Unsung Post Season Hero of October 21,