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Rats! Fisk's homer

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 23, 1999


It was more than a moment made for television. It became a moment made by television. There had been more dramatic and meaningful home runs before Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning shot in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. There have been more dramatic and meaningful home runs since.

But Fisk's became an instant classic, not because of what it did but because of how it looked to millions watching the telecast. It was the birth of what Harry Coyle, NBC's director at the game, called "the reaction shot."

Forgotten by many fans (except Red Sox fans; they remember every what-might-have-been and whatever preceded what might have been) is the greatness of the Oct. 21 game even before Fisk's homer gave Boston a 7-6 victory against Cincinnati.

For starters, everyone had been waiting three days and nights to resume the World Series. Three times the game (and, many Red Sox fans believed, the inevitable) was postponed by rain. The inevitable arrived one night later when the Reds won the seventh game 4-3.

Boston took a 3-0 lead in the first inning of Game 6 when Fred Lynn followed singles by Carl Yastrzemski and Fisk with a home run. The Reds tied it in the fifth, went ahead 5-3 on George Foster's two-run homer in the seventh and added a sixth run in the eighth on Cesar Geronimo's homer. Four outs from defeat, with NBC lugging its equipment into the Reds locker room for the victory celebration, the Red Sox tied it on Bernie Carbo's 400-foot home run into the centerfield seats, his second pinch homer in the World Series.

Boston loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth but Foster caught Lynn's short fly ball and threw out Denny Doyle at the plate for a double play. And in the 11th, Boston's Dwight Evans made a spectacular leaping catch of Joe Morgan's drive headed for the rightfield seats, starting an outfield double play of his own.

"Pete Rose came up to me in the 10th and said, "This is some kind of game, isn't it?' " Fisk said afterward, "and I said, "Some kind of game.' "

Technically, Oct. 21 had become Oct. 22 when Fisk led off in the bottom of the 12th. He took ball one, then Pat Darcy, the Reds' eighth pitcher of the game, threw a sinker down and in. It was 12:33 a.m.

"I wasn't swinging for a home run," Fisk said later. "I never swing for a home run. But we were always taught to swing hard in case you hit it. And that's what I did on that swing."

The ball rocketed into the night sky, soaring down the leftfield line. Fisk bounced out of the batter's box, frantically waving his arms, using all the body English he could muster to keep the ball fair, then leaping with his arms upraised when it ricocheted off the foul pole.

NBC cameraman Lou Gerard was at ground level inside the leftfield scoreboard at the base of the wall, Fenway Park's famed Green Monster. He had Fisk framed in his lens when the pitch arrived.

"On Fisk's at-bat," Coyle recalled, "Lou's instructions were that if the ball was hit at him, follow the ball. If not, stick with the batter. So Lou says to me, "Hey, Harry, there's a rat right here next to me and it's moving closer.'

"Well, it was a misty night and, with Lou looking a rat in the eye, it was tough to pick up the ball. So when Fisk swung, Lou stayed with him at the plate and got the whole bit -- Fisk frantically trying to wave the ball fair and then the home-run trot," Coyle said. "Give that rat credit, not me, for what may have been the greatest shot in televised sports."


-- Information from NBC and the New York Times was used in this report.

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