High on the Field / Bernie Carbo

When the Pentagon liberalized their policy on gays in the military under ‘Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask’, President Clinton was excoriated by the right for homoficating the ranks, while sexual liberationists accused him of a sell-out. Two decades later President Obama favored scrapping his Democratic predecessor’s measure for a service-wide acceptance of gay military members. While I applaud the decision, I still hold onto my right to say ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, for in the early 170s I hung out at the 1270 Club on Boston’s Boylston Street. I will admit that I danced with other men, but I never developed as lisp or funny walk and if it wasn’t for my queer friend Bruce I would have never attended the 2nd game of the 1975 World Series.

Bruce exited from the disco at closing to discover young men thronging to the closed ticket booths of Fenway Park. He joined a queue and bought tickets. Bruce might have been as gay as a bouquet of daffodils, but he loved the Red Sox. Bernie Carbo was his favorite player. Mine was the right fielder Dwight Evans. He was a good friend and I think of him often, most recently when Bernie Carbo admitted to a newspaper reporter that he had been high of a wide assortment of drugs and drink for his famous at bat in the 2nd Greatest Baseball Game ever according to ESPN.

The 6th World Series game of 1975.

His 8th inning at bat ranks up there with Mookie Wilson’s 1986 heroics against the Red Sox. Bernie Carbo pinch-hit for the pitcher with the score 6-3 in favor of the visitors. He looked horrible against the Reds’ finisher Rawley Eastwick. His miraculous foul on the 2-2 pitch has been described as having “all the athletic grace of a suburbanite raking leaves.” The next pitch he homered to center field. Two men on. 3 RBIs. Tie game.

And I said, “Hey, I’m not going to hit. Juan Beníquez, grab a bat, you’re going to hit. Sparky’s going to go to the lefthander because Sparky goes by the book.” Darrell said, “Well, go up and stand on the on-deck circle.” And they introduced me. So I’m still thinking Sparky will come out and take Rawly Eastwick out and go with Will McEnaney. But the umpire says, “C’mon, you’ve been announced, you’re hitting.”

So I go into the batter’s box. I ain’t ready to hit. Next thing, strike one, strike two, ball one, ball two. Then he threw me a cut fastball, a little slider and I took it right out of Bench’s glove — the ball just dribbled out. I step out and I’m thinking, “Aw man, I almost struck out. I was lucky.”

I hit the next pitch to center field. I rounded first base and I saw César Gerónimo going back. Rounding second, I knew it was gone and I’m yelling to Pete Rose, “Don’t you wish you were this strong?” And Pete is yelling back, “Ain’t this fun, Bernie? This is what the World Series is about. This is fun.”

Johnny Bench said after the game it looked like a Little Leaguer learning how to hit. Pete Rose said it was the worst swing he ever saw. Don Zimmer said he thought it was over. Rico Petrocelli said it looked like a pitcher who hurt his arm, trying to make a comeback as a hitter.[1] No one remembers his at-bat. Carlton Fisk received all the glory, but I reveled in the memory of Carbo swatting down a killing pitch with a dead-down attack on the ball.

“I probably smoked two joints, drank about three or four beers, got to the ballpark, took some speed, took a pain pill, drank a cup of coffee, chewed some tobacco, had a cigarette, and got up to the plate and hit that home run.”

A prescription for victory. Bruce and I were on something very similar for the 2nd game. No chewing tobacco or cigarettes. Speed and reefer and beer and ludes.

Yes.

Bernie Carbo is born-again and rues his behavior during his baseball career, but I love his description of playing high.

“I played the out field sometimes where it looked like the stars were falling from the sky.”

And that is poetry.

One Comment

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