OAKLAND — Bucky Dent is the nicest bogeyman you’d ever want to meet.

On Monday morning, Dent was on the field at Harold Alfond Fenway Park at Camp Tracy, instructing children enrolled in the Maine Baseball Academy. Wearing a black golf shirt adorned with the famous New York Yankees logo over the heart, Dent rolled ground balls to kids learning how to play shortstop.

“Catch it with your glove, man,” Dent said to a camper who bare-handed the ball. “Always try and catch it with your glove.”

Mike Torrez has done too much for baseball to be considered anybody’s goat.

While Dent worked in the infield, Torrez coached a group of pitchers in right field.

“Do it like a windmill,” Torrez said to a kid working on his throwing motion. “Let’s see you do that. Step and throw. Good.”

On Oct. 2, 1978, Dent or Torrez became forever linked, when Dent hit a Torrez pitch in the netting above Fenway Park’s Green Monster for a three-run home run. Dent’s homer gave the Yankees a one-run lead in the a game they would win, 5-4, giving New York the American League East title and completing one of the most famous collapses in Boston Red Sox history.

The Yankees went on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, and Dent became a folk hero. The Red Sox added another chapter to the miserable book that wasn’t completed until the team won the 2004 World Series, and Torrez was given his own stained glass window in Boston’s church of sports melancholy.

Dent batted ninth for the Yankees that day, and had four home runs going into that 163rd game. In the third inning, Torrez got Dent to hit a fly ball to right. In the fifth inning, Dent popped up to shortstop.

“He was always trying to get the ball in on me, and I’d just missed a couple balls earlier in the game. I’d popped them up,” Dent said.

In the seventh inning, Dent came to the plate with two on and two out. Torrez started with a fastball away, then threw a slider away. Dent fouled the next pitch off his foot, and it took a few minutes before he was ready to step back into the box.

“I was actually going to try and throw him another fastball in, and then go back out with a slider,” Torrez said. “It ended up being, the ball stayed out over the middle of the plate. Everybody knows, he hit that little three runner off of me.”

When Dent hit the ball, Torrez thought it would be a fly ball to left. Dent thought it would be off the wall.

“I knew he was going to try and get the ball in on me, but he kind of missed and got it in an area that I liked it. I got a pretty good pitch to turn on, and I hit it in the net,” Dent said, and chuckled. For Dent, the memory never gets dull.

“When he hit it, it didn’t sound like he hit it at all. But the ball carried. I happened to notice earlier in the game, the flag was just kind of still, but when I looked back and saw the flag was kind of waving out towards left field,” Torrez said. “I should have remembered that during that time, 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the wind does turn and starts blowing out. But hey, he got it up in the air and it carried out.”

In 1977, Torrez and Dent were teammates in New York. Now, they’re good friends, appearing together often at card shows and charity events.

“We do a lot of stuff together. Over the last 20 years, Mike and I have done a lot of good things together. He’s a great guy, and I enjoy being around him. We laugh, and we very seldom talk about the game. We’re too interested in doing other things. Charity events, golf events,” Dent said.

“We’ve been friends ever since. He was battling and I was battling, and that particular pitch, he came up on top,” Torrez said.

In an 18-year major league career, Torrez won 185 games. He deserves to be known for more than one pitch.

“That never bothered me. I pitched a great game. I had a 2-0 lead with two outs in the seventh inning when he hit it. Especially at Fenway Park, a 2-0 lead? You’re pitching pretty good,” Torrez said. “We had our chances. We had a lot of chances to win that game.”

The children Dent and Torrez coached on Monday live in a world in which the Red Sox have won two World Series in recent years. Dent is their father and grandfather’s demon, not theirs. Torrez was the guy showing them how to grip a baseball, not the guy who gave up a home run to a player who rarely hit home runs.

“You know what?” Torrez said. “You take the good with the bad.”

Torrez and Dent will always be connected, because no matter when the Red Sox and Yankees play, somebody is remembering that 1978 game. Yankees fans toast their unlikely hero, and Red Sox fans hope for a different result that’s never going to come.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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