This Day in Red Wings History: Wings clinch 1974 pennant

Joe Altobelli (left) with MLB Hall of Fame member Mickey Mantle. (Photo courtesy of the Rochester Red Wings)

By CHUCKIE MAGGIO

In the 1970s, winning a division pennant meant more in the minor leagues than it does today.

The minor leagues were still feeder systems to Major League Baseball, of course, but there was more of an emphasis on Triple-A wins. Fans went to the games for entertainment, clearly, but in Rochester you were heckled if you didn’t perform. The Red Wings’ focus was undeniably fielding a championship ball club.

Rochester did just that in 1974, clinching their division on Aug. 29, with 12 regular season games remaining. The smells of beer and champagne enveloped the Silver Stadium clubhouse as the organization celebrated a 5-0 victory over Syracuse, in the rain, to lock the pennant up earlier than it had in 1971 or 1973.

“This year’s club was extremely well-balanced,” manager Joe Altobelli told the Democrat and Chronicle. “They all played big parts in our winning. We probably had fewer individual stars than in ’71, but our depth and balance was just as good or better.”

The Red Wings proved Altobelli’s point that day against Syracuse. They collected just five hits off Syracuse pitching and the top four of their lineup batted 1-of-15. With little pop behind him, however, Paul Mitchell turned in a gem; he scattered three hits and struck out seven in a complete game victory.

Mitchell improved his record to 13-6 while catcher Jim Hutto, the only Wing to hit for extra bases, lifted his 15th home run of the season to drive in two. Mitchell also singled to aid his own cause.

The right-hander credited his defense, and defense was one of the differences in the contest. Shortstop Fred Stanley, typically sure-handed in the Syracuse infield, threw wildly past catcher Jim Deidel to allow two runs to score in a four-run sixth inning.

If Stanley’s throw was on target, Hutto assessed, Mike Reinbach could have been out at home. Instead, Reinbach scored and Hutto was right behind him to bust the game open.

From heads-up baserunning to one of the most quality starts of the season, the Red Wings were clearly the better team as they improved to 32 games over .500.

“Maybe Paul has looked as sharp this year,” Altobelli commented, “but no sharper than he was tonight.

“Paul really showed something tonight. He’s really helped our staff. He’s helped its balance and depth.”

The 1973 club clinched on the last day of the regular season. This, the team acknowledged, was the preferable scenario.

“We had a lot of pressure last year,” Doug DeCinces admitted. “We had to go right down to the wire. We were really tired. Winning the division with two weeks left in the season will give us some rest. I really feel this team has an excellent chance to go all the way.”

Rochester did go all the way that fall, defeating Syracuse in a seven-game championship series.

Red Wings 5, Chiefs 0
Syracuse AB R H BI Rochester AB R H BI
Kenney lf 1 0 0 0 Bailor cf 4 0 0 0
Krzmanch lf 3 0 1 0 Andrews 2b 4 1 1 0
Prince 2b 4 0 0 0 DeCinces 3b 3 0 0 0
Blodt rf 3 0 0 0 Fuller rf 4 0 0 0
Whitfield cf 3 0 1 0 Galliher 1b 3 1 0 0
Gonzalez 3b 4 0 1 0 Reinbach lf 4 1 1 1
Bennet 1b 4 0 0 0 Hutto c 3 2 1 1
Deidel c 3 0 0 0 Nordbrook ss 3 0 1 1
Stanley ss 2 0 0 0 Mitchell c 2 0 1 0
McGregor p 2 0 0 0
Totals 29 0 3 0 Totals 30 5 5 3
Syracuse                                               0 0 0    0 0 0   0 0 0  – 0
Rochester                                                   0 0 1    0 0 4   0 0 X  – 5
E – Gonzalez, Stanley.  2B- Gonzalez. HR- Hutto. S-Prince.
Syracuse IP H R ER BB SO
McGregor L (12-10) 7 5 5 3 4 7
Gowell 1 0 0 0 0 0
Rochester IP H R ER BB SO
Mitchell W (13-6) 9 3 0 0 4 7
T – 2:08. Attendance- 2,764.

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