It was 50 years ago this week that the Boston Red Sox completed their Impossible Dream on the last day of the 1967 season to win the American League pennant.
The Red Sox were playing the Minnesota Twins at home on that Sunday afternoon in October. The two teams were tied for first place after the Sox had come from behind the previous day to draw even in the standings with the heavily-favored Minnesota squad that featured a pair of star pitchers (Jim Kaat and Dean Chance) and a number of star hitters (Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, and Harmon Killebrew).
Trailing 2-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the Sox put together an improbable rally of the sort that had made the impossible seem possible all season-long, pushing across five runs to take a lead they never would relinquish.
Although the Red Sox and their fans still had to await the outcome of the game that night between the Tigers and Angels to determine whether the Sox would capture the pennant without the need for a playoff game, when Sox’ shortstop Rico Petrocelli caught a short pop-up for the final out, the throng at Fenway spilled onto the diamond at Fenway Park in utter jubilation, prompting TV announcer Ned Martin’s famous call, “There’s pandemonium on the field!”
It is difficult for young Red Sox fans who are not of a certain age to appreciate how the 1967 team completely changed the trajectory of the franchise. The Boston Red Sox in 1967 were as moribund a Major League team as existed, playing in a facility that was considered outdated and outmoded long before it became famous in the movie Field of Dreams and in books about baseball that waxed poetic about Fenway Park.
We can recall as an 11-year-old in 1965, taking the Rapid Transit bus from Pt. Shirley, and then another bus to Orient Heights station, from where we eventually made the connections on the MTA to Kenmore Square to catch a weekday afternoon game with our friends — with the price of admission in the right field grandstand being $1.00 — and our image of the entire trip, including Fenway itself, was one of an old, grimy, and decaying urban landscape and infrastructure.
The Red Sox had entered the ‘67 season as 100-1 longshots to win their first pennant since 1946. The lowly Sox had finished in ninth place in the previous two seasons and appeared destined for similar oblivion in 1967, until a magical summer of baseball captured the hearts and loyalty of Red Sox fans old and new.
The resurrection of the Red Sox coincided with the rise of the New Boston, a city that was undergoing needed urban renewal, while still retaining its Old World charm. The New Boston undertaking finally brought the Metro Boston area into the 20th century and paved the way for the economic success our state enjoys today in the 21st century.
The exploits of the Impossible Dream Red Sox of 1967 — immortalized on the aptly-named Impossible Dream recording that was issued the following spring (which still is available for purchase on a CD) — are etched indelibly in the memories of older Sox’ fans.
Yes, the Red Sox fell short of a World Series title in seven games, as they would in 1975 and 1986. But after the ‘67 Impossible Dream season, the Red Sox and Fenway Park became the most instantly-recognizable symbols of our national pastime for generations of baseball fans here and around the world.