RIP Eddie Kasko

Bernie Carbohydrate

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The recent death of former Red Sox manager (and longtime Red Sox employee) Eddie Kasko moves me to share the story of his firing.

Kasko had replaced Dick Williams in 1970, and inherited what was left of the Impossible Dream team. He still had Yaz, Boomer Scott, and (post-beaning) Tony C to lead the offense, but the pitching was shaky. Baltimore won 108 games, the Sox only won 87, and that was that.

In ’71, Kasko had the same deal -- 3rd in the AL in hitting, 10th in pitching (in a 12-team AL). In an era of superb pitching the Sox rotation was trash (mitigated by their best bullpen arm being Sparky Lyle) – and this was the end of Jim Lonborg’s time at Fenway, as he’d never gotten past his injuries. Another 3rd place finish, as the O’s “slipped” to 101 wins.

1972 was the Near Miss – a player strike wiped out the first ten days of the season, and that meant the Sox only played 155 games, but the eventual AL East champs –the Tigers—played 156 and beat the Sox by ½ a game. Kasko was moved to the hot seat. He didn’t have a contract, and the Sox let him twist in the wind while they waited to see if Ted Williams was available. Kasko finally got another deal, but only for two years.

Kasko got in hot water because the Sox had started slow, gotten hot, and then blown a late-season lead. The manager had the reputation of being mild-mannered, in contrast to his predecessor Williams, a notorious hard-ass. After the Sox faded in ‘72, the offseason chatter was about Kasko being too soft. He responded by making statements in the press about how he was going to get the team to focus. On December 10, 1972 he told the Globe “If [the players] don’t do it on the ball field, then I’m listening to no excuses. Someone else will be playing the position.” Kasko also made much of his decision to have no off-days in the preseason, scheduling 33 games so “there will be a more concentrated effort right from the start.”

Despite the emphasis on starting strong, the ’73 Sox scuffled under .500 until June 8, rebounded for a great July, but never caught Baltimore, who won 97. The Sox fired Kasko before the last game of the season, and he took the firing in stride, telling Ray Fitzgerald on October 1, 1973, “It just comes with the territory.” Kasko agreed that he was not the fiery leader some fans wanted: “I was timid making moves at first, but as you go along you realize the things you have to do.”

The early 70’s Sox had the bad luck of being in the same division as those legendary Baltimore teams, and Kasko got the rep of being too easygoing (“gentlemanly” was sometimes the backhanded compliment sportswriters used). Danny Cater, whose claim to fame was being the lopsided (in the wrong direction) return when the Sox traded Sparky Lyle, put it best: “I can’t help thinking that we here in this clubhouse had a big part in it.”
 

54thMA

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The recent death of former Red Sox manager (and longtime Red Sox employee) Eddie Kasko moves me to share the story of his firing.

Kasko had replaced Dick Williams in 1970, and inherited what was left of the Impossible Dream team. He still had Yaz, Boomer Scott, and (post-beaning) Tony C to lead the offense, but the pitching was shaky. Baltimore won 108 games, the Sox only won 87, and that was that.

In ’71, Kasko had the same deal -- 3rd in the AL in hitting, 10th in pitching (in a 12-team AL). In an era of superb pitching the Sox rotation was trash (mitigated by their best bullpen arm being Sparky Lyle) – and this was the end of Jim Lonborg’s time at Fenway, as he’d never gotten past his injuries. Another 3rd place finish, as the O’s “slipped” to 101 wins.

1972 was the Near Miss – a player strike wiped out the first ten days of the season, and that meant the Sox only played 155 games, but the eventual AL East champs –the Tigers—played 156 and beat the Sox by ½ a game. Kasko was moved to the hot seat. He didn’t have a contract, and the Sox let him twist in the wind while they waited to see if Ted Williams was available. Kasko finally got another deal, but only for two years.

Kasko got in hot water because the Sox had started slow, gotten hot, and then blown a late-season lead. The manager had the reputation of being mild-mannered, in contrast to his predecessor Williams, a notorious hard-ass. After the Sox faded in ‘72, the offseason chatter was about Kasko being too soft. He responded by making statements in the press about how he was going to get the team to focus. On December 10, 1972 he told the Globe “If [the players] don’t do it on the ball field, then I’m listening to no excuses. Someone else will be playing the position.” Kasko also made much of his decision to have no off-days in the preseason, scheduling 33 games so “there will be a more concentrated effort right from the start.”

Despite the emphasis on starting strong, the ’73 Sox scuffled under .500 until June 8, rebounded for a great July, but never caught Baltimore, who won 97. The Sox fired Kasko before the last game of the season, and he took the firing in stride, telling Ray Fitzgerald on October 1, 1973, “It just comes with the territory.” Kasko agreed that he was not the fiery leader some fans wanted: “I was timid making moves at first, but as you go along you realize the things you have to do.”

The early 70’s Sox had the bad luck of being in the same division as those legendary Baltimore teams, and Kasko got the rep of being too easygoing (“gentlemanly” was sometimes the backhanded compliment sportswriters used). Danny Cater, whose claim to fame was being the lopsided (in the wrong direction) return when the Sox traded Sparky Lyle, put it best: “I can’t help thinking that we here in this clubhouse had a big part in it.”

People point to 2003, 1986, 1978 and 1975 for good reason, but 1972 still bothers me. How can you have one team play one less game and have that decide the division?

Along with Grady Little's brain fart, one strike away (I'll never blame Buckner, it never should have come down to that, not to mention Wilson would have beat Stanley to the bag anyway), a blown 14 game lead and the Armbrister non interference call , Aparicio falling rounding third ranks right up there.
 

InstaFace

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People point to 2003, 1986, 1978 and 1975 for good reason, but 1972 still bothers me. How can you have one team play one less game and have that decide the division?
I wasn't around for it, but I'm trying to imagine that eventuality in today's sports-media atmosphere, and I'm pretty sure there would be riots and a mob surrounding MLB headquarters if something farcically unfair of that nature was allowed to decide postseason vs not.

Looking at the schedule breakdown (in an era known for a more-balanced schedule), it looks as if we played the following:

In-division:
DET: 14 (1st / 6)
BAL: 18
MFY: 18
CLE: 15 (5th / 6)
MIL: 18

vs AL West: 12 each vs CHI, KCR, MIN, OAK, TEX, CAL.

Detroit, meanwhile, played a full inter-division schedule as well, but its in-division games were:
BOS: 14 (2nd / 6, duh)
BAL: 18
MFY: 16 (4th / 6)
CLE: 18
MIL: 18

New York finished 7.5 games ahead of Cleveland, so that difference in strength-of-schedule was potentially very meaningful. Not being in a position to have Boston play its last series with Cleveland, nor Detroit with the Yankees, the least they could have done was play a BOS-DET tiebreak game. That's, like, the only fair way to resolve it. It's not like it'd be unprofitable to do so, nor could Detroit have argued it was unfair.
 

Captaincoop

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People point to 2003, 1986, 1978 and 1975 for good reason, but 1972 still bothers me. How can you have one team play one less game and have that decide the division?

Along with Grady Little's brain fart, one strike away (I'll never blame Buckner, it never should have come down to that, not to mention Wilson would have beat Stanley to the bag anyway), a blown 14 game lead and the Armbrister non interference call , Aparicio falling rounding third ranks right up there.
How about when the '95 team won the division and had to play a 100-win Indian team while the Wild Card Yankees played 79-win Seattle? I can't remember why that happened, but it did...
 

NAR29996

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People point to 2003, 1986, 1978 and 1975 for good reason, but 1972 still bothers me. How can you have one team play one less game and have that decide the division?

Along with Grady Little's brain fart, one strike away (I'll never blame Buckner, it never should have come down to that, not to mention Wilson would have beat Stanley to the bag anyway), a blown 14 game lead and the Armbrister non interference call , Aparicio falling rounding third ranks right up there.
The Red Sox had their chance. They went to Tiger Stadium for the last 3 games of the season needing to win two games for the division title. They promptly lost the first two.
 

54thMA

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How about when the '95 team won the division and had to play a 100-win Indian team while the Wild Card Yankees played 79-win Seattle? I can't remember why that happened, but it did...
As much as I love the game, they really are clueless sometimes.

Home field for the World Series used to alternate between leagues, AL one year, NL next year regardless of record.

Remember when the league that won the all star game got home field? Oh sure, that's a brilliant idea.

How about if you give home field to the team with the better record, how hard is that?

One league having the DH and the other was dumbe enough, but then the AL team played an NL team in the NL's team home park, the AL team loses the DH.

Great; make a team whos pitchers do not regularly bat do just that, just moronic.

Anyway, that 1972 team was the first Red Sox team I remember growing up, I remember how crushed my Dad was when they finished half a game out, I told him "Don't worry Dad, they'll win next year"...............he said to me "Son, you have no idea"........................

Just like in 1971 when the Bruins lost to the Canadiens in the SC semi finals; we were listening to the game on the radio in the car in a church parking lot on Greek Easter and after the final horn went off and they lost game 7 at home, my Dad leaned forward and put his head on the steering wheel and just sat there. Ten year old me was like "Dad, are you ok?"........his reply "Ah yeah, I'm fine, just give me a minute"............
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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One thing to note about that odd 1972 season. The Tigers ended the season facing Boston in a three game series, and Detroit won the first two, thus "clinching" the division. The Sox won the last game to close the gap from 1.5 games to .5 games. If the Sox had taken two of three, they would have eliminated Detroit (by .5 games).

And I think that was the nail in the coffin for Kasko -- the Sox controlled their own destiny. He had to win in '73.

They were sitting at 84-67 on September 30, then...

Dropped a game to Baltimore (2-1, dominated by Mike Cuellar).
Lost Game One of the Detroit series (4-1, shut down by Mickey Lolitch)
Lost Game Two of the Detroit series (3-1, El Tiante did pretty well, but Woodie Fryman, a journeyman mopup guy, did a Cy Young impression)

That was the elimination game. The Sox bats were dead. No shame losing to all-stars Cuellar and Lolitch, but they couldn't get to Woodie Freaking Fryman in the biggest game of the season.

Then the Sox won the meaningless final game of the season, which Detroit treated like an exhibition game, emptying the bench to give the everyday players rest in preparation for the playoffs.

Edit: what NAR said, but I'll leave mine since it has links to the carnage.
 

bob burda

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People point to 2003, 1986, 1978 and 1975 for good reason, but 1972 still bothers me. How can you have one team play one less game and have that decide the division?

Along with Grady Little's brain fart, one strike away (I'll never blame Buckner, it never should have come down to that, not to mention Wilson would have beat Stanley to the bag anyway), a blown 14 game lead and the Armbrister non interference call , Aparicio falling rounding third ranks right up there.
My recollection is that Kasko kind of lost the team late in '73, his final year. They were not going to catch the Orioles, but then they lost 9 of 14 in mid Sept. They played well the last week, but I think Kasko was a dead man walking by then. The Sox farm system was in the process of unloading an historic wave of talent, and I wonder if that would have been better served by keeping Kasko.

On you point about Aparicio's slip n' fall, it is one in the collection of crazy things that would always happen to the Sox in important games and kill them, usually things you would not see otherwise even twice a decade, never mind in a key game. I think these things have continued to happen, it's just that they don't matter because of timing, the way the luck has gone otherwise, or because the Sox' have had superior talent that can withstand it. So there's a walk off interference play that costs them a WS game (WTF?), the Kinsler error that fails to close out a WS game/3-0 series lead and becomes a horrible 18 inning nut punch loss for the ages....and nobody cares about these, though they are just as bad.
 

54thMA

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The Red Sox had their chance. They went to Tiger Stadium for the last 3 games of the season needing to win two games for the division title. They promptly lost the first two.
Understood, but it would have been interesting if the Red Sox had played that extra game and won it forcing a one game playoff.

That Tigers team should have beaten the A's in the ALCS that year; Tenace was out in game one, McAuliffe tagged him, not to mention the Tigers had 1st and 3rd on with no outs in the 11th and couldn't score the go ahead run, the series still came down to a deciding game 5.
 

54thMA

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On you point about Aparicio's slip n' fall, it is one in the collection of crazy things that would always happen to the Sox in important games and kill them, usually things you would not see otherwise even twice a decade, never mind in a key game. I think these things have continued to happen, it's just that they don't matter because of timing, the way the luck has gone otherwise, or because the Sox' have had superior talent that can withstand it. So there's a walk off interference play that costs them a WS game (WTF?), the Kinsler error that fails to close out a WS game/3-0 series lead and becomes a horrible 18 inning nut punch loss for the ages....and nobody cares about these, though they are just as bad.
So true, the walk off interference play and the Kinsler error were so 1919-2003 Red Sox.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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My recollection is that Kasko kind of lost the team late in '73, his final year. They were not going to catch the Orioles, but then they lost 9 of 14 in mid Sept. They played well the last week, but I think Kasko was a dead man walking by then. The Sox farm system was in the process of unloading an historic wave of talent, and I wonder if that would have been better served by keeping Kasko.
I re-read a lot of the newspaper coverage of Kasko's firing to write my initial post, and a common take at the time was that Darrell Johnson (who replaced Kasko) was the man because he'd managed and helped develop many of the best prospects in the Sox system.

Johnson's '71 AAA Louisville team starred Ben Ogilvie and Carlton Fisk. His '72 Louisville team had Roger Moret and Dwight Evans. His '73 team (moved to Pawtucket) had Dick Pole, Jim Rice, Rick Burleson and Cecil Cooper. Johnson was viewed as an excellent hand with young players, and the '74 Sox were going to be very young.
 
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Red(s)HawksFan

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How about when the '95 team won the division and had to play a 100-win Indian team while the Wild Card Yankees played 79-win Seattle? I can't remember why that happened, but it did...
That was the year shortened by the strike that wiped out the World Series the year before. It was also the first year of the three-division, wildcard format. They did a bunch of things oddly with that one. Post-season matchups were pre-determined regardless of record, which I believe was to simplify travel plans. The only caveat was the wildcard couldn't play their own divisions winner. The second odd thing they did was pre-set the series in a 2-3 fashion (as opposed to 2-2-1) and start the "favorite" on the road. That's why the Mariners had to play an extra game to decide the division against the Angels at home, then travel cross country to start their ALDS series at Yankee Stadium against the wild card team, where they lost two straight before going home to the Kingdome and winning three straight.

I think the whole "reward the team with the better record" thing was entirely foreign at that point. In the two division set up, which team had home field for the LCS was pre-determined, as was the World Series. 1987 was a banner year for that. The Twins were 13 games behind the Tigers and 10 games worse than the Cardinals but had home field for both the ALCS and World Series (which paid off as they were 1-4 on the road and 7-0 at home that October).

They figured out the best record thing in 1996.
 

GreenMonster49

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Lost Game One of the Detroit series (4-1, shut down by Mickey Lolitch)
Down 4-1 in the top of the ninth, Dwight Evans led off with a walk. Then Doug Griffin bunted him over to second. I could understand bunting for a hit if Doug Griffin had blazing speed, but he had 33 stolen bases in 383 MLB games at that point in his career (in other words, he stole bases about as often as Yaz did at that point in his career). Bunting for a hit was a high-risk, low-reward play, and sacrificing was boneheaded enough that I would wager that Steve Lyons would not even have thought about it in a similar situation.
 

lexrageorge

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Eddie Kasko was the first Red Sox manager I remember. Never quite understood why he got fired.

While it's common to hear that the 1972 Red Sox were robbed of a division title, it's not entirely true. The Sox went 5-9 against the Tigers that year, and one of those 5 wins was on the final game of the season when the Tigers emptied their bench. Still, it was a fun team that was truly the bridge from the post-1967 letdown to the really good Red Sox teams of the mid- and late 1970's.
 

curly2

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I read once that Eddie Kasko had the team trade Sparky Lyle because he didn't like him personally. The Sox traded him for Danny Cater, a first baseman with no power who was never very good and bombed with the Sox.

In 1972, the Sox lost by a half-game with a patchwork bullpen in which no have had more than 5 (yes, five) saves. Lyle went 9-5 with a 1.92 ERA and 35 saves in 107 innings for the Yankees.

Think having him on the team might have helped?
 

Humphrey

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Woodie Fryman was 10-3 w/an ERA of 2.06 for the 72 Tigers. Just like El Tiante that year, came out of nowhere.

Then became a bum for 4 years, then a good reliever the rest of his career.