Jim Burton never wants to forget that he pitched in the seventh game of the 1975 World Series. But there are times he'd like not be reminded.
Like when he's working.
Burton, 28, is a relief pitcher now with the Lynchburg Mets of the Class A Carolina League. Last month, he was struggling against the Pirates in Salem when it was suddenly trivia-question time.
"What pitcher in uniform tonight lost the seventh game of the 1975 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds?" asked the announcer. "Bring your answers to the press box in the next five minutes and . . . whoops, we already have a winner."
Burton will tell you that the question was not unfair. He wishes, however, that it hadn't been asked while he was on the mound.
"You hope that people will have a little sensitivity. But you can't expect that," said Burton. "You can't crusade for that because nobody wants to listen. That's what being a professional is all about. You have to take the comments and the criticisms."
The comments, criticisms and even hate mail began shortly after Joe Morgan hit a one-two slider from Burton into short center field at Fenway Park. It came with two outs in the final game of the 1975 series.Ken Griffey scored from third to give the Reds a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox.
Morgan, like his opponent, remembers that one-two pitch very well. "It was a slider low and away," recalled Morgan." Nine out of 10 times you won't hit that pitch. It was a good pitch. It wasn't a mistake."
Although he pitched in 29 games for Boston in 1975 and finished with a 2.89 earned-run average, Burton, did not make the Red Sox the following year.
"It was a real shock to be sent down," recalled Burton, who went to Pawtucket, R.I., the club's AAA farm team in the International League.
"The equipment manager at spring training took my stuff and put it into a cardboard box. I thought that epitomized me. One day you're a celebrity, the next day you're anonymous. One day you're in the majors - all first class - then you're here in the minors where it's sort of dog eat dog."
There may have been many reasons why Burton failed to make the Red Box in 1976. Suffering the seventh-game loss was certainly one of them.
Burton was 11-7 with Pawtucket in 1976, pitching 169 innings and giving up 112 walks and 110 runs with a 5.59 ERA.
He also spent most of the 1977 season with Pawtucket, with a 10-10 rec and a 3.77 ERA. Surprisingly, he was called up to Boston in September of last year and pitched three shutout innings.
He hurled one inning in this year's Red Sox sping training camp. On March 29, he was traded to the New York Mets for infielder Leo Foster.
He was sent to the Mets' AAA club in Tidewater, but his stay there was short because of muscle spasms in his back. The management asked him to go to Lynchburg in early June.
"I heard a lot of stories about A Ball," said Burton, who started his professional career in 1971 in a AA league. "A lot of guys get buried down here.
"It was hard to come here, but not as hard as people might think," added Burton, who started five games for Lynchburg before being assigned to the bullpen. "It doesn't matter that it's A ball. What matters to me is how I'm throwing. I know what I have to do to pitch in the major leagues.
"I do feel I'm coming back," he said. "My confidence has been battered around a lot, and a lot of it is mental. It's something that I can regain. I don't think I'm that far from it.
"As long as the challenge is there to come back or as long as there's hope, I'll pursue it," said Burton, who will turn 29 in October. "I still enjoy playing baseball."