Talking baseball with Jim Lonborg
The Phoenix e-mailed Dr. Jim Lonborg — he’s had his own dental practice for years — with some questions about the way the game has changed since 1967. Here’s what the legendary pitcher had to say.
When you look back on October 1, 1967 and the season in general, what are your thoughts?
I had been beaten by Cleveland three days earlier and now I had a chance to redeem myself. I had spent the night before the game at the Sheraton, because life was too crazy around the bachelor pad that I lived in at Charles River Park with Dennis Bennett and Neil McNerny. All of my energy was devoted to mental and physical preparation for the game. I had gone over the hitters many times in my mind and was riding the crest of the team’s energy from the victory the day before. Little did we know what was about to happen in Fenway Park, Boston, and New England.
I’m sure there was a sense of letdown about the World Series loss, but in a certain way it seemed the triumph of winning the pennant overshadowed the world series defeat.
With no playoffs in those days, we proceeded directly to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. We had not been in first place the whole year and found ourselves playing for a World Series championship with not much time to prepare. We had only to put on the uniform, cross the lines, and perform to the best of our ability. We knew little about the Cardinals. Information came to us via a few written scouting reports. We played this team, knowing our strengths and believing in ourselves. Even though we lost to the Cardinals in seven games, there was no need to hang our heads. We did the best we could, and only after a couple of months of rest and reminiscing did we realize what we had accomplished — for ourselves, the team, the Red Sox fans. As they say in some circles, it is about the journey and not the final day. We certainly had a lot to be happy about with what we had accomplished.
Do you have any thoughts about baseball and the Red Sox today: how it’s changed, the players’ relationship to each other — with free agency involved — and their relationship to fans? Do you follow the team now?
The game itself has not changed that much, but the way it is marketed has. The different role ballplayers have [has] brought new thoughts on how to play the game, e.g.: moneyball. The players still have to work on their confidence levels. I am not privy to the relationships of the present-day players, but I do know that we were a very close group in ’67. The chemistry was that we had a wide range of personalities on the team that attracted a large fan base. But we could go just about anywhere and have a life without it being exposed by (today’s breed of rabid fan). I think the players were quite accessible to the fans, and I think the new Red Sox management is doing a great job of marketing the team and the players. I still listen to a lot of games and try to get to one game a month, plus [I read] various news accounts. The expectations for every year are like chapters in a great novel with a new cast of characters to figure out.
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