Aug 4, 2015

Former Italian / American Player & one of the Heroes of the 1975 World Series: Bernie Carbo (1970-1980)

Bernardo Carbo was born on August 5, 1947 in Detroit, Michigan. Carbo was a star baseball player getting drafted ahead of Johnny Bench as the number one pick (16th pick overall) for the Cincinnati Reds in 1965. Bench matured a lot faster than Carbo & went to the Hall of Fame.

At first Carbo struggled and was known as a clown, a hot head who broke things & threw tantrums. Manager Sparky Anderson saw the talent in Carbo and made him his pet project.

He had him shag fly balls hours after eneryone had left the field. He had him hit in the batting cage untiol his hands bled. He made fun of Carbo’s long side burns, hippie sandals & bell bottom jeans. By 1969 Carbo led the league batting .359 at AAA Indianapolis, making it to the Reds big league club the next year along with his mentor Sparky Anderson who became the teams Manager.

In his first year as manager Sparky platooned Carbo with Hal McRae. The Reds won the pennant but lost the World Series to the mighty Baltimore Orioles. Carbo hit .310 with 21 HRs 19 doubles & 63 RBIs, posted a .980 fielding % in left field (second in the NL) coming in second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. The next year Carbo began to drink & take drugs, as his batting average plunges to just .219 in 106 games.

On the field he was still one of the leagues top outfielders, posting a .983 fielding % (third for all NL left fielders) with 15 assists. Sparky Anderson is broken hearted but realizes there is nothing he can say to change Carbos ways, except give him a change of scenery. In May of 1972 Carbo was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Joe Hauge.

In 1973 he was the Cardinals main right fielder with a .978 fielding % (5th in the NL) & seven assists while sharing time with Luis Melendez. Carbo hit .286 with 8 HRs 18 doubles & 40 RBIs.

His partying was a big problem in St. Louis as well & in October of 1973 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox along with Rick Wise for Reggie Smith & Ken Tatum.

The trade would turn out to be a big one for the 1975 Red Sox as Carbo hit one of the most famous HRs in Red Sox World Series history & Wise led the staff with 19 victories.

When Carbo first arrived at Fenway Park he saw owner Tom Yawkey shining shoes in the club house, he gave him $20 to go fetch him a cheese burger & fries.

Carbo carried a large stuffed gorilla around with him called Mighty Joe Young. He would sit the gorilla next to him on planes & in the locker room. He was also famous for using a blow dryer in the locker room & grooming his hair. In a time when it wasn’t all that common.

In 1974 Carbo was a fourth outfielder behind Juan Beniquez, Tommy Harper & Dwight Evans batting .249 with 12 HRs & 61 RBIs.

In the 1975 Red Sox pennant season, Carbo was still a fourth outfielder behind rookie sensations Fred Lynn & Jim Rice. He saw action in 107 games with 15 HRs 50 RBIs & 83 walks (10th in the AL) with a .409 on base % & a .257 batting average.

In one game against the AL New York club, he made a fantastic catch crashing into the outfield wall & losing his wad of chewing tobacco. He held up the game for nearly ten minutes looking for his tobacco which he found on the warning track & threw it back in his mouth.

Post Season: In the 1975 World Series Carbo went against many of his old friends & team mates, the Big Red Machine. He got to play against his old manager Sparky Anderson in one of the greatest World Series’ in history. Carbo sat on the bench for the first two games, going 0-1 as a pinch hitter. His old friend Reds pitcher Clay Carroll sent him a picture inscribed “Good luck in the World Series”.

In Game #3 he hit a HR off Carroll who later went into the locker room & ripped it to shreds. Carbo did not play in Games #4 & #5, and during the three day rain delay leading to Game #6 he did not take batting practice because he could not find Tucks University where the Sox were practicing.

In Game #6 Carbo came to bat as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning with the Red Sox down 6-3, two runners on and the Reds just four outs away from the championship. When his manager Darrel Johnson said to grab a bat, Carbo said he wasn’t going to hit because Reds manager Sparky Anderson would be pulling his right hand pitcher Rawly Eastwick as soon as he’s announced. Anderson stuck with Eastwick & Carbo came to the plate, although he was not ready to hit.

With a two strike count he blasted a HR to straight away center field, tying the game as Fenway Park & all of New England went nuts.

As Carbo rounds the bases he’s ecstatic, as he rounds third base toward his old friend Pete Rose he yells “"Don’t you wish you were this strong?" Rose yells back, "Ain’t this fun, Bernie? This is what the World Series is about. This is fun."

As the game went on Carlton Fisk hit his classic walk off HR off the foul pole sending the Series to a game #7.

It was one of the most dramatic games in series history as well as being one of the best World Series ever played. After the HR he awaited a call from his father but never got one. The next season the closest thing he had to a father, Tom Yawkey passed away & Carbo was devastated. The new owners found about Carbo’s drug use & sold him off to the Cleveland Indians in 1978.

Carbo was just a part time player the rest of his career going to St. Louis & Pittsburgh. While in St. Louis Keith Hernandez claimed it was Carbo that turned him on to cocaine. Carbo retired in 1980 at age 33 with a .264 batting average, 722 hits 96 HRs 140 doubles 538 walks & 358 RBIs with a .387 on base %.

Retirement: After his playing days he became a hair dresser & opened his own salon. But his drug habit & drinking situation got worse.

By 1990 his mother committed suicide, his family was falling apart, he lost his salon & he had a cocaine problem costing him thousands of dollars. He was playing in the Senior Professional League in Florida when a former Red Sox player, Dalton Jones told him he needed Jesus in his life.

Carbo with Bill Lee at Fundraiser
His former team mate Bill Lee helped check him into rehab & get counseling. Carbo became a born again Christian & started the Diamond Club ministry to glorify Jesus Christ to young people. He is now sober & drug free for almost twenty years.


Anonymous said...

In 1970, Carbo was second in Rookie of the Year voting, not MVP.

Anonymous said...

In 1970 Bernie was Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year.