DICK DRAGO – Unsung Post Season Hero of October 21



OCTOBER 21, 1975 – World Series Game 6

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,

TOM HALL – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 11



OCTOBER 11, 1972 – National League Championship Series Game 5

The term “No Decision” can be quite misleading when it comes to a pitcher. It implies that they did not have that great of an impact on the outcome of a game.

It is even more dismissive for a middle reliever. If a pitcher was not the starting pitcher, did not get a win, a loss or a save, then how could they have been a major factor?

In truth many games are won or lost BECAUSE of how pitchers who get lost in the shuffle and ignored in the decision performed. A prime example for that is Reds reliever Tom Hall.

In 1972, the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates squared off in the NLCS. They had met in 1970 with Sparky Anderson’s Reds taking it. Now they faced in a rematch after the Reds failed to win the West in 1971 (and the Pirates went on to win the World Series.)

The Pirates took a 2 game to 1 lead in the Series, but the Reds tied it up and set up a winner take all Game 5 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.

Don Gullett started for the Reds. 1971 World Series hero Steve Blass took the hill for Pittsburgh.

Manny Sanguillen, Richie Hebner and Dave Cash jumped on Gullett in the second inning and put the Pirates up 2-0.  The same three hitters, Sanguillen, Hebner and Cash, got hits in the fourth, chasing Gullett and pushed a third run across.

Cincinnati started chipping away and by the time Cesar Geronimo homered in the fifth, it was a 3-2 game with the Reds still ahead.

Sparky Anderson gave the ball to Tom Hall to start the 6th and keep the game a one run affair.

The 24 year old from Riverside California was already a four year Major League veteran when the Reds acquired him from Minnesota before the 1972 season for Wayne Granger.

The left hander known as “The Blade” because of his slender build had pitched in the 1969 and 1970 playoffs for Minnesota where he was a spot starter and middle reliever.

For the Reds, he filled whatever role was needed. Hall compiled a 10-1 record and a 2.61 ERA. He saved 8 games and threw a complete game shutout, striking out 137 in 129 2/3 innings. He simply got done whatever Sparky needed.

Unlike the previous two pitchers in the game, Hall retired the combination of Sanguillen, Hebner and Cash.

He let up a single to Rennie Stennett in the 8th but after an intentional walk to Roberto Clemente, caught Willie Stargell looking and retired Sanguillen for a second time for good measure.

Hall pitched three critical innings, save for a hit and intentional walk, kept the mighty Pirates off the base path and struck out 4 for good measure. The Reds did not score but the difference was still a single run.

In the bottom of the 8th, Hall was lifted for a pinch hitter in an attempt to tie the game. The rally fell short and Hall would be saddled with a no decision. But with the game close, all the Reds needed was one Pirates mistake to knot it up.

In the bottom of the 9th and the Pirates three outs from a second straight pennant, Johnny Bench capitalized on a Dave Giusti mistake. His lead off homer tied the game. The Reds would rally and win the pennant when George Foster scored on a Bob Moose wild pitch.

The Reds went to the World Series and reliever Clay Carroll was credited with the win for Game 5 after pitching a 1-2-3 9th inning. But the wild Pennant Clinching 9th was set up by 3 terrific innings from The Blade.

And that makes him The Sully Baseball Unsung Hero for October 11.