Happy birthday to Red Sox Hall of Famer Bernie Carbo! Bernie turns 72 today. Before his post-season heroics, Bernie’s professional career start was part of MLB history. MLB’s first ever amateur free-agent draft was held in 1965. The first player ever taken was Rick Monday by the Cubs. The Cincinnati Reds had the 16th overall pick in the ’65 draft, selecting Bernie Carbo in the first round (the Reds would draft a kid named Johnny Bench in the 2nd round).
Carbo was a highly touted prospect who had trouble adjusting to life in professional baseball. His first season of showcasing his potential was in 1966 with the Class A Peninsula Grays (Hampton, VA) in the Carolina League. Carbo, an outfielder, would hit .269 with 15 HR and draw 108 walks in the Carolina League. In 1968, Bernie again showed his potential – hitting .281 with 20 HR and 91 walks for the Double-A Asheville Tourists of the Southern League. In 1970, with the Cincinnati Reds MLB club, the rookie Carbo hit .310 with 21 HR and 94 walks — finishing 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. The Reds subsequently won the NL pennant and reached the World Series losing to the Baltimore Orioles. During the 1970 WS, Carbo would play in 4 games for the Reds and be held hitless in 8 AB.
Carbo was traded to the Cardinals in 1972 and then traded to the Red Sox in 1973, when Boston shipped star OF Reggie Smith to St. Louis for Carbo and P Rick Wise. By the time he was acquired by the Red Sox, Carbo had become a utility outfielder. During the 1975 World Series, Bernie was used off the bench and appeared in 4 games for the Red Sox. One of the most memorable World Series games in MLB history is Game 6 of the ’75 Series, when Boston’s Carlton Fisk hit a dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning at Fenway — forcing a World Series Game 7. But before Fisk’s HR, the Red Sox were losing 6-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning. With two men on base, Bernie Carbo came to bat as a pinch hitter. Carbo would hit a game tying 3-run HR to deep center, ultimately pushing Game 6 to extra innings. Bernie hit .429 with 2 HR and 4 RBI during the 1975 World Series, with Boston losing to the Reds in 7 games. On November 10, 2004 Carbo was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Bernie’s autobiography about overcoming his life’s struggles: Saving Bernie Carbo
Baseball Hall of Fame article about Carbo’s inspiration