2018 World Series Evokes Home Run Memories from Yesteryear
In the annals of the World Series, countless games have been recorded as remarkable in the MLB record books. I’ve watched every Fall Classic since 1969, when the upstart N.Y. Mets upset the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in five games. But the World Series that brought baseball to a whole new level of fandom for me was the ‘75 battle between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, a.k.a. the “Big Red Machine.” It had all the makings of a classic with Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Fred Lynn and Carlton Fisk squaring off against Cincy’s stacked lineup that included Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and George Foster.
The best-of-seven series ran its full course of games with each one producing yet another memorable moment. But for history’s sake, it was one swing of the bat in Game 6 on October 21, 1975, that people still talk about today. Fisk, Boston’s catcher, strode to the plate to start the bottom half of the 12th inning with the score tied at 6. He faced the Reds’ eighth pitcher of the night, Pat Darcy. On Darcy’s second offering, Fisk lofted a towering fly ball headed toward the left field foul pole. As Fisk danced toward first base, emphatically gesturing the ball fair, it careened off the yellow foul pole and ricocheted downward where it landed in Foster’s glove. The Red Sox won.
Dejected, the left fielder transferred the ball into his right hand and walked off the field, maneuvering around celebratory fans and Red Sox players mobbing Fisk at home plate. Without giving it much thought, Foster put his glove – with the baseball still inside it – in his duffel bag and stuffed it in his locker. After the Reds won the series the following night, he took his gear home with him. He considered the baseball a souvenir from a great World Series, and certainly not an investment in his future. The ball remained in his possession for nearly 25 years, eventually taking up space in a trophy case in his home. But after seeing that the infamous Mookie Wilson/Bill Buckner baseball from Game 6 of the ’86 World Series sold at auction in 1992 for $93,000, Foster pondered the idea of selling it. In 1999, he did just that and the ball sold for $113,272. While today’s extensive authentication practices were not in place in 1975, the ball’s provenance was never in question. A notarized letter signed by Foster attesting to the ball’s authenticity helped alleviate collectors’ doubts in ’99. Fifteen years later, the original winning bidder put it back up for auction and it sold for $142,200. Given that the Red Sox are now competing in their fourth World Series in 15 years, speculation abounds as to what the Fisk ball might be worth in today’s scorching marketplace.
“Fisk’s home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series still stands as one of the most iconic moments in World Series history,” said Dan Imler, vice president of SCP Auctions. “Only the Fall Classic could generate such drama and emotion. Few artifacts embody the magic of the game more than this baseball. I would estimate it would sell in the range of $300,000 to $400,000 today.” Full disclosure, Imler, like the author, is a Red Sox fan.
It just so happens that another headline grabbing home run ball hit in another memorable World Series, this one connected to the other team playing this week, would be a fantastic MLB artifact to bring to auction. The baseball that Dodgers left fielder Kirk Gibson hit in a pinch-hit role to win Game 1 of the ’88 Fall Classic in walk-off fashion would undoubtedly fetch big bucks. But there’s a catch: its whereabouts are unknown. Unlike the Fisk ball, which Foster himself caught off the foul pole rebound, the Gibson ball landed in the right field bleachers at Dodger Stadium and for all intents and purposes, has never been seen again. But if it ever does surface, what a pay day it would bring!