The Legend of El Tiante
Luis Tiant's reputation lives on in New England, where he is forever linked to the 1975 Boston Red Sox, one of the best teams in the franchise's frustrating twentieth-century history
From the Print Edition:
Entourage, July/August 2009
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The evening is winding down at the Big Smoke at Foxwoods. But a few fans still wait to get Tiant's autograph. A big ring weighs down his finger, and when asked about it, he says, "Yeah, I got two, 2004 and 2007. This is 2007." He pulls off the 2007 World Series ring of the Boston Red Sox and hands it to the questioner. Turns out, Tiant is far from divorced from baseball: He serves as a consultant for the Red Sox, helping out their pitching coach and the young staff. And, he's happy to do so.
His love of the game, and his ties to the Red Sox go back a long way, even though he followed his time in Boston with stints playing for the Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates and, finally, the California Angels.
In 1986, he was on the roster of a Red Sox fantasy camp for devoted fans. Ivens Robinson, a lifelong Red Sox fanatic, attended the camp and got to hit against Tiant in a Campers vs. Major Leaguers game. "He was really friendly. We talked cigars, even though he had quit at the time," says Robinson, a lumber import company executive. "You could tell if someone got a hit off of him, he was still competitive." Robinson says he hit a line drive off Tiant's fifth pitch to him but was thrown out at first base on a close play. "He didn't strike me out," Robinson says, "even though he was doing all that stuff with his windup."
"I'm proud to have been a major leaguer," Tiant says. "The game fit me. And I need it. It's emotional. You work hard. You compete. That's the way I work. I grew up and I tried to get better, year after year.
"I worked hard to get there. It wasn't easy. The fans see you when you make it, but they don't know what you had to go through to get there. But they like me. That's a good feeling, people trying to be good to you. You have to respect them. I never get tired of talking about baseball. That's what I do."
He signs one more piece of paper. "When people don't want my autograph anymore, that's when I go home and put my head between my legs," he says with a laugh and twinkle in his eye.
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