March 22, 2021

Ed Armbrister (1948-2021)

It was interference.

The Red Sox and Reds split the first two games of the 1975 World Series.

In Game 3, Boston trailed 5-1 after five innings, but came back, tying the game 5-5 in the top of the ninth on Dwight Evans's two-run homer. In the home half of the tenth, Cesar Geronimo led off with a single to right off Jim Willoughby.

Ed Armbrister, batting for the pitcher, attempted to bunt. The ball bounced high in front of the plate. Armbrister froze, then took a step or two before Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk bumped into him. Armbrister stood still. Fisk pushed him out of the way. He grabbed the ball and threw quickly to second base. The ball sailed over Rick Burleson's glove and into center field. Geronimo went to third and Armbrister ended up at second.

Fisk immediately began yelling at plate umpire Larry Barnett, saying Armbrister interfered with him. Boston manager Darrell Johnson also argues, first with Barnett, then with first base umpire Dick Stello, then with Barnett again. It's a lost cause. Barnett refuses to change his call of no interference. Johnson walks off and then Fisk starts in with Barnett, and Johnson quickly returns.

The Red Sox walked Pete Rose intentionally, loading the bases with none out. Lefty Roger Moret struck out pinch-hitter Merv Rettenmund, but Joe Morgan singled to center, scoring Geronimo and winning the game.

Fisk was fuming after the game. "Of course he interfered with me. You all saw it. He stood right under the ball."

Armbrister initially explained: "The ball bounced high, and I just stood there for a moment watching it. Then Fisk came up from behind me and bumped me . . ." He later changed his story, erasing the part about standing around watching the ball, and put all the blame on Fisk: "As I broke for first base, [Fisk] hit me in the back and reached over my head for the ball before I could continue on to first base. I stood there because he hit me in the back and I couldn't move."

I was annoyed at Armbrister, who passed away last Wednesday in the Bahamas at the age of 72, for many years, but Barnett is the true asshole here. And he rightfully remains one of the top villains in Red Sox history.


FenFan said...

I wonder whether the use of instant replay today would change the call. Is that even a play for which a team may request a review?

What's worse, in losing the game, the Sox fell two games to one in the series. There was no guarantee of a victory -- they would have had to get to the top of the next frame to have a chance to plate more runs -- but it's a shitty way to get your back pressed against a wall.

Of course, I also think back to the 2004 ALCS when Slappy McBlueLips knocked the ball out of Arroyo's glove. At least the umpires managed to get THAT call right.

Shawn K said...

I remember watching it when I was about 14. It still fills me with blind rage all these years later. Even then, I was furious at the ump rather than the guy on the Reds.

It was way more obvious than the call on Middlebrooks (I think) that cost em a WS game in 13