By Rich Klein
I have been a life-long New York Yankees fan for all but one summer when I just starting to discover baseball. You see myself, like many other baseball fans, were enthralled by the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox. As an impressionable very young person whose family had a place in far Northeastern corner of Maine where the sun arrives during the summer at 4:00 AM, the Red Sox were the local team, so how could you not love following them?
I was not aware of the past 15 years of so prior for the Red Sox, but they had barely been competitive since about 1950, and even had to deal with the tragedy of the death of local hero Harry Agganis, who died shortly after turning 26 in 1955. We know when Agannis passed, but there are still some third party authenticated autographed cards of his out there. The card is pretty difficult to find, and the autograph on the card is even scarcer:
But the 1967 Red Sox had a new manager and some new players. Their best player was 27 years old and had just done intense off-season training for the first time. Those new and improved players, as well as a little luck, turned out to be the key to the Red Sox success.
Some of the young players on that team included George Scott and Joe Foy, who had been rookies in 1966. Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith were the rookies in 1967, and a player turning just 22 during the season would finish the season season with over 100 career homers. That player was Tony Conigliaro:
Conigliaro would sadly almost lose the sight in his eye after being struck by a Jack Hamilton fast ball, and never was the same player again. Along with Yaz and Rico Petrocelli, they were the three Red Sox who also played for their 1975 team, which would be the next time the Red Sox won the Pennant.
Anytime I can mention Rico Petrocelli, it helps the hobby. You see, Rico and Tom Zappala host a weekly hobby radio show which feature many leading dealers and hobbyists. Their show can be found here if you’d like to give it a listen:
Rico is a beloved figure in Boston and does many appearances around the area. He has also co-authored many books with the Zappalas, and you can usually see him at the National Sports Collectors Convention each year. I heartily recommend meeting both Tom and Ellen Zappala along with Rico during the National. I promise you will enjoy chatting with them.
The other cool thing was both Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith shared a 1967 Topps rookie card:
One of the oldest known color television broadcasts of a baseball game feature the 1967 Red Sox! The fact that this is a crucial game in September makes it an even more memorable game. If you have time, I do recommend watching this or having this as background during a game
The 1967 American League pennant race was legendary as four teams actually all lead the league in one confusing September day. As a young fan, I thought every season would be like 1967 season. Well not so much, but if you like to read about a very different time with one team going to the World Series and no one else in the post-season, than 1967 is for you. Just two seasons later there would be the first year of divisional play.
And if you wanted to know if the New York Yankees were doing something that year, they moved the great Elston Howard to Boston, which helped shore up the Red Sox catching situation. Howard solidified the catching position and had his last good season in 1967. I still wish there was a 1969 Topps card of him, but this 1968 serves well:
Oh, and even in the next year these Red Sox would continue to affect baseball history. Jim Lonborg,who had been 22-9 and the 1967 Cy Young award winner, hurt himself in a skiing accident and was never quite the same pitcher again. He was good, but never great. After his accident, many contracts were updated to not let the players do off-season activities which could hurt them. Note the text on his 1968 Topps card:
And lastly, the player mentioned in the quiz is Sparky Lyle, would become a superstar Yankees receiver after being traded for Danny Cater just before the 1972 season. This trade would torment the Red Sox for many years following. Unrelated to Lyle, Cater actually lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and his son-in-law and I attend the same Torah (Bible) Study class. Hey, anytime you can name drop a major league play is worth a shot!
This card is the 1967 Red Sox team card and a scarce high number. Yes, you can use this card to talk about the stories of the famed “Impossible Dream” team. They were called the Impossible Dream because of the then recent popular song from the Man of La Macha musical. This powerful version by Jack Jones was #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts of the time and the best known of the versions. But everything coalesced in 1967, and I will still not forgive the St. Louis Cardinals, who were a better team, for winning the World Series that year.