No. 180 Luis Tiant (Number 40 Pitcher)

I remember the 1975 World Series where Luis Tiant threw a shut out in game one. The game was tied 0-0 coming into the bottom of the seventh. Tiant his a single to lead off the inning. Tiant had a funny was on running and with Dwight Evans (batting leadoff!) tried to bunt him to second, Don Gullet the Reds pitcher tries to throw Tiant out at second. Somehow Tiant beat the throw putting men on first and second. Denny Doyle then singled to left, but everybody knew Tiant wasn’t going to try to score leaving the bases loaded. Carl Yastrzemski finally gave the Red Sox the lead by hitting a single to right scoring Tiant. The Red Sox scored 5 more runs that inning and Tiant got the last 6 Reds out in order for a game 1 victory.

Tiant early in his career was a power pitcher. In his first four years he was a solid pitcher, a fair amount above average. In 1968 he had a super season. He led the league in Earn Run Average and shut outs. He also struck out a career high of 264 batters. Cleveland finished in third in a 10-team league which was unusual for them at the time. Tiant had a won-loss record of 21-9 and the Indians finished only 11 games above .500. So, they were an under .500 team without Tiant’s 30 decisions.

However, in 1969 both the Indians and Tiant faded. Tiant had 50 more walks and over 100 less strikeouts. He was still an average pitcher. Cleveland traded Tiant to the Twins. Tiant won his first 6 games for the Twins in 1970 but a crack was found in a bone in his right shoulder. Tiant was told to rest. He tried the come back late in the season but was not effective. Calvin Griffith the Twins owner just released him at the end of the season. He didn’t want to try to help Tiant.

Tiant went the Braves Triple A minor league team, then went to the Red Sox minor league team. Tiant was called to the majors in June. He had an occasional good start but didn’t pitch that well. Tiant pitched well in 1972 but he wasn’t the power pitcher he was earlier in his career. He set hitters up more. By 1975 had a wind up where he turned so at one time the hitters could see his full back, but he still had great control.

Now back to the World Series of 1975. Tiant was a finesse pitcher and so was game 2 pitcher Bill Lee. For 8 innings Lee pitched almost as well as Tiant and had a 2-1 lead after 8. The announcers kept saying the Reds had to stop trying to pull the ball and go the other way. I think it was more than that as Lee and Tiant had the Reds off balance. However, to the announcer credit Johnny Bench went the other way to double of Lee in the top of the 9th. Lee was relieved and the bullpen allowed Bench to score and gave up another run to fall behind the Reds 3-2. That ended up being the final score. It was a big loss for the Red Sox.

Cincinnati won game 3 so the Red Sox were down 2 games to 1. Tiant wasn’t as effective in game 4 as game 1. He was helped by a 5-run rally in the top of the 4th. Again, Tiant helped himself. Now Tiant was never a good hitter, even for a pitcher. However, in the inning he singled and scored the fifth run of the inning to give the Red Sox a 5-2 lead. He then gave up 2 runs in the bottom of the 4th to make the score 5-4. Somehow without his best stuff he stranded 6 runners in the last 5 innings and won the game 5-4 to tie the series. It was a gutsy performance as he threw 163 pitches.

Then came game 5. Don Zimmer decided to start Reggie Cleveland who didn’t really have a great year in game 5 instead of Bill Lee who pitched very well in game 2. Was he giving Lee extra rest for game 6 before Tiant in game seven? If so, we will never know. Cleveland didn’t have a good start. The Red Sox lost and were again down in the series.

However, what happened next is that it kept raining in Boston. Instead of Saturday game 6 was going to be played on Tuesday. Zimmer decided to go with his ace Tiant. However, Bill Lee said and I agree since the Red Sox had to win two games, Lee should have pitched game 6 and Tiant game 7. That way Lee would have been more on his schedule 6 days’ rest, and it would give Tiant extra rest after throwing 163 pitches. Maybe Zimmer was hoping for another four days of rain after game 6.

Tiant pitched the first two inning fine. However, he started to allow base runners after that. In the fifth the Reds scored three runs to tie the game at 3. In the sixth they wasted two singles. Again, it looked like Tiant was surviving. However, he wasn’t even as good as he was in game 4. The Reds took advantage with two runs in the top of the 7th. Cesar Geronimo Homered off Tiant to lead off the 8th and the Reds led 6-3. Amazingly enough the Red Sox came back with 3 runs in the eighth to tie and won it on a Carlton Fisk homerun in the 11th to win the game 7-6.

However, despite the Red Sox jumping to a 3-0 lead in game 7 Bill Lee in the sixth inning threw one too many blooper pitch to Tony Perez. Perez hit this one for a long homerun to make the score 3-2. The Reds later scored two more runs by putting some hits together in the seventh and eighth to win the game and World Series 4-3. It was as close as Tiant came to winning a World Series. However, he makes my Hall of Fame, whatever that is worth to him.

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