Luis Vs. Reggie
One of the supremely frustrating things about being a student and fan of ’70s baseball is how little surviving game footage is out there. Not that there was ever that much to go around in the first place; until Ted Turner came along, baseball’s owners were too worried about the effects that television would have on their immediate bottom line — i.e., Why would people pay to come to the ballpark if they could sit at home and watch the games for free? — to consider exploring the possibilities of broader regular-season promotion via the cathode ray.
In the pre-cable world, unless you had a local television station that broadcast games from your closest regional team on the weekends — I can still hear WDIV’s “Catch the Tigers at 4!” promo in my head to this day — you pretty much had to make do with NBC’s Monday Night Baseball (which ABC would pick up in ’76) and Game of the Week if you wanted to see the guys on your baseball cards come to life. Since “day baseball” wasn’t exclusively a Cubs concept back then, Game of the Week typically aired on Saturday afternoons, and would usually feature some of the better teams in action.
Which brings us to this short but delicious clip of Luis Tiant facing down Reggie Jackson during a July 22, 1972 contest at Fenway Park. The A’s, resplendent in their gold v-neck jerseys, green-and-gold caps, white pants, white shoes and mustaches, were on their way to their second-straight AL West title and their first of three straight World Series championships. The more conservatively-garbed Red Sox would go on to lose the AL East to Billy Martin’s newly resurgent Detroit Tigers by half a game — but they probably wouldn’t have made it nearly that close without El Tiante, whose 15-6 record and league-leading 1.91 ERA capped a remarkable personal comeback for a guy who’d gone 9-20 in 1969, and was widely considered washed-up by 1971.
Aside from his penchant for cigars and expensive toupees, El Tiante was most famous for his arsenal of picturesque windups, including one where he would turn all the way back to second base before spinning around to face the batter. We don’t get to see that particular windup here — probably because the speedy Bert Campaneris is on second — but it’s still a treat to see the crafty Cuban doing his glove-wiggling screwball boogaloo. It’s also a treat to see Fenway without any ads on the walls, and to watch even a snippet of a broadcast that isn’t overloaded with graphics, or where the commentators — in this case, Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek — don’t feel compelled to fill up every second with their commentary. There’s something really beautiful about just hearing the sweet summery murmur of the crowd as Tiant takes the sign from Bob Montgomery, checks Campy at second, and delivers. Those, as Lou Reed once sang, were different times.
1972 Oakland A’s at Boston Red Sox (Tiant vs. Reggie)
maxcareyhof — February 11, 2010 — A small clip of Reggie Jackson batting against Luis Tiant on Saturday, July 22, 1972. The A’s would go on to win this game by a score of 5-3. Reggie is ejected for arguing a called third strike. Commentators are the legendary “Game of the Week” announcers Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek.
Dan Epstein is an award-winning journalist who lives in Southern California. His first book, 20th Century Pop Culture, was published by Carlton Books in 1999. His latest book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s, will be published by Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in May 2010. He does his best writing in his bathrobe.