It was a routine pop-up that Rico Petrocelli camped under 50 years ago.

Except the moment was anything but routine.

“That pop-up. I couldn’t wait for it to come down,” Petrocelli said. “I squeezed so hard, made sure I caught it.”

He did, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a World Series berth that day, Oct. 1, 1967.

Now Petrocelli receives several chances to reminisce about that time, especially as New England celebrates the 50th anniversary of that Impossible Dream team.

Petrocelli, 73, was in Portland on Thursday, throwing out the first pitch at the Portland Sea Dogs’ game, and signing autographs.

In August, members of the ’67 team will be at Fenway Park to honor the 50th anniversary.

When a 20-year-old Petrocelli made his major league debut in 1963 at Fenway Park, the attendance was 6,469. Petrocelli stayed in Triple-A the next year and joined the Red Sox as their shortstop in 1965.

Red Sox fans were hoping for Boston’s first World Series team since 1946. But it would not be in 1965. Those Red Sox finished 62-100, then 72-90 the next year.

“We lost a total of 190 games and nobody was interested in the Red Sox,” Petrocelli said.

“In 1967 we had a different team, different manager (Dick Williams) and a different attitude,” Petrocelli said. “We were tired of losing. … We did whatever it took. After the All-Star break we won 10 in a row, (six of them) on the road. That was incredible.

“Fans were coming out. They were at the airport, so happy to have a ballclub that was exciting.”

The team was paced by Carl Yastrzemski’s Triple Crown season (.326 average, 44 home runs, 121 RBI) and starter Jim Lonborg (22-9, 3.16 ERA).

Boston entered the final day of the season, Oct. 1, at 91-70, tied with Minnesota (91-70), and a half-game ahead of Detroit (90-70). The Red Sox hosted the Twins while the Tigers had a doubleheader with California.

Detroit won the first game of the doubleheader. But if Boston won its game, it would clinch at least a tie and force a playoff.

The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead against the Twins. In the ninth, Lonborg allowed a single but then got a double-play grounder. Rich Rollins came up and popped up. It landed in Petrocelli’s glove, ending the game.

“I was just so happy,” Petrocelli said.

So was the crowd, numbered at 35,770. Fans poured onto the field.

“Pandemonium,” Petrocelli said. “A couple of young guys grabbed my hat. People were taking dirt from the infield, and grass, and the bases. It was wild.

“I think that was the beginning of Red Sox Nation.”

Detroit lost Game 2 of its doubleheader and the Red Sox were in the World Series, where they lost in seven games to Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Petrocelli played 12 seasons with the Red Sox, including another World Series appearance – losing to the Reds in seven games in 1975. He retired in 1976.

Individually, Petrocelli’s most memorable season was 1969, when he hit 40 home runs, the most ever by an American League shortstop – a record later broken by Alex Rodriguez.

“Put on 20 pounds, saw the ball and everything went right that season,” he said.

And everything went right in 1967.

“It was a lot of fun,” Petrocelli said.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases