Red Sox legend opens up in Biloxi about drug, alcohol abuse and depression

Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Bernie Carbo talks to Breck Jones at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum on Friday.
Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Bernie Carbo talks to Breck Jones at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum on Friday. Veto Roley/Special to the Sun Herald

Bernie Carbo’s best days in his life were in baseball. So were his worst.

Carbo, who hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series, told the “Our Love Affair with Baseball” luncheon at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art on Friday he spent the night after the game deep in depression.

“I had reached the place I had dreamed about and it didn’t bring me any happiness,” Carbo said.

Carbo, the 16th player taken in the 1965 draft, believed his problems started in the Minor Leagues, a few years before reaching the Cincinnati Reds’ roster four years later.

“I was told I was a baseball player and could have anything I wanted in life,” Carbo said. “I found the world was a little mixed up.”

As a result, Carbo’s career never reached the promise it could have. The Reds drafted Carbo ahead of Johnny Bench. Carbo finished second in the 1970 NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Montreal pitcher Carl Morton, who went 18-11 with a 3.60 ERA.

In his first full MLB season, Carbo set career highs with a .310 batting average, 21 home runs and 63 RBIs. However, the next year he hit .219 and was eventually traded to St. Louis. In 1974, Carbo was traded to Boston and was out of baseball entirely by 1980.

Drugs and alcohol

During Friday’s luncheon, Carbo played a video, telling ESPN his drug use got so bad he tried to have former Keith Hernandez’s arms broken after the latter told a court he had introduced Hernandez to drugs. Carbo later attempted suicide.

“(Drugs and alcohol) bring you no happiness,” Carbo told ESPN. “They bring you down and take away everything you have.”

Carbo was not able to turn his life around until becoming a Christian.

“I don’t know that man I was before,” he said. “I’m a new man in Christ, created in His image, in the likeness of God.”

Facing Bob Gibson

One of the stories Carbo discussed was playing for the Reds and facing future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson. The on-deck circle was close to the plate and Carbo kept inching closer and closer to the plate before he saw the flash of a ball go past his head.

After being traded to the Cardinals, Carbo asked Gibson if he was trying to hit him with the pitch. Gibson replied: “The bad thing about it was I missed you.”

Tough introduction

Carbo recalled his introduction to Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey did not go as plan. In the clubhouse, he saw a man shining shoes. He gave the man $20 to get cheeseburgers and fries. Someone later told Carbo the man was the owner.

With his wife expecting a baby, and losing an arbitration case for $10,000, Carbo went to Yawkey for a loan. He needed $10,000 to purchase a house for his wife and baby. He told Yawkey to take it out of his paycheck. A few days later, Carbo found an envelope containing $10,000 in his locker.

“He never took it out of my check,” Carbo said.