I love seeing Luis Tiant outside Fenway Park on game day. One of my most favorite things to do when I get to Fenway is to see if Tiant is hanging out at his concession stand appropriately named El Tiante. Seeing the Red Sox pitching legend on Yawkey Way not only excites visitors, but cements his status as an ambassador of inspiration for the Red Sox Nation.
I started going to Red Sox games often after moving to Boston in 2014. Seeing Luis Tiant outside Fenway Park at El Tiante for the first time was exciting, especially since it’s rare for most fans to get that close to a retired all-star. I first heard about Luis Tiant after watching Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary on PBS in 1994. I immediately became a fan of the Cuban-born pitcher after watching footage of him pitching in the 1975 World Series. I even tried to mimic his unusual pitching style, which often led to throwing the ball over the backstop. Needless to say, my pitching career was never going to go anywhere.
Luis Tiant played in Boston from 1972 to 1978, longer than any other team he pitched for in his 19 year career. He was a four 20-game winner and twice led the American League in ERA. His best years, however, were with the Red Sox. Not only were three of his four 20-game winning seasons with the Red Sox, but he won two games against the Reds in the 1975 World Series, both complete games with one being a shut out. Tiant even managed to hit a decent .250 with two runs scored in the series. While not a great average, it’s not bad for an American League pitcher who hadn’t had an at bat for a few years. Why he isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame remains a mystery. Let’s hope the Veteran’s Committee picks him when they meet in 2017.
Before coming to Boston, injuries and lack of offensive support almost forced Tiant’s career to end prematurely. Leading the league with 20 losses in 1969 made almost everyone assume that his career was finished. Boston, however, took a chance on him. He was named Comeback Player of the Year in 1972 after leading the American League with an astounding 1.91 ERA and 15 wins. Luis Tiant is now a living example of what it takes to overcome the challenges life places before us, and he inspires so many in the Red Sox Nation, including this writer. He’s a big part of what makes us continue to root for the Red Sox, especially after two losing seasons. He’s proof that it’s possible to come back stronger than ever.
Let’s hope we get to see Luis Tiant outside Fenway Park for years to come!