August 7, 1966: Yaz’s moment of pinch-hit glory

This article was written by Kurt Blumenau

Carl Yastrzemski (TRADING CARD DB)A breakdown of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski’s 452 career home runs makes for interesting reading. The former Red Sox captain hit 237 homers at Fenway Park and 215 on the road. He hit 65 four-baggers against the Tigers, more than any against other team. He hit 266 homers before the All-Star break, 91 in the month of June, 76 against left-handed pitchers, and 46 as a designated hitter.1

And in his distinguished 23-season career, he hit precisely one pinch-hit home run.2

It’s not surprising that Yastrzemski hit only one pinch-homer. If he were healthy enough to play, he was probably in the starting lineup. Still, it’s always of interest to find an event that happened only once over the course of a long career. To go back to Yastrzemski’s shining moment in the pinch, you have to revisit the dramatic second game of a doubleheader played in Detroit on August 7, 1966.

The American League pennant battle was effectively a one-horse race. At the start of play on August 7, the Baltimore Orioles led second-place Detroit by 12 games and third-place Cleveland by 13½. The Red Sox sat in 10th and last place, 26½ games out.

With Boston floundering, Red Sox manager Billy Herman had only about a month left on the job. He was fired on September 9 and replaced by coach Pete Runnels for the rest of the season.3 For Detroit, turnover in the manager’s chair was a sad constant in 1966. Chuck Dressen started the season as the Tigers’ skipper, but was forced into the hospital by a heart attack on May 16 and never returned to the team.4 Coach Bob Swift succeeded Dressen, only to be hospitalized himself on July 14. Swift’s first diagnosis was acute gastroenteritis5 but he was subsequently found to have lung cancer, and he too did not return.6 Another Detroit coach, Frank Skaff, served as the Tigers’ interim manager the rest of the season.

Yastrzemski was in the lineup, playing left field, for the first game of that day’s doubleheader. He went 0-for-3 with a walk. Detroit jumped to an 8-0 lead after three innings in front of 24,051 home fans and cruised to a 9-2 victory, with former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette getting the win.

Herman changed up his lineup for the second game, giving former Tiger George Thomas the start in left field to rest Yastrzemski7 and putting Don Demeter in center field in place of José Tartabull. On the mound for Boston was rookie righty Darrell “Bucky” Brandon, with a 3-5 record and a 3.54 ERA. Getting the nod for Detroit was lefty Mickey Lolich, not yet the world-beater who would win 25 games in 1971. Going into the August 7 game, Lolich was 10-8 with a 4.34 ERA. Other than the starting pitcher, Skaff did not alter his lineup for the second game.

The first three innings passed quietly. The Red Sox went down in order, and the Tigers mustered a single and a walk but stranded both men at first. Boston got on the board in the top of the fourth, as third baseman Joe Foy tripled and Demeter drove him in with a sacrifice fly to Al Kaline in center for a 1-0 lead.

In the fifth, the Red Sox capitalized on Lolich’s mistakes for two more runs, starting when shortstop Rico Petrocelli drew a one-out walk. Lolich tried to pick him off but threw wildly, sending Petrocelli to third. Thomas singled in Petrocelli, and Bob Tillman followed with another single to send Thomas to third. Lolich caught Thomas off third base for a rundown — but third-base umpire Hank Soar called a balk, allowing Thomas to score and sending Tillman to second, making it 3-0. The Red Sox could not capitalize further, as Brandon struck out and second baseman Eddie Kasko grounded out.8

The Tigers posed their first serious threat in the sixth, when pinch-hitter Dick McAuliffe singled and second baseman Dick Tracewski walked. But Brandon rebounded against two of Detroit’s toughest hitters, getting first baseman Norm Cash to fly out to right field and Kaline to ground to first base. Through six innings, Detroit managed only two hits and two walks.

Boston tacked on another run in the seventh off reliever Dave Wickersham. Again, a one-out walk to Petrocelli lit the fuse. Thomas singled him to second and Wickersham wild-pitched both runners up a base. Tillman was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Brandon struck out. Kasko drew a bases-loaded walk to send Petrocelli home for a 4-0 lead. Larry Sherry relieved Wickersham and got Foy to line out to end the inning.

Herman made some outfield switches to start the seventh, sending Tartabull into center field and native Detroiter Lenny Green into left.9 None of this mattered to Tigers left fielder Willie Horton, who put the ball into the left-field seats to make the score 4-1. One out later, Brandon gave up a single to catcher Orlando McFarlane and a walk to pinch-hitter Jerry Lumpe, and was replaced by Don McMahon.

McMahon had lost to the Tigers three times so far in 1966,10 and he had no more luck in this appearance. McAuliffe grounded out to send McFarlane to third and Lumpe to second. Don Wert walked to load the bases and Jake Wood, pinch-hitting for Tracewski, singled in McFarlane and Lumpe to make it 4-3. Cash hit another single to right, driving in Wert to tie the game. Kaline walked, reloading the bases, a call McMahon argued vehemently; Herman then replaced him with John Wyatt. Horton, who led off the inning with a homer, flared a two-run single to make it 6-4 before Wyatt finally got the third out.11

After a quiet eighth inning, the Red Sox came up for their last at-bat in the top of the ninth, with Fred Gladding on the mound for Detroit.12 Boston caught a break at this point. The teams had agreed not to start any inning of the game after 6:15 P.M. so the Red Sox could catch a plane back to Boston. If this agreement had held, the game would have been stopped after eight innings with a 6-4 Detroit lead, with the ninth inning completed in Boston the following week. But the plane reached Detroit an hour late. With travel time no longer an issue, Skaff and Herman agreed to let play continue for another hour.13

Petrocelli led off the Boston ninth with a strikeout, but Green followed with a single. Herman tapped Yastrzemski to pinch-hit for catcher Tillman, and he came through with a two-run homer to left-center field, his 11th of the year. It tied the game, 6-6. Gladding retired the next two batters, and Detroit could get nothing started in the bottom half, sending the game to extra innings. Yastrzemski did not remain in the game after his pinch-hit appearance; Mike Ryan took over for Tillman behind the plate.

In the top of the 10th, Foy homered down the left-field line off new Detroit pitcher Orlando Peña

to make it 7-6. Right fielder Tony Conigliaro reached second base with two out but the Red Sox could not drive him in to pad their lead.14 A Detroit Free Press sportswriter pointed out the next day that neither Yastrzemski’s nor Foy’s home runs would have been four-baggers at Fenway Park, with its 37-foot-high “Green Monster” in left field.15

With Boston’s fourth pitcher, Dan Osinski, on the mound, the bottom of the 10th began unpromisingly. Horton and right fielder Jim Northrup hit back-to-back singles, putting runners on first and second with none out. McFarlane tried to bunt them along, but popped up the ball along the third-base line. Catcher Ryan made a sensational diving catch — described by third-base umpire Soar as “out of this world”16 — and fired to Petrocelli to retire Horton for a double play.

The Tigers were not done, as Lumpe singled Northrup to third. Out of the Red Sox bullpen came an unusual reliever — Jim Lonborg, who had started the first game of the doubleheader but recorded only one out. Throwing just two pitches, Lonborg got McAuliffe to ground to Petrocelli, who forced Lumpe at second to end the game.17

Osinski got the win, his second of the year, while Peña took his first loss of the year. While saves were not an official statistic until 1969, Lonborg was retroactively credited with the save — the first of only four he earned during a 15-year career.18

The split doubleheader allowed the Tigers to pick up a half-game on Baltimore19 — though it didn’t matter much in the long run, as the Orioles finished the year nine games ahead of Minnesota and 10 ahead of the Tigers. Detroit’s on-field performance was also overshadowed by news that former manager Dressen was admitted to a local hospital that day in grave condition with a kidney infection and fever.20 He died on August 10.



In addition to the specific sources cited in the Notes, I used the and websites for general player, team and season data and the box scores for this game:



1 The author’s source for this breakdown is page 257 of the 1998 Boston Red Sox media guide. As of September 2020, a copy of this media guide was available online via the Internet Archive.

2 For the record, Yaz was 8-for-52 (.154) lifetime as a pinch-hitter, with one homer and six RBIs.

3 Bob Sales, “Herman Fired as Sox Pilot,” Boston Globe, September 10, 1966: 1.

4 United Press International, “Chuck Dressen Idled for Second Time by Possible Heart Attack,” Lebanon (Pennsylvania) Daily News, May 17, 1966: 17.

5 Jim Elliot, “Frank Skaff Tiger Pilot,” Baltimore Sun, July 15, 1966: C1.

6 Associated Press, “Bob Swift Dies of Lung Cancer,” Syracuse Post-Standard, October 18, 1966: 21.

7 Roger Birtwell, “Tartabull, Demeter to Play,” Boston Globe, August 8, 1966: 21. This article noted that Yastrzemski had appeared in all 114 of the team’s games thus far in 1966. He went on to play in 160 of the team’s 162 games.

8 Roger Birtwell, “Ryan’s Catch Astounds Soar,” Boston Globe, August 8, 1966: 21.

9 The Boston Globe reported that Thomas was ejected for arguing with first-base umpire Cal Drummond. Retrosheet’s roundup does not mention this. Bob Sales, “Late Yaz, Foy HRs Enable Sox to Split,” Boston Globe, August 8, 1966: 17.

10 George Cantor, “Late Plane Costs Tigers Twinbill Over Red Sox,” Detroit Free Press, August 8, 1966: 1D.

11 Sales, “Late Yaz, Foy HRs Enable Sox to Split.”

12 Gladding brought a 4-0 record and a 3.42 ERA into the game.

13 Cantor.

14 Sales, “Late Yaz, Foy HRs Enable Sox to Split.”

15 Cantor.

16 Birtwell, “Ryan’s Catch Astounds Soar.”

17 Birtwell, “Ryan’s Catch Astounds Soar.”

18 He is credited with two saves with the 1966 Red Sox, one with the 1972 Milwaukee Brewers, and one with the 1976 Philadelphia Phillies.

19 Cantor.

20 Bob Sales, “Dressen Taken to Hospital in Grave Condition,” Boston Globe, August 8, 1966: 18.

Additional Stats

Boston Red Sox 7
Detroit Tigers 6

Tiger Stadium
Detroit, MI


Box Score + PBP

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1960s ·