In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The impossible dream comes up one game short: the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series in seven games, beating the Boston Red Sox 7-2 in the finale at Fenway Park. The Red Sox attempted to come back from down 3-1 using Jim Lonborg on two days’ rest, but Bob Gibson, who had already won two games in the series, was too much to handle, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out ten to earn MVP honors.
After winning a thrilling five-team race for the pennant in the American League, the Boston Red Sox, led by Dick Williams at 92-70, faced the St. Louis Cardinals managed by Red Schoendienst, who finished 101-60. It was the Red Sox's first appearance in the World Series since 1946, which they lost in seven games to the Cardinals, who were seeking their second World Championship in four years, having won in 1964.
In the opener, the Cardinals had Bob Gibson, the hero of the 1964 series, on the mound, while the Red Sox had Jose Santiago starting as their ace Jim Lonborg was needed on the final day of the season to win the pennant. Both pitchers were sharp, as the Cardinals scratched across a run in the third inning on an RBI from Roger Maris, while Santiago answered and helped his own cause with a home run in the bottom of the third. The Cardinals would get a second RBI from Maris in the seventh as the Cardinals took the opener at Fenway Park, with Gibson going the distance, allowing one run on six hits with ten strikeouts.
Jim Lonborg, who won the Cy Young in 1967, was on the mound for the Red Sox in Game 2 and dominated the Cardinals as he pitched seven and two-thirds innings of no-hit baseball before Julian Javier doubled down into the left-field corner. It would be the only hit Lonborg would allow as Boston evened the series with a 5-0 win. The Red Sox offense, meanwhile, was supplied by Carl Yastrzemski, who had two home runs, including a three-run blast in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach.
As the series shifted to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the Cardinals bats came alive as Lou Brock led Game 3 off with a triple and scored on Curt Flood’s RBI single. The Redbirds added a pair of runs in the second inning on a home run by Mike Shannon. The Red Sox got on the board with runs in the sixth and seventh, but St. Louis answered every time, winning the game 5-2 as Nelson Briles went the distance for the win.
In Game 4, it was Bob Gibson tormenting Red Sox hitters again, as he earned his second win of the series with a five-hit shutout, striking out six batters in a 6-0 win that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 series lead. Meanwhile, Jose Santiago, who was solid for Boston in Game 1, struggled in Game 4 as he retired just batters, allowing four runs on six hits as the Cardinals took a stranglehold in the Fall Classic.
With St. Louis anticipating a celebration, Jim Lonborg again came through for the Red Sox, allowing just one run on three hits in a thrilling pitchers’ duel against Steve Carlton. In their 3-1 win, the Red Sox got the lead with an RBI from Ken Harrelson in the third inning. At the same time, longtime New York Yankee Elston Howard, playing in his final games, drove home two runs in the ninth to give Lonborg a much-needed cushion, as Roger Maris broke up the shutout with a ninth-inning homer.
With new life, the Red Sox bats were charged up in Game 6 at Fenway Park as they took an early lead on a second-inning home run from Rico Petrocelli. However, the Cardinals answered with a pair of runs in the third to take a 2-1 lead. In the fourth inning, the Red Sox responded with three solo home runs off the bats of Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith, and Petrocelli. After Lou Brock tied the game with a two-run homer in the seventh, the Red Sox, with four big runs sparked by Joe Foy’s RBI double, would go on to win the game 8-4 to force a decisive seventh game.
With the series on the line, and the Red Sox seeking their first championship since 1918, Dick Williams turned to Jim Lonborg on short rest, hoping he could continue his mastery over the Cardinals’ hitters. Boston, meanwhile, had their own burden dealing with the dominance of Bob Gibson, who was seeking his fifth straight World Series win, dating back to 1964, when he beat the Yankees in a seventh game. It would by Lonborg, who blinked first, allowing two runs in the third inning. The Cardinals would add two more runs in the fifth inning as Gibson aided in his cause with a home run off a tiring Lonborg. In the fifth inning, George Scott gave Boston a glimmer of hope with a leadoff triple, scoring on a throwing error. However, in the sixth inning, the Cardinals put the game away with a three blast off the bat of Julian Javier. Bob Gibson would again go the distance, allowing two runs on three hits with ten strikeouts to earn his third win of the series, earning MVP honors for the second time.
While the St. Louis Cardinals had their eighth World Championship second-most overall and most among National League teams, the Red Sox had something bigger. They had won back the love of their fans and revitalized baseball in Boston.