(Editor’s note: As regular readers of RN will know, John is our correspondent from Afghanistan. This piece was written by John, and originally published in The Zephyr, a weekly newspaper in Galesburg, Illinois.)
It was 12:34 in the morning at Fenway Park in Boston when Pat Darcy took the mound to enter his third inning of work. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, which had been delayed for three days because of rain in New England, had started four hours earlier between Darcy’s Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox.
Darcy had faced six Red Sox batters in the 10th and 11th innings and retired them all. The Reds and Boston were tied 6-6 in the 12th inning. Pat Darcy was the eighth Cincinnati pitcher that Sparky Anderson had used that night. Aside from Darcy, he had only two left. Don Gullett was being held for Game 7 if the Reds, who were leading the Series 3-2, were to lose. The only other pitcher left besides Darcy in the razor-thin Reds bullpen was Clay Kirby.
Pat Darcy was a 25-year old rookie pitcher during that 1975 season. He’d had a good year; an 11-5 record, a 3.38 earned run average and Sparky had used him primarily as a starter (22 starts) and long relief pitcher. That’s worth about $4 million a year by today’s standards. But Darcy pulled in $17,500 in 1975.
Darcy was always ready and there was always work with Sparky. Lots of work. After Gullett’s thumb was broken by a line drive in June and the Reds nursing a 3 and ½ game lead over the Dodgers in the National League Western Division, Sparky bragged to a close friend that his genius would really be seen by one and all now. It was. Sparky’s extensive use of the bullpen changed the landscape of baseball.
Anderson’s answer to young Don Gullett’s injury was to swarm the mound with relievers, pulling starters at the first sign of weakness. The Reds disowned complete games. Fresh arms ruled. In fact, it was Pat Darcy who stopped a consecutive streak of 54 incomplete games when he went the distance against the San Francisco Giants in August.
The Big Red Machine kicked into high gear. Another brainstorm idea by Sparky—moving Pete Rose to third base and inserting George Foster’s Black Betsy bat into leftfield—powered the Reds to winning 41 out of 50 games. And when Young Don Gullett came back from that thumb injury, the Reds led their Division by a staggering 20 games. Gullett got in shape for the postseason. Pat Darcy was in the middle of all of that, pitching 130 innings that year. He was a power pitcher, fastball and hard sinker. He was the #5 starter behind Gullett, Jack Billingham, Gary Nolan, and Fred Norman.
Darcy hadn’t pitched much in the postseason. He sat in the bullpen during the Reds’ three game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched two innings in Game 3 of the World Series in relief of starter Gary Nolan and gave up a run. And through the first two innings of work against Boston, he had thrown 28 pitches.
Carlton Fisk stepped to the plate to open the bottom of the 12th inning of a game that had seen the Reds fall behind 3-0, rout Luis Tiant with six unanswered runs, give up the lead when Bernie Carbo hit a dramatic three-run pinch hit home run that tied the game in the 8th inning, escape a bases loaded, no out jam in the 9th, get robbed of a run in the 11th when Dwight Evans made an epic catch in rightfield and Captain Hook —- Sparky Anderson — at his best. He had set a World Series record for most pitchers used in one game. Aside from one errant pitch by Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III to Carbo in that 8th inning, the Reds bullpen had been nearly perfect.
It was already a classic game in a classic World Series. The Nation was riveted. Fenway Park was rocking. Cincinnati wanted to celebrate a World Series Championship. Boston wanted to survive. Both teams were emotionally spent.
It was October 12, 1975. Pete Rose flipped the baseball to Pat Darcy. “Great game isn’t it?” Rose said to his pitcher. “I’d even pay to see this game.”
Carlton Fisk stepped up to the plate.
Six years earlier, Pat Darcy had been signed by the Houston Astros. As a minor leaguer, Darcy had struggled because of arm problems. A native of Troy, Ohio, Darcy had lightning strike when the Astros traded him in 1974 to Cincinnati for Denis Menke, a no-hit, slick fielding third baseman who never panned out with the Reds. “The trade was a shock,” said Darcy. “I grew up in the Houston organization and knew a lot of their players, like Greg Gross and J.R. Richard. I was on their forty man roster. Then [General Manager] Spec Richardson called and said I was traded to Cincinnati five days from spring training ended. I said, ‘Cincinnati?’ I couldn’t believe it.”
“Bob Howsam, the Reds General Manager, called and told me about the rules, especially about the haircuts. I knew about that because at Denver, I had pitched against Indianapolis a lot. So when I reported to the Reds, I went up to Sparky and said I knew the rules and got a haircut. He said, ‘Fine kid, but get another haircut.’ It wasn’t short enough for Sparky.”
“I didn’t know anybody on the roster but the culture at Cincinnati was so much different than Houston. Larry Shepard was the Reds pitching coach and he came up to me and said, “We don’t lose 2-1 and 3-2 games here. We just don’t do it.’”
All of a sudden, Darcy was on the fast track. He pitched well enough at Triple A Indianapolis to make that League’s All-Star Game and he got called up by the Reds. He made his major league debut with the Reds on September 27, 1974. against Atlanta, pitching 7 innings and allowing just two runs in a 6-2 Cincinnati win. “The first batter I faced was Roland Office,” said Darcy, “and I got a base hit my second time up off Lew Krause. I was on base when Johnny Bench hit a grand slam homer.”
Darcy came to spring training in 1975 ready to win a spot on the roster. Teams carried just 10 pitchers in those days and only one spot was open. “Turned out I was the guy,” said Darcy. “I made the team.”
In relief, Darcy was the winning pitcher on Opening Day against the Dodgers when then bench-player George Foster legged out an infield single. But he lost four straight games and was sitting with a 1-4 record in June. “I was afraid of getting sent down to Triple A again.”
But Darcy went on a roll, winning his last five starts. The Reds won 108 games and swept Pittsburgh in three games. “I was supposed to be the starter for Game Four but I wasn’t needed,” said the former Reds righthander.
Darcy came in for relief against Boston during Game 3 after Gary Nolan’s shoulder tightened up, allowing a run in two innings of work. He wasn’t called in again until that fateful Game 6. “I thought the game was over when we led 6-3 in the 8th inning. Then came the Carbo home run and it was like, ‘I’d better get ready’ and then the phone rang and me and McEnaney got up to warm up. Amazing. I thought we had it wrapped up, that we were going to be World Champions. The next thing I knew, I was warming up.”
Pat came in and the first hitter he faced was Evans who slapped a hard grounder up the middle. Darcy deflected it and threw him out at first. “I made a nice play on that, I made a sidearm throw to Tony Perez. I had always dreamed of making a good play in a World Series game. After Pete threw me the ball back, Joe Morgan came up and said, ‘That’s a World Series highlight play right there.’ Then Carbo came up and the crowd was roaring and I struck him out.”
Darcy retired the side again in the 11th inning. “I threw 28 pitches in those two innings and hadn’t worked for quite a while. I could tell I was losing some zip on my fastball. I was never a finesse pitcher. 75 percent of what I threw were fastballs and the rest were sliders. I was aggressive on the mound.”
That’s when Fisk strode to the plate.
In 132 innings of work in 1975, Pat Darcy had only allowed just four home runs— two of them in his first four innings of the season, an average of one per 33 innings. “The first two were to Jimmie Wynn and Cesar Cedeno. The other two were to Steve Garvey and Dusty Baker.”
And after having used eight pitchers, Captain Hook was sticking with Darcy. He was going to go deep into the extra inning game. “I was supposed to lead off in the 13th and Larry Shepherd told me I would be hitting,” said Darcy. “On the mound, I had already made up my mind, no walks. I was going to be aggressive and make them hit the ball.”
Bench called for a fastball. Darcy threw two different kinds, a two seamer and a four seamer. He missed outside. Bench then called for a sinker. “I threw it low and in,” said Darcy.
Fisk hit Darcy’s pitch deep into leftfield. “It was more arcing than a cannon shot,” Darcy said. “I thought it was going foul. It hovered for a while.”
The ball hit off the foul pole, Fenway Park erupted and the Series was tied 3-3. “Johnny Bench said after the game that there were only two bad pitches made in the game. One was by Gary Nolan that Lynn hit for a home run and the other was the one Eastwick threw to Carbo. That made me feel better.”
Darcy wasn’t devastated by the loss. “All the guys came up to me after the game and told me to shake it off. Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham, Pete, everybody. Sparky told me to be ready to go the next night, that he might need me. Pete told me to shake it off, that we would be all right.”
Billingham added, “Shit happens.”
“I slept good that night back at the hotel. I thought back to the play I made on Evans and what a great play that was. It was always a dream of mine to make a play like that in the World Series and I did. I was good with that. That’s what I thought about, not the home run.”
Young Don Gullett was wild in Game 7. Boston took a 3-0 lead and Sparky went back to the bullpen again. A two-run homer by Perez that landed somewhere on Landsdown Street got the Reds back in the game. Rose drove in the tying run, Morgan the winning run. Darcy’s roommate, Will McEnaney retired the Sox 1-2-3 in the 9th inning to get the save. “When you look back, that was pretty impressive,” said Darcy. “We won it on the road in front of a hostile crowd and came from behind to do it. The Reds had lost to Baltimore in the Series in 1970 and Oakland in 1972. There was a lot of pressure on the Reds to win it that year.”
Darcy was out of baseball three years later. A shoulder injury he suffered in 1973 eventually took its toll. “It bothered me off and on and would clamp up at times. I just never got over it.”
Out of baseball, Darcy went back to school. “It was hard to go back because I was thirty years old. But I got my bachelors degree in three and a half years and it’s all worked out for me.” Darcy now works in commercial real estate and banking in Tucson.
He doesn’t have any regrets. “I kind of wish my role as a pitcher would have been better identified with the Reds, either as a starter or reliever and I kind of wished I had gotten an agent but the Reds didn’t like dealing with agents at all.”
Still, Pat Darcy had a year in 1975 that most pitchers would kill for.
He was the winning pitcher on Opening Day, won 11 games during the season, played with the Big Red Machine, has a World Series ring and will be forever enshrined in baseball history for the events that happened on October 12, 1975. Fisk’s home run is solidly entrenched in baseball history. So is the 1975 World Series.
Pat Darcy doesn’t shy away from the home run. Other pitchers would. Other pitchers have. Not Pat Darcy.
He’s a member of The Big Red Machine.
Pat Darcy on the baseball, JB and his favorite Sparky Anderson story
Pat Darcy and I met at a restaurant on 22nd and Kolb Avenue in Tucson. Everyone asks him about The Home Run. But we also talked at length about what it was like pitching in the World Series, how baseball has changed and about the colorful personalities on the Big Red Machine.
“I still get fan mail and asked for interviews, especially around the time of the World Series,” Darcy said. “I still watch baseball and stay involved in the game. I’ve coached Little League and I really enjoy it. I never had a good change up until I was teaching kids how to throw it. It’s better now than when I pitched.”
“I’ve watched replays of Game 6 on the MLB network. I don’t shy away from what happened. I just wasn’t going to walk anybody. I wasn’t going to get beat on a single. Pitching on the road in an extra inning game, you know if you’re tied you need to get six outs and I was going to be out there for a while.”
When the Red Sox replaced the foul pole with a new one, they kept the one Fisk hit the ball off of and have it mounted in their Hall of Fame.
And the baseball?
“George Foster picked it up and put it in his pocket,” said Darcy, “and then sold it a few years later.”
His best game: “Probably Atlanta during the 1975 season. I was pitching real good but I walked a guy in the 8th inning and Sparky took me out.”
Favorite Sparky Anderson story: “I was pitching against the Cubs. I was getting hammered but I still had some good stuff and we were in the game. Sparky came out to the mound and was walking, which meant he was taking me out. We weren’t supposed to say anything to him when he came to take us out of the game, none of the pitchers were. But he came out to the mound and I said, ‘I still feel good’ and Sparky just looked at me and said, “You’ll feel better in the shower.”
On the Reds Rules: “Sparky called Will McEnaney and me in his office at the end of spring training. We were roommates. He told us to behave. He reminded us to get haircuts and about the dress code. He reminded us about curfew. He didn’t call for us out of the bullpen for a few weeks and we both felt like we may get sent back to Indianapolis. Merv Rettenmund would call our room and imitate Sparky from time to time. So one night we went out, got some beer and some pizza and went back to the room and the phone rang and we thought it was Rettenmund. McEnaney picked it up but it was Sparky. McEnaney said some things, he threw the phone at me and all I could hear was Sparky yelling, “Patrick! Patrick!”
On lifting weights back in the day: “Nautilus bought a complete weight set and machines for the Reds during spring training in 1975. No one used them except for one or two guys that were reserve players. So we won the World Series and Nautilus came out with ads saying the champion Reds lifted their weights and used their machines. No one used them, not Bench or Rose or Perez, anyone.”
Toughest hitter he faced: “Slap hitters who went the other way. Guys like Dave Cash and Larry Bowa.”
On being on the cover of the New York Times: “At the hotel in Boston the day after Game 6, Sparky called me over to talk to me and a guy asked for a picture. Sparky told me what he said the night before, that he might need me in Game 7. We were both in our suit and ties, which we had to wear on the road. That picture landed on the front page of the New York Times and the Washington Post. I’d like to have a copy of that.”
On the movie, Good Will Hunting: “It showed me circling the mound like I was worried before the pitch to Fisk. That’s not how it happened. I did that after my final warm up and I always circled around the mound and would walk around to face third base to get the ball from Pete. Then I just went to the mound and threw. There was no hesitation or me being worried because it was Fisk. That’s just Hollywood.”
On Johnny Bench: “He was solid. No one ran on him. He was quick behind the plate. We had no special pick off plays. All we were told as pitchers was to make the base runner off first come to a stop. Bench would take care of the rest.”
On Pete Rose: “Any other player who would go 3 for 3 and then make an out would be happy. Not Pete Rose. He would come back to the dugout mad at himself. He willed himself to be great. He didn’t have speed or power, teams today probably wouldn’t even have drafted him. He just had a burning desire to get hits and win baseball games. And I always liked that he talked to me from third base.”
On modern baseball teams being compared to the Big Red Machine: “I think we would match up pretty well today. Our starting lineup was incredible. Even guys like Cesar Geronimo, what an arm he had and he covered a lot of ground in centerfield. Our pitchers were underrated, especially Jack Billingham. We only had 10 pitchers but we all could pitch. We didn’t have a Tom Seaver or a Steve Carlton but we did all right. Gullett was a great pitcher but he was hurt a lot. Nolan was a great pitcher as well but he had arm problems. The game is different today, the training is different but I think we would match up pretty well.”
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.