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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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July 7,1974

Posted 01-04-2018 at 07:38 AM by TommyJohn
Updated 10-20-2018 at 08:29 AM by TommyJohn

July 7,1974
vs. Detroit Tigers
at Tiger Stadium

Bart Johnson seemed ticketed for superstardom following his 1971 season, in which he went 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA. In those 12 wins were two games with 12 strikeouts. He possessed a blazing fastball that earned him the nickname Mr. Smoke. He also possessed a "red ass" and had a penchant for getting deep under the skin of his opponents, having precipitated three bench-clearing dust ups that season.

Things started to fall apart for Bart in the offseason, when he injured his knee playing basketball. He was unable to push off the rubber with as much force and it affected his fastball. After 9 games and a 9.22 ERA in 1972, he was demoted to the minors. At first he refused the assignment, then went ahead and reported.

1973 was much the same. His knee continued to bother him and he only appeared in 22 games. In April of 1974 Bart was demoted to Iowa once again. Bart blew up this time, announcing that he was retiring to sell tickets for the Chicago Fire of the World Football League and to try out for the Seattle Supersonics come summer. Again, Bart had a change of heart and reported.

By this time Sox fans had run out of patience. Bob Logan quoted one fan's sneer that Johnson was "rookie of the year five years running." Roland Hemond was patient, though, still believing that Bart was a future Cy Young winner. After all, Johnson was only 24 and still loaded with potential. By late June Hemond got the news "Bart's ready." Mr. Smoke received the call and got his first starting assignment on this date.

He started strong, striking out three of the first five batters to face him. Norm Cash broke the string by smacking a deep drive to left that found its home in the seats.

Bart continued to mow down Motown batters after that mistake, retiring the next 20 men that faced him. It appeared for a while that the one mistake would cost him, as Mickey Lolich cruised through the first five innings with a 1-0 lead.

The Sox finally broke through for Bart in the 6th. Bucky Dent led off the frame with a double. Lolich retired the next two to bring up Dick Allen. The Tigers elected to walk him to face .234 hitting Bill Melton. Swingin' Bill singled to load them up for Ken Henderson, who lashed a single to right to score Dent and Allen. Jim Northrup then threw wildly to 3rd base in an attempt to get Melton, who got up and dashed home with the third run.

That was all Bart needed. He entered the 9th with a sparkling one hit gem. Mickey Stanley finally touched Bart for a single to lead off the 9th. Bart was money after that, though, setting down the next three hitters. Willie Horton's foul pop to Ed Herrmann ended it.

Bart walked off having given up only two hits and striking out 9. He looked to be in fine form.

"This could be the lift we need to win the pennant, with Bart going like that for us" Tanner effused after the game.

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