Twenty-five years ago today, the entire National League and all but four American League teams took the day off to commemorate the birth of future YFSF co-moderator Paul-SF.
I had plans to recap the game from my birthday — a look at the state of the Red Sox on July 22, 1982. Of course, they — and most everyone else — didn’t play. The Yankees played, and beat the Rangers, and the White Sox beat the Blue Jays, but that’s it. So instead, let’s take a trip in our time machine to the next day — July 23, 1982, when I was a mere 40 or so hours old at game time.
At the time, the Red Sox had the second-best record in baseball, sitting a half-game behind the Brewers in the AL East, and were set to open a series against the hapless (.337 winning percentage) Minnesota Twins.
Twenty-four-year-old Bruce Hurst, in what amounted to his first full season in the big leagues, started for the Sox against Bobby Castillo, a largely forgotten right-handed long man/spot starter who was two years removed from an excellent season in relief for the Dodgers and had won a ring with them in 1981.
Castillo was in the midst of one of the better of his nine seasons in the game. He started 25 of his 40 games in 1982 and completed six of them, finishing 13-11 with a 3.66 ERA (16 percent better than average). Hurst, still four years from his breakout season of 1986, was in the midst of the worst season he would have until 1993. The lefty finished with a 5.77 ERA in 19 starts.
The Red Sox were a team in transition — the team of the late 1970s that had broken so many hearts was aging. New blood like Hurst, rookie Wade Boggs and Rich Gedman would form the nucleus of the Sox’ pennant- and division-winning clubs of the late 1980s.
Even so, 1982 was looking like a good year — a last sendoff, perhaps, for designated hitter Carl Yastrzemski, a year away from retirement. Jim Rice and Dwight Evans were in their primes, providing Hall of Fame-worthy production from the corners, Boggs was Boggs, and even Yaz was hitting over .310 and leading the team in OPS.
The Sox rode an eight-game winning streak (and a 13-of-14 stretch) into first place on April 26. The team flip-flopped with the Brewers for most of May, then over a 16-game stretch in June, the team took control of first, grew the lead to five games, then lost it and fell back into a tie.
On July 10, the Red Sox won the first matchup of these two starters, 5-4. Hurst was serviceable, giving up four runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings, while Castillo went one inning longer and gave up one more run. A fifth-inning Evans home run provided the margin of victory.
The Sox traveled to the Metrodome having won a three-game series from the Rangers, splitting a July 21 double-header. The Twins, meanwhile, were in the midst of a homestand in which they had lost three of four to Detroit and won two of three from first-place Milwaukee. The Twins were in the middle of an awful season, finishing with 102 losses, 33 games out of first, thanks largely to a 3-26 record in May.
Castillo was the Twins’ ace, finishing with the team lead in wins, ERA and innings, and he pitched like it on July 23.
For two-and-a-half innings, the pitchers matched zeros — Castillo working out of a jam in the first when Jerry Remy led off with a single and Evans followed with a walk. Rice advanced the runners with a groundout, but Castillo struck out Yastrzemski and Carney Lansford. Likewise, Hurst wasted a two-out Tom Brunansky double in the bottom half. Both sides went quietly in the second.
The Sox stranded Evans in the third, and Hurst fell apart, with an assist from the Sox’ defense. No. 9 hitter John Castino led off with a walk, then Dave Engel tripled him home and scored on a wild pitch. Jesus Vega then singled and moved to third on a Brunansky double. After Kent Hrbek lined out and Gary Ward was intentionally walked in hopes of the double play, Gary Gaetti lifted a fly ball to right for the second out. Vega beat Evans’ throw, which Gedman mishandled, allowing Brunansky to score and Ward to move to third. Tim Laudner followed with an RBI double, and Mickey Hatcher drove him home with a single, advancing on the throw.
Hurst was done after just 2.2 innings. Six runs were home, another was on base. He’d given up six hits and three walks. Tom Burgmeier came on in relief and as no better, lucking into an out when Evans threw out Hatcher trying to score on Castino’s single.
The Red Sox made no moves to return the favor, going down in order in the fourth and fifth, with Burgmeier managing in the fourth what Hurst could not — retiring the Twins in order. Unfortunately, Burgmeier ran out of gas in the fifth, giving up two singles and a double sandwiched around a flyout to score one run, then inducing a sac fly to score another.
The Sox finally answered in each of the next three innings against Castillo and his replacement, John Pacella. Evans singled with one out in the sixth, and Rice moving him to third with a double. Yastrzemski managed a sacrifice fly, but Lansford fouled out. In the seventh, the Sox had their best chance, loading the bases with no outs on a Boggs walk, a Gedman grounder booted for an error and a Glen Hoffman single. But Rick Miller grounded into a run-scoring double play, killing the potential for a huge rally. Remy followed with a single to score Gedman and knock Castillo from the game, but Evans ended it with a flyout.
Castillo finished an excellent day, turning in 6.1 innings og work with just one earned run. He relied on his defense, walking two and striking out two. In the end, he turned in a quality start, which was all the Twins needed.
In the eighth, Yastrzemski doubled off Pacella, advanced on a Lansford flyout, and scored on Boggs’ single, cutting the deficit to 8-4. The Sox looked for more, as Boggs advanced on a passed ball and Gedman walked. But Minnesota Ron Davis came in and struck out pinch hitter Tony Perez. A final ninth-inning attempt — a leadoff Rick Miller double with Remy, Evans and Rice upcoming — went nowhere.
The Red Sox ultimately lost two out of three to the Twins and continued to wrestle with the Brewers for the East lead for the next week. Starting July 30, however, the Sox lost 11 of 15 and fell 5.5 back. By the end of August, they were more than six out. On Sept. 27, the Red Sox were officially eliminated, losing 10-3 to the Yankees and falling 7.5 back with six to play. After bating the White Sox on July 29 and taking a half-game lead in the East with a 58-41 record, Boston went 31-32, ending the season 89-73, in third place, six games out of first and five games out of second.
In retrospect, the 1982 club were overachievers, outperforming their Pythagorean record, and hanging around first despite being sixth in runs per game and a mediocre ninth in ERA. On offense, Evans was the team’s star, leading the league with his .402 on-base percentage and finishing second in walks and runs created, third in OPS and runs and fourth in total bases. He also was one of just three to play in all 162 games. But Rice had a relatively bad year, and the filler at the end of the lineup was debilitating. Remy, the team’s leadoff hitter, led the league in outs made.
On pitching, Bob Stanley (a reliever but with more innings than starters Hurst, Bob Ojeda or Chuck Rainey) was among the leaders in ERA, and Dennis Eckerlsey and John Tudor were solid. But there was no ace — he was still two years away — and four pitchers given at least 14 starts finished with ERAs over 5.00. Once again, the Sox didn’t have the pitching to succeed in August and September.