Recapturing the magic of the previous season proved too difficult a task for the 1968 Red Sox, who won 86 games but dropped to fourth place. Off the diamond, Fenway Park had its busiest year in quite some time. Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy addressed the ballpark crowd in July, the legendary Pelé appeared in one of several Fenway Park soccer games and the Boston Patriots played their final football season at the park.
Record: 86-76, 4th in American League
Manager: Richard H. Williams
After a 1967 Christmas Eve skiing accident, reigning Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg was unable to pitch until May 28, then went 6-10. Tony Conigliaro's vision still had not cleared from his 1967 beaning and he was forced to sit out the entire season.
Another tragedy occurred in February 1968, when former Boston manager and GM Pinky Higgins killed a roadside worker in Louisiana in a drunken driving accident.
The crowds came out at Fenway Park, though. On Opening Day, 32,849 came to watch as the AL pennant was raised. As early as 1903, the team had typically played morning/afternoon dual admission doubleheaders on Patriots Day, but beginning in 1968, the games were reduced to single games, typically starting at 11:05 in the morning. On this Friday morning, Boston beat Cleveland, 9-2, behind a home run from Rico Petrocelli and a complete-game effort from Gary Waslewski.
Ken Harrelson took up the slack in right field in Conigliaro's absence, hitting a team-leading 35 home runs and 109 RBIs. Carl Yastrzemski won his third batting title with a .301 average, and was the only qualifying player in the American League to hit over .300 in the so-called "Year of the Pitcher." The Red Sox staff was led by two new pick-ups, Ray Culp (16-6, 2.91 ERA) and Dick Ellsworth (16-7, 3.03 ERA).
The Red Sox ended the season in fourth place with a record of 86-76. Despite the disappointing finish and the loss of Tony C, more than 200,000 fans passed through the Fenway Park turnstiles than the year before.
The Records took the first game of the 1968 William Randolph Hearst Sandlot Tournament doubleheader at Fenway Park, but fell to the Americans in the second game. Three days later, the Sunday Advertisers beat the Record Americans, 2-1.
|1968 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park|
|July 22||William Randolph Hearst Sandlot Tournament: Records 12, Americans 2|
|July 22||William Randolph Hearst Sandlot Tournament: Americans 7, Records 2|
|July 25||William Randolph Hearst Sandlot Tournament: Sunday Advertisers 2, Record Americans 1|
In 1968, Fenway Park was busy with non-baseball events. In the spring and summer, the Boston Beacons of the North American Soccer League played several home games at the ballpark and in the fall, the Boston Patriots played their final season at Fenway Park. The Beacons went 8-9 at home, including a notable match-up with Brazilian soccer legend Pelé and Santos FC on July 8, while the Patriots had a frustrating final season at Fenway Park, going 4-10 (2-5 at home). The Patriots moved on to play their home games at Boston College and Harvard Stadium the next two seasons before settling in Foxboro's Schaeffer Stadium in 1971.
On July 25, 1968, Democratic presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy addressed an enthusiastic Fenway Park crowd.
|1968 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park|
|January 22||Junior Goodwill Dinner*|
|April 23||Boston Beacons 3, Detroit Cougars 0 (Soccer)|
|April 26||Los Angeles Wolves 4, Boston Beacons 0 (Soccer)|
|May 10||Atlanta Chiefs 1, Boston Beacons 0 (Soccer)|
|May 21||Cleveland Stokers 4, Boston Beacons 1 (Soccer)|
|May 26||New York Generals 1, Boston Beacons 1 (Soccer)|
|June 21||Chicago Mustangs 6, Boston Beacons 5 (Soccer)|
|June 25||Boston Beacons 3, Washington Whips 1 (Soccer)|
|July 8||Santos FC 7, Boston Beacons 1 (Soccer)|
|July 12||Boston Beacons 3, Vancouver Royals 2 (Soccer)|
|July 16||Boston Beacons 1, Houston Stars 0 (Soccer)|
|July 23||Toronto Falcons 2, Boston Beacons 2 (Soccer)|
|July 25||Speech by Democratic Presidential Candidate Eugene McCarthy|
|July 26||Boston Beacons 1, Baltimore Bays 1 (Soccer)|
|August 6||Atlanta Chiefs 2, Boston Beacons 1 (Soccer)|
|August 9||Boston Beacons 2, New York Generals 2 (Soccer)|
|August 20||Boston Beacons 1, Dallas Tornadoes 1 (Soccer)|
|August 23||Washington Whips 4, Boston Beacons 1 (Soccer)|
|September 8||Boston Beacons 1, Baltimore Bays 0 (Soccer)|
|October 13||Houston Oilers 16, Boston Patriots 0 (Football)|
|October 20||Boston Patriots 23, Buffalo Bills 6 (Football)|
|November 3||Denver Broncos 35, Boston Patriots 14 (Football)|
|November 10||San Diego Chargers 27, Boston Patriots 17 (Football)|
|November 24||Miami Dolphins 34, Boston Patriots 10 (Football)|
|December 1||Boston Patriots 33, Cincinnati Bengals 14 (Football)|
*For several years, Fenway Park hosted a Junior Goodwill Dinner that brought hundreds of local high school students to the ballpark. The tradition was started by Red Sox legend Joe Cronin and the event typically took place in late January.
On July 8, 1968, the great Pelé was greeted at Fenway Park with a bouquet of flowers, which he proceeded to distribute to the women among the crowd of 18,431 that had come to watch the star and his Santos teammates play the hometown Boston Beacons. Not only did Pelé score the winning goal in the 7-1 rout but he also dazzled fans as he helped set up every Santos score.
The day after Eugene McCarthy spoke to a capacity Fenway Park crowd, the Boston Herald wrote that he "brought his impossible dream to the home of impossible dreams." Almost 36,000 packed the park and another 10,000 stood outside to listen to the Democratic candidate, who spoke from a platform staged over second base.