SABR

Roger Moret

This article was written by Seamus Kearney.

Roger Moret (born Rogelio Moret Torres) streaked across the skies of Red Sox Nation during the early 1970s like a comet with a stutter step: often brilliant but sometimes wild. Although he possessed obvious talent, he had some difficulty in harnessing it. Once established with the Boston Red Sox in 1973, he alternated two excellent seasons with a mediocre one. Still, he was able to compile an admirable cumulative ERA (3.43) and a 41-18 record with the Red Sox, ranking him among the best pitchers of the decade for the Bostons. He led the American League in winning percentage in 1975 and just missed in 1973. Then he went away, traded first by the Red Sox then, slowly and tragically, leaving baseball and sliding into the dark morass of mental illness.

Moret's mound presence was that of a tall, slender – even spindly – left-hander with a whiplike motion and a speedy fastball, mixed in with a decent curve and a good changeup. Moret threw hard. He weighed 175 pounds but insisted he was taller than his listed 6-feet-4.1

Born in Guayama, Puerto Rico, on September 16, 1949, Moret signed with the Red Sox out of high school in 1968 for a reported $8,000 bonus, He spent his first season in the A-level minors with Waterloo (Midwest League) in 1968, compiling a 6-6 record, then improving to 12-6 in 1969 in 25 games with Winter Haven (Florida State League). His next three seasons alternated among the Red Sox and two levels of the minors, Pawtucket (Double-A, Eastern League) and Louisville (Triple-A, International League). His 49-33 record in the minors revealed characteristics he would demonstrate in the majors: fewer hits allowed than innings pitched (7.94 per nine innings), more walks than usual (5.49 per nine innings), and a decent winning percentage (.598).

In the major leagues Moret logged a .635 career winning percentage in nine seasons, with a 47-27 won-loss record with the Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, and Texas Rangers. In his three full years with the Red Sox (1973-1975), he fashioned a 36-15 mark. Moret's Fenway Park record of 18-7 was one of the best winning percentages ever for a Red Sox left-hander at home.

Moret made his first appearance with the Red Sox as a September call-up in 1970. He debuted in the major leagues on September 13 and pitched a perfect eighth inning in a 13-2 loss at Baltimore. In three games he posted a 1-0 record and an ERA of 3.24 in 8⅓ innings. He got his first major-league win on his 21st birthday, against the Yankees on September 16, as he pitched four innings of shutout ball in relief of Sonny Siebert.

For the Red Sox in 1971, Moret compiled a 4-3 record with a 2.92 ERA. He had two stretches with the team that year, before and after a productive season with Pawtucket (11-8, 3.15 ERA). Strangely, the first seven games he appeared in were losses for the Sox, including two losses for himself. He garnered his first 1971 win, a complete game, on August 28 against the Angels in Anaheim. He finished the year with a run of 4-1 including a shutout and four complete-game victories.

The 1972 campaign proved to be a forgettable one for Moret, who spent most of the season with Louisville. He made the parent club after spring training but left for Louisville when he pitched ineffectively in three games with the Red Sox, all losses. He didn't appear for the Red Sox the rest of the year and had a middling stint with Louisville (9-6 with a 4.54 ERA).

The 1973 season is when Moret’s stardom seemed assured. Starting the season in the bullpen, he earned a win against the Cleveland Indians on April 22. That was the first of 11 straight wins he reeled off – along with three saves – before finally losing to the Indians on September 16. He had good success against the Yankees on the way to a team-leading winning percentage of .867 during a 13-2 season. He beat the New Yorkers three times, including a Fourth of July 1-0 shutout at the tail end of a Red Sox doubleheader sweep at Yankee Stadium.

Moret could not follow the success he had enjoyed in 1973, finishing 1974 with a 9-10 record and a 3.74 ERA. In the regular starting rotation during July and August, he amassed a middling 6-5 record with a 3.54 ERA – but that included an 11-inning complete game win over the Yankees on July 29. The highlight of his '74 season was a near no-hitter win with 12 strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox on August 21. Dick Allen beat out an infield single in the seventh inning for the only hit of the game. The win increased Moret’s record at the time to 7-5. But after the near no-no, Moret finished the season on a 2-5 run.

Moret started 1975 in the bullpen picking up five wins and a save in relief and as a sometime starter before emerging as the fifth man in the rotation in late July. In fact, teammate Bill Lee said that the Red Sox really contended for the pennant when Moret entered the rotation. Moret's performance as a fifth starter gave the other starting pitchers extra rest and the Red Sox "started winning left and right," according to Lee.2

Moret had two stints in the regular, five-man rotation, in which he pitched admirably – and often brilliantly. In a stretch of four starts, July 20-July 31, he collected three wins with one loss. One of his wins was again against the Yankees and contributed to their demise as a pennant contender. Moret pitched the second game of a doubleheader shutout sweep against them in their temporary home at Shea Stadium on July 27. The sweep effectively established the Red Sox as the team to beat in the American League East.

In another period, from August 11 to September 15, Moret got six wins with two losses. In his September 6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, he benefited from 20 runs scored on 24 hits by the Red Sox, both American League season highs for the year. His 14-3 record at the end of the season put him atop the American League in winning percentage, at .824.

The low point of Moret's 1975 season proved to be his strange trip back from New York City on the early morning of a scheduled August start against the Orioles. He crashed his car into the rear end of a stalled truck on the highway. Somehow he avoided serious injury but did suffer cuts on his head that required a visit to a hospital.3 X-rays proved negative but the Red Sox would not allow him to pitch. In fact, the team was not pleased with either the incident or the publicity and took Moret to task about his behavior. The incident probably contributed to some doubt in the Red Sox front office about whether he could be a reliable member of the staff.

Moret saw little duty during the 1975 postseason, but the little he saw loomed important in the outcomes. He was the winning pitcher in the second game against the Oakland A's when he pitched one inning of scoreless relief in his only appearance during the Red Sox' three-game series sweep. He came into the game in the sixth inning with the score tied, a man on first, and no outs. He retired two batters, gave up a double and then induced the final out on a grounder to shortstop. The Red Sox went ahead in the bottom half, making Moret the pitcher of record.

In the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Moret saw a little more action, and again at crucial times. This time, he struggled. He pitched 1⅔ innings, faced 10 batters, and gave up two hits and three bases on balls with only one strikeout. Unfortunately, for Moret and the Red Sox, in Game Three he surrendered a game-winning hit to Joe Morgan in the 10th inning, which gave the Reds a 2-1 edge in the Series.

In Game Six, after starter Luis Tiant allowed a leadoff eighth-inning homer to Cesar Geronimo, Moret was brought in from the bullpen and set down the Reds 1-2-3. Cincinnati had a 6-3 lead. With two Red Sox on base in the bottom of the eighth, Bernie Carbo pinch-hit for Moret. He hit a game-tying home run into the center-field bleachers. Carlton Fisk's home run won the game in the 12th.

In the decisive Game Seven of the Series, Moret relieved Bill Lee in the seventh inning with one out and a man on first. He faced four batters, getting one, walking one and giving up a run-scoring single to Pete Rose that tied the game. After Moret walked Joe Morgan, Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson called on Jim Willoughby to retire Johnny Bench. The Reds scored a run a couple of innings later, winning the game and the Series in the ninth.

His season and the Series over, Roger Moret would not appear in a Red Sox uniform again.

Years later, in an interview with author Doug Hornig, Moret lamented that he didn't do well in the World Series. However, he said he was upset that he was passed over for a starting assignment in Game Three. Moret still considered it his game to start: "I was ready. I could've beaten that team."4

During the offseason, on December 12, the Red Sox traded Moret to the Atlanta Braves for Tom House. Moret's record far surpassed House's and from all measurable appearances it seemed like, and probably was, an uneven trade for the Red Sox. No single reason is known for the trade; it could be that he just fell out of favor with the team

His one season with the Braves began Moret’s slow slide from the major leagues. He pitched just 77⅓ innings and his ERA ballooned to 5.00. Appearing in 27 games, only 12 of them starts, he posted a 3-5 record. It was the first season in the majors in which Moret gave up more hits than innings pitched.

In another December offseason transaction, the Texas Rangers acquired Moret from the Braves on December 9. The Rangers got Moret and four others, plus $250,000, in exchange for power-hitting outfielder Jeff Burroughs. Moret appeared to be a throw-in as the Braves attempted to beef up their offensive attack.

The 1977 season proved to be a telling one for the slender left-hander. He was 28, in his prime, but his development did not show improvement. With the Rangers Moret logged a 3-3 record with another decent ERA of 3.73 (the league average was 4.06) in 18 games, only eight of them starts. Surgery to repair a circulation problem in his pitching arm limited his contribution to the Rangers that year.5

Moret's 1978 season was a disaster. He did little for the Rangers, though he earned his only save that year with another successful outing against the Yankees: four innings of relief in a 5-2 victory, as he gave up four hits and one earned run. But for the year he appeared in only seven games, pitching 14⅔ innings and surrendering 23 hits, for an 0-1 record.

However, the real story for Moret in 1978 was his hospitalization at a psychiatric facility after his bizarre behavior on April 12 at the Rangers’ Arlington Stadium. After some odd pregame behavior, Moret went into what was described as a catatonic state in front of his locker that reportedly lasted 90 minutes.6 His teammates first kidded with him but as time went on the gravity of his condition brought in the team's medical staff. Attempts to awaken him failed. The Rangers staff sedated him and dispatched him to the Arlington Neuropsychiatric Center. By April 25 Moret’s condition had improved and he was scheduled for release within a week.

His condition got better and he returned to the Rangers for several appearances in late May and the first half of June. His last appearance in the majors was a futile start against the Toronto Blue Jays at Arlington Stadium on June 16, 1978. He lasted 1⅔ innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs, and was the losing pitcher.

Moret made a couple of comeback attempts. He was invited to spring training in 1979 with the Rangers and in 1980 with Cleveland but never again pitched in the majors.7 In 1981-82 Moret played in the Mexican League. In 1981 he pitched for Torreon, posting a 9-4 (2.42 ERA) record. In 1982 he split the season between Aquascalientes and Monclova with a combined 4-13, 4.40 record.

Moret pitched for many years with the Santurce team in Puerto Rico until he was eligible for his major-league pension. He settled in Guayama, Puerto Rico, near two family members.8 SABR member Edwin Fernandez Cruz reported in July 2014 that Moret was enjoying retirement in his hometown and rode his bicycle to visit family and friends. Earlier in 2014, he visited Fenway Park and enjoyed a pregame free signing for fans at the ballpark's Autograph Alley.

Last revised: December 16, 2014

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited, the author relied on material provided by Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, TheBaseballCube.com, and BaseballLibrary.com.

 

Notes

1 Doug Hornig, The Boys of October (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2003), 211.

2 Hornig, 116.

3 New York Times, August 5, 1975, 33.

4 Hornig, 146.

5 New York Times, April 25, 1978, 33.

6 Ibid.

7 Leigh Grossman, The Red Sox Fan Handbook (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rounder Books, 2005), 197.

8 Hornig, 211.

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