Dick Radatz, RP/CL, #17 (1962-1966)
W-L 49-34, 288 G, 104 SV, 557 IP, 627 K, 2.65 ERA
Imagine a 6'6" tall wide-body throwing a 95-mph fastball at you from a low-sidearm delivery, and you have an idea of why Dick Radatz terrorized American League batters for several years in the 1960s. -Gabriel Schechter
Schechter wrote this in a piece for the Baseball Hall of Fame to honor the passing of Dick "The Monster" Radatz. He was truly an imposing figure on the mound, due both to excellent "stuff" and his physical presence. Radatz was such a bright star in the early 60s for the Red Sox that it seems only fitting that he owes the bookends of his career to two Red Sox legends.
Radatz was born in Detroit, MI, in 1937. He attended Michigan State University, and would begin his track towards Boston as an amateur free agent after graduation. After two seasons as a starting pitcher in the minors, Radatz would be shifted to the bullpen by his manager, Johnny Pesky, in Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. Pesky thought he could be more helpful to the big league club by pitching multiple days, rather than on a set rotation. It didn't hurt that Boston's current "closer", Mike Fornieles, "put up a Pineiro" in 1961 (15 SV, 4.68 ERA). Radatz would become a relief ace for the Red Sox in every sense of the word.
His rookie year, 1962, was by any measure a success. He saved 24 games, with an ERA+ of 184. He also averaged 2 IP per appearance, providing a high number of quality innings. Unfortunately, Radatz would finish in a three-way tie for the RoY (translation: dead last). This didn't stop him from putting together an even better season in 1963. He certainly got plenty of attention. His 1963 line: 191 ERA+, 15-6, 25 SV, 66 G, 132 IP and 162 K. He made such an impact on the upstart and highly-competitive seventh-place Red Sox that he was 5th in MVP balloting that season. Just let that sink in for a minute. An example from today's game would be if Octavio Dotel of the 2007 AL Central 5th place Royals managed to garner enough MVP support to finish 5th. The win total might've had something to do with it, and we certainly know more now about the possibility of RPs "vulturing" wins. Later on I'll discuss why this isn't neccessarily the case with Radatz. Schechter:
In 1963, his best season, he embarrassed the whole league, leading Yankees manager Ralph Houk to declare that "for two seasons, I've never seen a better pitcher." Houk should've waited to make this declaration, as 1964 was simply another of the greatest seasons ever by a RP (Boston or elsewhere). He set the record for Ks as a RP with 181. If a team wanted to manipulate their pitching staff enough, this could be matched, but I think Radatz's record is safe. He managed this in 157 IP (all in relief, of course). He also made his second All-Star team (1963 as well).
1965 was a let-down for Radatz and Red Sox fans. The team finished 9th, lost 100 games, and Radatz came back to Earth. Some of this could be attributed to Ted Williams. In Spring Training before that season, Ted suggested to Radatz that he develop a sinker in order to better attack LHH. What is one to do when Ted Williams gives you advice? Take it and apply it. Radatz did, and while he felt he developed a pretty good sinker, he never regained his fastball. He had changed his mechanics too much to accomodate the sinker. Without his fastball, Radatz lost the extra in extraordinary. His K/9 dropped below 10 for the first time in his career, and his ability to strikeout hitters would never return to the levels he enjoyed at his peak. His Red Sox career ended when he was traded to the Indians in 1966 for a stamp collection.
While relatively long-lasting compared to others of this phenomenon, Radatz's career could still be described as flash-in-the-pan. He experienced 3 years of greatness, though the teams he toiled for left something to be desired. He was a strong reliever with the ability to throw a lot of innings. Over his 288 G in a Red Sox uniform: 53 G with 3+ IP, and 8 G with 6+ IP. With such lofty innings totals per game, it seems likely that Radatz earned rather than vultured all those relief wins.
"The Monster" would pitch for Cleveland, Chicago (N), his hometown Detroit, and Montreal before his career was finished.
Dick Radatz brings one weapon - a fastball. It's like saying all a country brings to a war is an atom bomb. -Jim Murray There were many ways to describe the way Radatz simply demolished AL hitting from 1962-1964, and I think Murray captures it best.
Radatz died due to a head injury in a home accident on March 16, 2005.
Allen is a constant source of unoriginal content and excruciatingly lame puns. You can find him at Over The Monster.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Dick Radatz, RP/CL, #17 (1962-1966)
Curt Schilling, SP, #38 (2004-current)
44 Wins - 21 Losses, 9 Saves, 524 IP, 473 Ks, 85 BBs, 3.97 ERA
With the exception of Barry Bonds there really isn't a baseball player active today with a more polarising effect on the public and indeed the sports media than Curt Schilling.
He is an unusual entity, a professional athlete who is more than happy to talk with the media, so much so that he runs his own blog. This 'ease' with which he approaches his media encounters leads some fans and professional writers to find fault in how Schilling runs his life, both on and off the field.
Strip all that away though, and what do you have? Schilling is a potential hall of fame candidate who has shone particularly bright in the postseason. After the regular season Schilling is 8-2 with a 2.06 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 109.1 Innings. Whatever about the scintillating statistics, Schillling is a two-time World Series winner and furthermore does incredible things in terms of his charity works outside the game.
All the childish barbs the Dan Shaughnessy's of this world throw at Schilling can't take his brilliant career away from him.
Born November 14, 1966, Curt Schilling is just the ninth Major League player to have hailed from Alaska. Curt spent his youth in Phoenix, Arizona and attended Shadow Mountain High School before attending Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. He was a winner at an early age, helping lead Yavapai College to the 1985 Junior College World Series. Amazingly, Schilling began his professional career in the Boston Red Sox farm system but was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1988 for Mike Boddicker. His major league debut was with the Orioles (1988-1990), he spent one year with the Houston Astros (1991), and then spent more than eight exciting seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1992-2000).
Schilling was one of the major factors in the Phillies' great pennant run in 1993. In that year, Schilling went 16-7 with a 4.02 ERA and 186 strikeouts. Schilling then led the Phillies to an upset against the two-time defending National League champion Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Schilling's 1.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts earned him the 1993 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award. The Phillies went on to lose to the defending World Champion Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. They slipped into relative mediocrity in the years after that, despite Schilling being the ace of the staff. Disappointed that the Phillies front office was not doing enough to field a competitive team Schilling eventually asked for a trade, and got his wish in 2000 when he was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Curt Schilling's amazing career took on greater impetus when he moved to Arizona. With the D-Backs, he went a spectacular 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2001 and went 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA in the playoffs. In the 2001 World Series the Diamondbacks won one of the most famous World Series finalés ever beating the New York Yankees in 7 games. Many say that game was the beginning of the end for that particular Yankee team. Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award star with teammate Randy Johnson. In 2002 Schilling went an excellent 23-7 with a 3.23 ERA. Both years he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Johnson.
2003 was a rough year for the Boston Red Sox. Although the team made the playoffs, the traumatic loss to the Yankees in the ALCS combined with public displeasure with the bullpen led to Theo Epstein and the Sox front office determinedly attacking the free agent market in advance of the 2004 season. They signed Keith Foulke to be the teams closer and then made an even bigger splash in November 2003 by trading for Curt Schilling. Curt would join Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield to form on of the more eclectic and talented pitching rotations ever assembled.
Straight off the bat Schilling endeared himself to the Sox faithful by appearing in interviews wearing a 'Yankee hater' baseball cap and promising to lead his new team past their rivals from the Bronx. This was no idle promise coming from a man who had already vanquished the Yankees in the 2001 World Series.
Schilling backed his promises up on the field, in style. For 2004, his first season with the Red Sox, Curt posted a sparkling 21-6 record, becoming the first Boston pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first season with the club since Dennis Eckersley in 1978.
The Sox super season looked in serious jeopardy during the ALCS against the Yankees. The Bronx bombers were 3-0 up and no Major League team had ever come back from such a deficit. That's when Kevin Millar made his infamous quote “Don’t Let Us Win Tonight”, referring to how the Red Sox had excellent starting pitching lined up for the next few nights. Sure enough, Boston started to crawl back into the ALCS on the back of great pitching and clutch hitting.
On October 19, 2004 Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. Amazingly he won this game playing on an injured ankle, an injury so bad that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood.
This bloody sock would go on to become one of the most vivid symbols in recent baseball history.
That dramatic victory forced a Game 7, meaning the Red Sox were the first team in post-season Major League Baseball history to come back from a three-games-to-none deficit. The Red Sox would go on to win Game 7 of the ALCS and make their first World Series appearance since 1986. They had done it, they had come all the way back against their legendary rivals and now stood on the verge of their first World Series win since 1918.
Schilling pitched (and won) Game 2 of the 2004 World Series for the Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals. He actually had to have the tendon in his right ankle stabilized but the tendon sheath was torn and, as in Game 6 of the ALCS, Schilling's sock was soaked with blood from the sutures used in this medical procedure. Schilling amazingly still managed to pitch seven strong innings, giving up one run on four hits, whilst striking out four. That was all Boston needed from him and they swept the hapless Cardinals in four games, bringing home the championship to Boston for the first time since 1918.
Schilling's place in baseball history was secured and his second bloody sock was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame after the World Series. Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time his Randy Johnson was Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana, who received all 28 first-place votes. Schilling received 27 of the 28 second-place votes.
The drama of 2004 came at a steep price. Schilling's ankle injury had an immense effect on his pitching performance in 2005. He began the year on the disabled list, and when he finally returned he did so to log an up and down season with constant questions being asked of his ability to overcome the injury. 2006 brought a welcome return to the Schilling of old, and Curt managed a tidy 15-7 record with 198 K's and a very respectable 3.97 era.
Schilling opened 2007 with the announcement that he will pitch in 2008. and he has managed to start the season in such a fashion that no one is accusing him of being distracted by contract talks. He has pitched, at times, as the Red Sox ace and figures to lead a potentially fantastic staff into the 2007 playoffs with the Sox currently holding a double digit lead over all rivals in the AL East.
Schilling is a fascinating character. A thoughtful, often eloquent man who is not afraid to speak his mind he draws a host of emotions from a wide variety of people. Two things though, stand out. Schilling's tireless work with the various charities he strives to improve has been a constant in his career. He clearly cares, deeply, about those charities.
Secondly, the man delivers on his promises. He promised Boston a return to former glory, and he has been a major part in delivering on said promise. He will always be a major part of the greatest Old Town team of all, the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
This Top 100 Red Sox of all time profile was written by Cormac Eklof @ ''I didn't know there was baseball in Ireland?!''
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Mike Greenwell, LF, #39 (1985-1996)
1269 G, 1400 H, 657 R, 575 2B, 130 HR, 726 RBI, 80 SB, .303 Avg, .366 OBP, .528 SLG, All-Star (1988-89)
His nickname during his playing days was "The Gator." It was said he got the nickname because he liked to wrestle alligators during the offseason in his native Florida.
But the Boston Red Sox fans at Fenway Park knew Mike Greenwell as a dependable left-handed hitter and leftfielder for a decade, from 1987-1996.
Michael Lewis Greenwell was born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 18, 1963. He grew up in Florida and attended North Ft. Myers High School, which also produced football stars Jevon Kearse and Deion Sanders. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the third round of the 1982 Amateur Draft and signed with the club.
Greenwell was brought up from Pawtucket in September 1985, and made his debut as a pinch-runner for Jim Rice in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. That fall, the Red Sox were playing out the schedule and not in the pennant race, and Greenwell played in 17 games, went 10-for-31 and hit four homers and drove in eight runs.
Greenwell spent most of 1986 back at Pawtucket, as Rice was still the left-fielder. Greenwell hit 18 HRs and batted .300 at AAA. He was brought up again in August and saw action mostly as a pinch-hitter that year. But the Red Sox had a terrific team in '86, and Greenwell made the postseason roster. He played in both the ALCS and World Series, mostly as a pinch-hitter. He went 1-for-5 in that memorable postseason, but is best remembered for pinch-hitting for Roger Clemens in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the World Series. (This was the scenario that became controversial once the Series was over, as Clemens claimed he didn't want to come out, but manager John McNamara claims he did, because of a blister.) Greenwell struck out in that appearance.
1987 was a year to forget for the Red Sox and their fans, as the hangover from the 1986 World Series loss hung over the team all year, and they finished under .500. But it was a breakout year for Mike Greenwell. Jim Rice was moved to designated hitter and Greenwell was put in left field on a permanent basis. Greenwell responded with 19 HRs, 89 RBIs and a .328 batting average in 125 games. He finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year Award balloting (which was won by Mark McGwire).
1988 would prove to be Greenwell's best offensive season. He hit 22 HRs, 119 RBI and a .325 BA. He finished second behind Jose Canseco in the AL MVP Award voting (another loss to a "Bash Brother") and was a big part of the Red Sox comeback to winning the AL Eastern Division that season. Greenwell was also selected for the AL All-Star team for the first time, and hit for the cycle on September 14. He also won the Silver Slugger Award. But it was a disappointing postseason for the Sox and for Greenwell. They swept out of the ALCS by Canseco and the Oakland A's, and Greenwell hit .214 in that series with 1 HR and 3 RBI.
Greenwell would make the All-Star team again in 1989, hitting 14 HRs, 95 RBI and a BA of .308. He would have the longest hitting streak of his career that year, 21 games. His power numbers would continue to decline in 1990 and 1991, to 14 and 9, respectively. He also drove in just 73 and 83 runs, but his batting average was still around the .300 mark. Many of the Sox faithful thought Greenwell was a disappointment, as they thought he was next logical successor in that "golden position" of Red Sox leftfielder. He was a solid hitter, but not in the mold of the previous Red Sox leftfielders like Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. Greenwell was like Yaz was early in his career, a line drive hitter who wasn't a big home run hitter, and who could pepper the left-field wall with doubles. Greenwell was also just an average outfielder at best, and wouldn't win any Gold Gloves in his career.
1992 was a year to forget for Greenwell, as he battled injuries that year and played in just 49 games and hit .233. His offensive numbers would continue to slide in his final four years with the Sox, although he had a nice bounceback year for the Red Sox in 1995, as they won the AL East that year. He hit 15 HRs, 76 RBIs and hit .297. But the Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs for the third straight time, this time in the ALDS by Cleveland. Greenwell, who went 0-14 in the 1990 ALCS, went just 3-for-15 in the three-game sweep in '95.
Greenwell basically became a part-time player in 1996, hitting .295 in 77 games. He was a free agent after the season, and it looked like the Red Sox were going to let him go. But just before his Bosox career concluded, he had one final night of glory.
On September 2, 1996, in a game against the Mariners in Seattle, Greenwell drove in 9 runs, which was all of his team's runs, in a 9-8, 10-inning win at the Kingdome. It was a MLB record for most RBIs by one player driving in all of his team's runs. It was also a Red Sox record for one game, a record that still stands.
Greenwell's final game in a Red Sox uniform was overshadowed by what would be the last game by another Red Sox star player: Roger Clemens. As it would turn out, both Clemens and Greenwell would both depart Boston, and for teams based outside the United States: Clemens to Toronto, and Greenwell would head for Japan, to play for the Hansin Tigers.
It would be a disasterous move for Greenwell. It was a much-heralded transaction in Japan, but Greenwell would see action in just seven games, due to injuries. He would announce his retirement from baseball soon afterward.
He would turn his attention in his post-baseball career to another love of his: stock car racing. In May 2006, he made his Craftsman Truck Series debut at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway for Green Light Racing, starting 20th and finishing 26th. He also runs "Mike Greenwell's Family Fun Park" in Cape Coral, Florida, which includes a lot of activities like go-cart racing, miniature golf and batting cages. Greenwell is also a real-estate developer and an assistant baseball coach with Riverdale High School in Ft. Myers.
But Greenwell would get back in the sports headlines in 2005. When Jose Canseco released "Juiced," all about how his career was built on the use of illegal steroids, Greenwell went as far as demanding the he should be awarded the 1988 AL MVP Award away from Canseco.
He would tell the Ft. Myers News Press: "He's an admitted steroid user," Greenwell said of Canseco. "I was clean. If they're going to start putting asterisks by things, let's put one by the MVP. I do have a problem with losing the MVP to an admitted steroids user."
John Quinn is a writer who lives in New York City and runs the web site, "The Mighty Quinn Media Machine," and writes for the Red Sox fan site, Bornintoit.com, as "Brooklyn Sox Fan."
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Bill "Spaceman" Lee, SP, #37 (1969-1978)
94 W - 68 L, 321 G, 167 GS, 578 K, 3.64 ERA, All-Star (1973)
"You should enter a ballpark the way you enter a church." - Bill Lee
Author, Movie Star, Personality, Eccentric, Futurist, Intellectual, Political Activist, and (oh yeah) Professional Baseball Player. When you look back over the life and times of William Francis Lee III, it's easy to remember him more for his peripherals than his performance on the baseball field. But should you think that Bill "Spaceman" Lee was more personality than ball player, then you are sorely mistaken. For all his off-field activity, his performance on the field is just as memorable as every off color comment, socio-political rant, or autobiography. In fact, Bill Lee is one of the best left handed pitchers every to put on a Boston Red Sox uniform.
Bill Lee was born with baseball in his blood in Burbank, CA on December 28th, 1946. Both his father and grandfather played the game with a passion, but it was his aunt Annabelle Lee, whom Bill Lee would call the "best athlete in the family." Also left handed, Annabelle Lee was a star in the Women's Semi-Pro Hardball League in Chicago.
Bill Lee stayed in his home state to play college ball at the University of Southern California where his Trojans won the College World Series in 1968. Lee graduated after that season and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 22nd round of the 1968 Amateur Baseball Draft.
Upon finding out that his son had been drafted, William Lee Jr. gave Bill the following advice; "Son, you're joining the Boston Red Sox, a fine organization. Now if you can pitch like we both know you can and you can keep your mouth shut, you'll end up being with them for a very long time."
After spending only one year in the Red Sox minor league system, blowing through the Midwest League, Carolina League, and AA Pittsfield of the Eastern League where he went 6-2 with a 2.06 ERA to start the 1969 season, it was apparent that Bill had at least taken the first half of his father's advice.
On June 24th, 1969, Bill Lee was called up to the big leagues when Jim Longborg was hurt. According to Lee, the last thing that he was told after getting the call was not too pack to heavy a bag and not to expect to be up for too long. "Nine years and 102 days later, I was gone," Lee would quip in his autobiography The Wrong Stuff.
Lee didn't get off to the best start in Boston. His first appearance in the Major Leagues would come on June 25th in relief against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. He would go four innings giving up just one run and two hits while striking out five and walking three. Lee would end up the staying with the club the whole season in a relief role, going 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA with one start at the end of the season. Lee called his performance in his first season "really horseshit." Known primarily for his control and his breaking pitches, Lee found himself throwing alot of fastballs and not really getting into the groove with his breaking pitches with the adrenaline that would come working in short relief.
Lee would start the 1970 season with the Red Sox pitching in eleven games with five starts going 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA before he was called into the Army where he served as a reservist. Lee would call military life "interesting, a mixture of perfect logic with a huge helping of the absurd." Despite his eccentricity, Lee served his time in the Army without note and would return to the Red Sox in time to start the 1971 season.
Lee would begin to settle in as a reliever in Boston over the next two seasons pitching in 47 games each year going 9-2 with a 2.74 ERA in '71 and 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA in '72. Come 1973, Lee would break into the starting rotation where he excelled for three straight 17 win seasons. An All-Star in his first season as a starter in 1973, Lee would finish the season third in the AL in ERA (2.75).
In 1975 along with Louis Tiant and Rick Wise, Lee anchored the American League pennant winning Red Sox rotation. With the Red Sox up one game to none against the vaunted National League Champion Cincinnati Reds, Lee made his first postseason start going eight strong innings giving up only two runs on five hits before leaving with a 2-1 lead on the verge of putting the Red Sox two wins away from a World Series Championship. The Reds would go on to score two runs in the top of the ninth off Dick Drago to win the game and Lee's performance would go wasted. The series would continue with the Reds up 3-2 when Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk's dramatics in game six would tie the series and force a seventh game. Lee would be called on to pitch game seven of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. Lee would pitch 6 1/3 shut out innings with the Red Sox leading 3-0 before giving up a two run home run to Tony Perez off an ill-conceived "Leephus" pitch.. Lee would leave game seven up 3-2 only to watch the bullpen lose the second game that he had started that series.
Following three 17 win seasons, 1976 began a downturn in Lee's career, but not before one last bit of fireworks. Lee was involved in many moments in Red Sox history, but arguably the most famous one came in 1976 when he was forced to leave a game after hurting his shoulder in a bench clearing brawl with the New York Yankees. Lee would go 24-22 over his last three seasons with the Red Sox posting ERAs of 5.63, 4.43, and 3.46 before being traded to the Montreal Expos before the 1979 season for utility infielder Stan Papi. Lee who had previously railed against the organization for trading away teammates like Bernie Carbo shot his way out of town, hiding his disappointment, saying, ""Who wants to be with a team that will go down in history alongside the '64 Phillies and the '67 Arabs?"
Lee would finish his Red Sox career with the third most wins for a left handed Red Sox pitcher behind only Mel Parnell and Lefty Grove winning 94 games over his ten year Red Sox career.
Lee would pitch well in his first season in Montreal going 16-10 with a 3.04 ERA in 1979. He would leave baseball altogether in protest over the release of a teammate in 1982. Lee claims that he has been blackballed from baseball since his walkout.
Even if baseball had blackballed him, Lee's association with the game remains strong. Owner of The Old Bat Company in Vermont, Lee has penned multiple autobiograpical books and starred in a documentary film, "Spaceman in Cuba." The documentary called a Baseball Odyssey follows Bill Lee as he roams the world in search of opportunities to play the game that he loves focusing on his time in Cuba in 2003.
Even today at over 60 years old, Lee estimates he still throws 200 innings a year playing the game he loves in over-40 leagues in New England.
"I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won't matter if I get this guy out." - Bill Lee
This Top 100 Red Sox profile was written by Tim Daloisio, Editor and Chief Blogger of the Red Sox Times.
A quick admin post to give an update on the list and an explanation for the silence for the past few weeks. To tell the truth, we got off to a great start, but the 2-a-days were a bit much and it finally caught up to us.
Many of us got caught up in work, family, Spring Training, etc. But no worries, the list soldiers on.
I am working on an updated schedule scaling back to a player a day from here on out. To all of our tireless writers; thanks for all your hard work this far and we're going to see it through! Be on the lookout for an email from me shortly with the revised schedule.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Bruce Hurst, SP, #47 (1980-1988)
W-L 88-73, 237 G, 217 GS, 54 CG, 13 SHO, 4.23 ERA
"It hurts a lot more to lose than it feels good to win." - Bruce Hurst
Looking back through the numbers, nothing about Bruce Hurst stands out in particular. His 4.23 ERA over the course of his Sox career certainly seems pedestrian. He was, however, outstanding backup to ace Roger Clemens in the mid-80s, along with Oil Can and Al "Cheez" Nipper. Hurst was a crafty left-hander whose career in Boston was solid, and whose 1986 WS performance should have been legend.
Hurst spent 1980-81 mostly in Pawtucket, riding the Merloni express in 1980 and starting five games at the tail-end of 1981. While in Pawtucket, he pitched in the longest game in professional baseball history. Hurst was the 7th pitcher for the Paw Sox, and did his part to extend the game, throwing 5 scoreless innings.
He finally got a chance to stick with the big club in 1982, starting 19 games out of his total of 28. He had a poor ERA, probably somewhat due to his 1.718 WHIP. The Sox FO must have seen something, because he was allowed to continue after such a performance. (It would seem rash to judge such a pitcher at age 24.)
In 1983, Hurst would begin to show his consistent ability to be a league-average or better workhorse. 1983-85 were all seasons closely resembling the others. His ERA+ would hover right around 100, and a WHIP around 1.4. He would throw 200+ innings each season, while steadily increasing his Ks.
1986 would be the best season of Hurst's career, though he spent six weeks on the DL. He would post his lowest regular-season WHIP in a relevant league, win 13 games, while completing 11 of his 25 starts. He saved the best for the postseason. In the World Series, he won 2 of his 3 starts, and put the Sox in position to win the 3rd in game 7. Hurst would have been named WS MVP had the Sox been the victor. It was not to be. However, no less than Mets slugger and clean-image poster boy Darryl Strawberry would praise Hurst's performance in the Series:
"Clemens is tough, but he's no Hurst." Indeed, Hurst would rise out of Clemens' shadow only to be foiled by an inability to replace Bill Buckner with Dave Stapleton. The champagne was on ice, the media was ready to cover Hurst in a suffocating manner, and the Sox brass was ready to receive their rings and kudos. Unfortunately for Hurst and the Sox, one ground ball and a giant heap of blame on one player would prevent the win.
1987 and 1988 were both successful seasons for Hurst. He would gain All-Star recognition in 1987, winning 9 games and pitching 139 innings before the break. In 1988, he would reach his career high win total of 18, and finish 5th in the Cy Young balloting. Such a win total and his 5th place non-award made him a hot commodity on the FA market. His Sox career would come to a close when he chose less money to pitch closer to his probably not polygamist roots in Utah.
Hurst would pitch five seasons in the fledgling semi-pro NL West before he retired as a Texas Ranger in 1994. He, however, was not done with baseball. He is now the pitching coach of the Chinese national team under manager Jim Lefebvre. He seems to relish the challenge and looks forward to competing in the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing.
Allen once ate a live snake, spine and all. Just kidding. Snakes don't have spines. Find out more at Over The Monster.
Dutch Leonard, SP, #N/A (1913-1918)
W-L 90-64, 211 G, 162 GS, 96 CG, 25 SHO, 2.13 ERA
Hubert Benjamin "Dutch" Leonard was born on 16 April 1893 in Birmingham, Ohio. He pitched for two seasons in college and one in the minors before getting his shot in the Majors. His BR Bullpen profile mentions a trial in 1911 with the Philadelphia A's. Legal troubles? Did they mean tryout? Research-backed answers get a cookie. He would break into the bigs with the Red Sox as a 20 year old in 1913.
What do we need to know about Dutch Leonard? Leonard was a part of three teams that would go on to WS titles in his career with the Red Sox. The only downside was having to play second fiddle to Babe Ruth for most of that time. He was an excellent pitcher in his own right, averaging over 16 wins a season over his 5 1/2 years with the Sox. Dutch was also a spitballer, and one of the pitchers allowed to continue throwing the pitch after it was banned in 1920.
Dutch's first season, 1913, was successful and unsuccessful. His ERA+ was a solid 122, with a WHIP of 1.307. However, he won only 14 and lost 17, being a good example of why wins and losses aren't a great way to judge a pitcher. The 1913 team finished fourth in the American League. He was on the verge of one of the greatest seasons ever by a starter.
As sophomore slumps go, Dutch didn't have one. He set the modern-day record for ERA at 0.96 with a staggering ERA+ of 279 over 224 2/3 IP. He would go as high as 16th in the MVP voting at the end of the season winning 19 games and helping the Sox move from 4th to 2nd place that season. One would hope, with the years to come, that even Leonard wouldn't see the 0.96 ERA as his crowning achievement.
1915 was an exciting season for the Sox. The first full season for Babe Ruth ushered in a WS title. The Sox would finish the season with 101 wins. Leonard had a good season, but after his phenomenal 1914, one might think it was a let down. Hopefully the WS trophy reduced some of the sting.
The next season was more of the same. Leonard won 18 in support of staff ace Ruth, and the Sox would win another title. Dutch did throw a no-hitter this season, against the St. Louis Browns, on 30 August. It's important to note that Dutch tossed a complete game win in both Series in which he appeared. While Leonard would be a part of the 1918 squad, he would never pitch another World Series game in his career.
Dutch reached a career high in complete games in 1917, finishing 26 of those contests he started. How weak are today's pitchers compared to that era? Dutch would finish only fifth in the league in that category. The Sox would finish nine games behind the White Sox that season, probably due to the departure of Tris Speaker. The Sox as a team held an ERA of 2.20, so it would seem hard to blame anyone but the offense.
1918 was Leonard's last season with the Sox, and he would only pitch half the season, missing time due to service in WWI and some time spend building ships. He would find time to pitch his second and last no-hitter, against the Detroit Tigers on 3 June. He would move on to the those Tigers in 1919, finishing his ML career in the Motor City. However, as with almost all human beings, his life was not without some significant controversy.
First of all, Dutch had a bit of a history with Tigers' superstar and all-around nice guy Ty Cobb. I'm going to let Ty Cobb dot org handle this one:
In 1914, Red Sox pitcher Dutch Leonard hit Cobb in the ribs with a fastball. In the next at bat, Cobb bunted the ball down the right side line. First baseman Clyde Engle covered the play, turning to toss the ball to Leonard just as Cobb spiked him. Basically, the two had a pleasant history before Leonard arrived to play for Cobb's Tigers. He would never enjoy the same success he had with the Sox, but he was able to arrange some game-fixing while he was there. The story goes like this: Dutch was involved in game-fixing with Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker while he was a Tiger. Ex-Sox pitcher Smokey Joe Wood would also be implicated. Leonard would mostly hurt himself with this, until he produced documentation in 1926 that the incident did, in fact, occur. Speaker and Cobb would be released by their teams after the season. Leonard had already finished pitching the season before. It's important to note that the players did not throw the game for bettors. Quite simply, the Tigers could move into third-place for extra money.
Leonard would not return to baseball. He would become an accomplished wine-maker and a successful golfer. He died at the age of 60 because of complications due to stroke.
Allen once ate a live snake, spine and all. Just kidding. Snakes don't have spines. Find out more at Over The Monster.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Bob Stanley, CL, #46 (1977-1989)
115-97, 637 G, 132 SV, 3.64 ERA
Bob Stanley, nicknamed “Steamer” because like the Stanley Steamer vacuum, he sucks, is perhaps the best Red Sox player to be almost universally disliked in the popular imagination. Roger Clemens may be hated by many, but others still love him. Jose Offerman and Mike Lansing might be derided, but they weren’t terribly good, but ol’ Bob Stanley was both awfully good and awfully disliked by the Red Sox faithful.
Be honest, have you ever met a Bob Stanley fan? (Note: Okay, at his Baseball Reference page his fenwaynation.com sponsors describe him as “Forever beloved for plunking Mike Barnacle at the 1992 Sox Fantasy Camp In Winter Haven.” But they don’t count. And have you noticed Jose is borrowing heavily from Baseball Reference in these? Wikipedia too, but now that he’s mentioned it, it’s not plagiarism.)
But why was Bob Stanley so disliked? Was it his wild pitch that allowed Mookie Wilson to score the tying run in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series? Nope, every one knows that was a passed ball. Beside, Dave Stapleton should have been pitching, or something like that. Was it the relish with which he played his role as the bullpen fun police and heartless killjoy? Possibly, this is the guy who ceremonially popped a beach ball with a rake on his appreciation night at Fenway. Really. Still, probably not.
No the reason, that Bob Stanley is widely unloved despite being the Red Sox All-Time save leader with 132, despite having a career ERA of 3.64, despite being a two time All-Star is that Bob Stanley, for all of his excellence, never, ever allowed fans to feel safe when he entered a game. Even in 1983 when he was second in the A.L. in saves with 33 and plunked down a nifty 2.85 ERA, did you ever relax when he entered a game? No, you didn’t, unless you responded to his entering a game with 50mg of valium.
A while ago, Jose suggested that a new statistic be named after Steamer. He suggested that when a reliever picks up a win after blowing a lead, effectively stealing the win, he should be credited with a “Stanley.” Look at his numbers. In 1983, arguably his best season, Stanley saved 33 games while blowing 14 saves, tying a major league record. At the same time, he had eight wins and 10 losses. Do you ever feel good when your closer has that many decisions? Chances are quite a few of those wins should be scored as Stanleys.
Yes, yes, the single season blown save record is shared with a couple of pretty good pitchers named Fingers and Sutter, but still, 14 in a year? Only in a situation like that, could Calvin Schiraldi swipe the closing job.
Player bio by Jose of Jose's Keys to the Game
Frank Malzone, 3B, #11 (1955-1965)
1359 G, 1454 H, 131 HR, 716 RBI, .276 AVG, .317 OBP, .403 SLG
Frank Malzone served in the army in 1952 and 1953 so he broke into the big leagues a little bit late. After his time in the service he spent a few years in the minor leagues and didn’t get a fulltime job in the majors until 1957 when he was already 27 years old. His late start didn’t stop him from making an immediate impact in baseball by having his best season in his rookie year. In ’57 he hit .292 and established a career high with 103 RBI while coming in 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting, 7th in the MVP voting, won his first of 3 consecutive Gold Gloves, and made his first of six All-Star teams. That year he also became the first major league player to lead the league at his position in putouts, assists, games played, double plays, and fielding percentage in the same year. He also led the league with 25 errors, but a player that has the range to get to a lot of balls is going to misplay a few of them.
For the next 7 years Malzone consistently produced for the Sox. His stellar defense remained an asset throughout his career although his range did decrease a little with age. His offense alone wouldn’t have been enough to make him a star, but he was no slouch with the bat either. He was never one for plate discipline as his career high .333 OBP shows, but only twice did he strike out more than 50 times in a year and he topped a .280 AVG five times. He hit 13-21 HR every year and topped 70 RBI 7 times. He was a very dependable guy to have in the line up every day.
Malzone left the team via free agency after the 1965 season after 11 years in the majors, all with Boston. He spent 1 year with the Angels hitting .206 in 82 games, mostly as a defensive replacement. He retired after the ’66 season at the age of 36.
His Red Sox career was good enough to place him 9th all-time on the team’s hit list and 10th all time for games played. He also ranks at least 17th on the club’s all-time list for doubles, homers, runs, and RBI. His career totals are a far cry from Cooperstown, even with his defensive prowess, but he was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995. He still lives just outside of Boston and is still employed by the Red Sox as an advisor at the age of 77.
Player bio by Brian Martin
Thursday, March 8, 2007
George “The Boomer” Scott, 1B, #5, 15 (1966-1971, 1977-1979)
1192 G, 1088 H, 154 HR, 562 RBI, .257 Avg, .324 OBP, .421 SLG, All-Star (1966, 1977)
Born George Charles Scott, March 23rd, 1944, the “Boomer”, as he became known, signed as an amateur free agent with the Red Sox in 1962. Growing up on a farm in Greenville, MS, Scott played three sports, baseball, football, and basketball. Scott claims to have been recruited by John Wooden at UCLA, but signed with the Red Sox in lieu of a basketball career. His minor league playing days were spent most productively in Pittsfield of the Eastern League, where the Red Sox had their AA team. In 1965 he became the third Triple Crown winner in the history of the Eastern League while leading his team to that year’s pennant.
In 1966 he was promoted to the big league ball club, where he played in every single one of the Sox’ games and led the league in strikeouts, with 152. He was the starting first baseman for the AL All-Star team, just the second rookie to cop that honor. The right-handed Boomer quickly became one of the most popular fixtures in the city along with one of the slickest fielding first-sackers of all time, relying on his favorite glove, which he named “Black Beauty”.
An integral part of the “Impossible Dream” squad of 1967, Scott was renowned for his defensive wizardry, his physical presence, his buoyant personality and free spirit, and, later in his career, his Fu Manchu (this came during his stay in Milwaukee; facial hair was banned by Sox’ manager Dick Williams in the late ‘60s). Williams, in fact, said that “talking to Scott was like talking to cement”, such was the mercurial nature of his personality. The Boomer also popularized the term “tater”, referring to tape-measure home runs, while with the Sox. Scott won Gold Gloves in 1967 and 1968 and finished 10th in the MVP balloting in ‘67, but his power output dropped sunk in 1968 (from 19hr/82rbi/.839ops in ’67 to 3/25/.437 in ’68) and he never matched the production of his first two seasons with the Sox; this hastened Scott’s initial departure from the Sox.
In December of 1971, after another injury-filled season in 1970 (in which Scott missed 36 games) and a 1971 season in which he played 146 games but saw little rebound in his power numbers (he did win his third Gold Glove in five years), Scott was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers in a massive eleven player deal, the focal point for the Sox being Tommy Harper. Harper, a speedy outfielder and accomplished base-stealer, came to Boston (along with several others) in return for the Boomer, Billy Conigliaro, Ken Brett, Joe Lahoud, Don Pavletitch, and Jim Lonborg. During his time in Milwaukee Scott returned to form with thunder (even stealing a career-high 16 bases in 1972!), winning Gold Gloves in five consecutive years and putting up career power numbers. In 1973 and 1975 he led the AL in total bases, and in 1975 he hit .285 with AL-leading totals of 36 home runs and 109 rbis, finishing 8th in the MVP vote.
In the ’76-’77 offseason, Scott was traded back to the Red Sox at the behest of Don Zimmer (along with 1975 World Series hero Bernie Carbo), in exchange for first baseman Cecil Cooper. This 1977 season would be his last fully productive year in professional baseball, and the Boomer knocked 33 homers and drove in 96 runs. In 1978 he hit a mere .233, and in 1979 he split time with the Sox, the Royals, and eventually the Yankees, before retiring from the game. Scott’s career total of 8 Gold Gloves is currently second only to Don Mattingly’s nine.
Following his retirement from baseball, Scott managed in the Mexican League. In the mid 90s, he also skippered the Massachusetts Mad Dogs, where he was named Manager of the Year in 1996. And in October 2006, forty years after debuting for Boston, Scott was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
The Boomer currently resides in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
“Red Sox Heroes of Yesteryear”, by Herbert Crehan
Dick Bresciani, Vice President of the Boston Red Sox
This 100 Greatest Red Sox biography was written by Andy B from Yanksfan vs. Soxfan.
Vern Stephens, #5, SS (1948-1952)
660 G, 721 H, 449 R, 122 HR, 562 RBI, .283 Avg, .363 OBP, .492 SLG, All-Star (1948-1951)
Vern Stephens was a capable shortstop, but it was his bat that made him a star and almost a Hall of Famer. If it weren’t for the knee injuries that reduced him to a part time player by the time he was 31 and forced him out of baseball entirely by the age of 35 he’d have his plaque in Cooperstown. Some will argue that he belongs anyways, citing his superior numbers to Phil Rizutto and Lou Beadreau, two shortstops of Stephens’s era that made it into the Hall.
Stephens stormed through the minor leagues and broke into the majors with the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles), a perennial basement dweller and laughing stock of the league. With Stephens leading the team they won their only pennant in Browns history. He played with them for six years and managed to turn a laughingstock into a semi-respectable team.
After the 1947 season the Browns were strapped for cash and even with Stephens they had no hope of competing. They traded Jack Kramer (who went 18-5 in his first season with the Sox before fading into obscurity) and Stephens to Boston in exchange for six prospects, none of whom ever panned out, and $310,000, a big chunk of cash in those days. Stephens was thrilled to be going to Boston. He wanted the chance to win and loved how inviting the Green Monster was, so close to home plate.
Stephens made an immediate impact on the Red Sox hitting 29 HR and 137 RBI in 1948, his first season with the team. He combined with Ted Williams (25 HR, 127 RBI) and Bobby Doerr (27 HR and 111RBI) that year to become the most feared threesome in any line up in baseball. The next year Stephens was even better hitting .290 with 39 HR and 159 RBI. He helped the league’s MVP, Ted Williams, lead the team to a 96 wins and a 2nd place finish that year. 1949 was a peak year for the slugging shortstop, but he still had one more fantastic year in him when he hit .295 with 30 HR and 144 RBI in 1950. With Walt Dropo (34 HR and 144 RBI) added to the mix the Red Sox scored 1027 runs, the most in team history. Eight members of that lineup scored at least 80 runs, five of them scored at least 100. It was an unbelievable lineup, even better than the beloved squads of 2003 and 2004, and their shortstop, Vern Stephens was a huge part of that.
In 1951 Stephens was putting together another typical season hitting .300 and slugging .501, but then his knees started to slow him down. He played just 109 games that year and would never be a full time player again. After a 1952 season in which Stephens hit just 7 HR in 92 games, he was traded to the White Sox for 3 role players. He was released by the White Sox in his first year with the team.
Was he a Hall of Famer? It’s tough to say. And, as the old saying goes, if a guy is a borderline Hall of Famer, he’s not a Hall of Famer. But was he a better player than Phil Rizzuto and Lou Boudreau, two shortstops of his era already in the Hall? I’m comfortable with answering yes on that one. He gave the Red Sox 3 and a half amazing seasons. Despite his short time with the team he still is 20th all time on the team’s RBI list with 562 and 22nd on the list with 122 HR, just 2 fewer than Fred Lynn.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Dennis Eckersley, P, #43 (1978-1984, 1998)
88 W - 71 L, 241 G, 191 GS, 64 CG, 771 K, 3.92 ERA, All-Star 1982
Looking over the twenty-four years of Dennis Eckersley's career, eyes naturally gravitate towards his nine years in Oakland where he redefined the role of the closer while racking up four all-star appearances and a Cy Young and MVP in 1992. Ask anyone to conjure up an image of Eckersley and they are likely to recall the fearless closer with arms flailing as he releases the ball with hair flowing from his hat aiming the ball with pinpoint control. Head however to New England, ask the same question and you'll get memories of a young flamethrower, a starter wearing a Red Sox uniform.
Dennis Lee Eckersley was born October 3, 1954, in Oakland, California. Growing up in Fremont, California, where he attended Washington High School, Eckersley was multi-sport athlete in baseball, basketball and football. His sport of choice was solidified when was selected out of high school by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 1972 free-agent draft.
Eckersley spent his first three seasons as a professional ball player rising up through the Cleveland Indians farm system as a hard throwing starter with incredible potential.
"It was obvious to me Eckersley would be an outstanding pitcher," said Bob Quinn, Cleveland's minor league director at the time. "He had outstanding speed and intimidated you with a sidearm slider. But the thing that always impressed me - and I saw him pitch in the Texas League - was his makeup. He has that extra ingredient that says he will excel. Not necessarily a perfectionist, but he wants nothing but to beat you."In 1975, at only 20 years of age, Dennis Eckersley was invited to attend camp and made the Indians big league roster. Eckersley started his career where he would end it, in the bullpen. But after ten scoreless outings in relief, Eckersley got his first opportunity to start on May 25th, 1975 against the Oakland A's pitching a complete game, three hit shut out. He would pitch a major league record 28 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to start his major league career.
Eckersley would finish the 1975 season at 13-7 with a 2.60 ERA, earning him the honors of Sporting News AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year. Eckersley's time in Cleveland would feature more incredible achievements including a no hitter and a 21 inning hitless streak in 1977. Eckersley would go 40-32 over his three seasons in Cleveland earning him a spot on the 100 Greatest Cleveland Indians Roster before being traded to Boston before the 1978 season along with catcher Fred Kendall for pitchers Rick Wise and Mike Paxton, third baseman Ted Cox and catcher Bo Diaz.
Eckersley's first season in Boston was his best, compiling a 20-8 record, with a 2.99 ERA. Eck was particularly stellar down the stretch as the Red Sox battled the rival New York Yankees in a heated pennant race. Over his last four starts, all wins, Eckersley would pitch 33.2 innings including three complete games while allowing only twenty-seven baserunners and three earned runs (0.80 ERA) while striking out twenty.
Eckersley would follow up his successful 1978 campaign with an equally impressive second season in Boston. At the age of 24, Eckersely went 17-10 matching his previous 2.99 ERA finishing in the top ten in Cy Young balloting (7th), wins (5th), and ERA (3rd). Unfortunately for Dennis, 1980 would usher in a decade of decline for the starting pitcher. Eckersley would hover around the .500 mark for the next four seasons in Boston before being dealt to the Chicago Cubs on May 25th of 1984 along with outfielder Mike Brumley for first baseman Bill Buckner.
Eckersley would go on to rebound in Chicago over two and a half seasons, earning him the #96 spot on Bleed Cubbie Blue's Top 100 Cubs List, before once again being dealt in 1986 to Oakland where he would solidify his place in baseball history as one of the most dominant relievers of all time. If I could find a Top 100 A's of all time list, there is no doubt that Eck would place highly on his fourth such list (Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, and Oakland).
Eckersley would follow his manager Tony LaRussa from Oakland to St. Louis in 1996 spending two seasons with the Cardinals before coming back to Boston to end his career as a set up man for Tom Gordon in 1998.
Dennis Eckersley, a six-time All-Star, ended his 24-year (1975-98) major league career with a record of 197-171 (48-41 as a reliever), 361 games started, 100 complete games, 2,401 strikeouts, and a 3.50 ERA. His career in baseball culminated in 2004 when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 85% of the vote.
In his induction speech in Cooperstown, Eckersley referenced the role that baseball and the fight that he had with alcohol abuse during his career played in his life.
"Walt Whitman once said, 'Baseball will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.' Well, I saved my life and my career was repaired. You never know when life is going to change forever."This Top 100 Red Sox profile was written by Tim Daloisio, Editor and Chief Blogger of the Red Sox Times.
"I care for this game with my heart and soul. I dedicated my life to being the best pitcher I could be. You leave me humbled and grateful for this honor. I'd like to leave an offering of a message of hope. That is, with the grace of God, you can change your life, whoever you are."
Pete Runnels, 1B/2B, #3 (1958-1962)
732 G, 825 H, 407 R, 29 HR, 249 RBI, .320 Avg. .407 OBP, .427 SLG, All-Star (1959-1960, 1962)
When Jose selected Pete Runnels as one of the old-timey players he would profile, Jose just assumed that he was related to professional wrestler Virgil Runnels III, a.k.a. Goldust, and his father Vigil Runnels Jr., a.k.a. the American Dream Dusty Rhodes. Pete Runnels is not. Nuts.
However, all is not lost, as it turns out that Pete, like his fellow Runnels’ has a secret identity. His shocking true identity is James Edward Runnels. So going by Pete is kind of pathetic. Jose hates people who hide behind fake names. They’re kind of sketchy.
But as it turns out Jose is glad that he ended up with Runnels. You know why? Because Baseball Reference lists, as his eighth most comparable player… get ready… Jose Offerman! Ergo, this profile is the eighth most like writing a capsule pinup of Jose Offerman. It has to be, it’s sabermetrics.
That said, there are still a lot of differences between Runnels and Offerman. For instance, Runnels was a three time All-Star in 1959, 1960 and 1962, whereas Offerman was an All-Star, well, never. Runnels won two batting titles, and barely lost a third to Ted Williams, whereas Offerman won none and narrowly lost a race with Dante Bichette for biggest jackass on the team. And with on base percentages ranging from .396 to .416 in his years with the Red Sox, Runnels could have done a far better job replacing Mo Vaughn’s “on base capability” than Offerman ever did.
Of course, Offerman does have his advantages too. Even though Jose has never seen tape of Runnels, he’s pretty sure he didn’t make that over the shoulder play running into the outfield as well as Offerman… come on, no one made that play as well as Offerman.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE 100 GREATEST RED SOX.
Tex Hughson, P, #21 (1941-1949)
96 W - 54 L, 17 Saves, 225 G, 99 CG, 693 K, 2.94 ERA, All-Star (1942-1944)
He was a tall, lanky righthander from the state of Texas. He wore number 21, like another tall Texan would also at Fenway four decades later. Cecil Carlton Hughson first arrived at Fenway Park in April of 1941. He was a power/control pitcher who went to the University of Texas at Austin, and was known to all his friends in Boston as "Tex." He would have some sensational years for the Red Sox in the early-to-mid 1940s, and it looked like he would anchor the Red Sox staff for years to come and maybe was on his way to the Hall of Fame.
But fate would intervene.
Tex Hughson was born in Buda, Texas on February 9, 1916. He was the cousin of Jack Creel, who pitched briefly for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1945. He was best known as a fearless competitor on the mound who was not adverse to throwing inside on hitters, mixing in a hard fastball and an overhand curveball. He would also at times mix in a knuckleball to his repetoire, and was known to throw maybe four or five in a game. He starred at the University of Texas at Austin, and first made it to the majors with the Red Sox at the start of the 1941 season.
The next season, Hughson led the American League in wins, posting a 22-6 record with a 2.59 ERA, and also leading the league in strikeouts (113), complete games (22), and innings pitched (281.0). It would be his finest year in the majors, and he finished sixth in the AL MVP voting. In 1943, he won 12 games with 114 strikeouts, a 2.64 ERA, and again led the league in complete games (20). He had an 18-5 mark in 1944, topping the league in winning percentage (.783) and also reached a career-best ERA of 2.26. He was selected to the AL All-Star team three straight years, from 1942-1944.
Hughson spent 1945 in military service, but when he returned for the 1946 season, he picked up from where he left off. Hughson won 20 games in 1946, led the league in fewest walks per nine innings (1.65), set a career high in strikeouts with 179, and completed 30 of 35 starts. He and Dave "Boo" Ferriss, who won 25 games, were a tremendous 1-2 starting combination in leading the Red Sox to their first American League championship in 28 years.
Hughson pitched in three World Series games against St. Louis that fall, with mixed results. He started very well in Game 1 and got a no-decision in a game the Sox won in extra innings, 3-2; he got hit hard and left in the third inning and got the loss in Game 4 as St. Louis won, 12-3; and he relieved in Game 6, in a game the Cardinals would tie the series (and go on and win the next day).
But throughout the height of his big league career, Tex Hughson pitched in pain. Finally by 1947, arm and shoulder problems caught up with him. He made just 26 starts that year, going 12-11 with a 3.33 ERA in 189 innings. In 1948, Hughson was limited to just 15 relief appearances, and the next season he would make just 2 starts in 29 appearances. He threw less than 100 innings combined those two years. After that 1949 season, he forced to retire at the age of 33.
In an eight-year career, Hughson posted a 96-54 record with 693 strikeouts and a 2.94 ERA in 1375.2 innings. His control was so good, and he recorded an effective 1.86 K-to-BB ratio (693-to-372).
After retiring from baseball in 1949, Hughson returned to his native Texas became a real estate developer. He lived in San Marcos until his death on August 6, 1993, from kidney failure, at the age of 77. He was survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.
His career was one of those many "what could have been if he stayed healthy" stories. Tex Hughson may not have made it to baseball's Hall of Fame, but he was selected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2002.
John Quinn is a writer who lives in New York City and runs the web site, "The Mighty Quinn Media Machine," and writes for the Red Sox fan site, Bornintoit.com, as "Brooklyn Sox Fan."
Monday, March 5, 2007
Derek Lowe, P, #32 (1997-2004)
70 W - 55 L, 85 Saves, 384 G, 673 K, 3.72 ERA, All-Star 2000, 2002
You needn't look any further than the 2004 post-season to gain an understanding of what it was like to be Derek Lowe. Known for incredible talent, at times questionable mental makeup, and a knack for having the highest highs and lowest lows a player can find on a baseball field, Derek Lowe went from being left out of the post-season rotation in 2004 to becoming the winning pitcher in the deciding games of the American League Divisional Series, American League Championship Series, and 2004 World Series. From desolation to revelation, this ride was the epitome of Derek Lowe's career.
Known for his devastating sinker and astounding GB/FB ratio, Lowe both excelled and fell from grace on the mound in Boston as both a top tier closer and top of the rotation starter over his eight year career as a Red Sox. Over the course of his career, Lowe would pitch in more games in a Red Sox uniform (384) than only Bob Stanley and teammate Tim Wakefield. Lowe ranks 4th on the all time Red Sox saves list with 85, and is the tallest pitcher to ever pitch in a Sox uniform at 6'6". Lowe is also the last Boston pitcher to record a no-hitter when he no-hit the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on April 27, 2002 five years and one day removed from his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners.
Born June 1st of 1973 in Dearborn, MI, a young Derek Lowe was the all-American high school athlete. Lowe lettered in baseball, golf, soccer, and basketball where he was a first team all-state player. In 1991, Lowe chose baseball as his sport of choice and was drafted in the 8th round of the 1991 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners as a pitcher. By the end of the 1992 season in class A ball in Bellingham, WA Lowe was touted as the #6 prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America.
Lowe rose through the Mariners minor league system spending 1994 and 1995 in AA before moving up to AAA Tacoma in 1996. Lowe started the season in 1997 back in Tacoma before getting his call to the bigs in late April. On April 26th, 1997 Derek Lowe made his Major League debut for the Seattle Mariners. Trailing 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays, Lowe was called upon out of the bullpen to start the sixth inning. In his first inning of work Lowe induced three ground balls in a one-two-three inning. Lowe would give up a hit in the seventh inning and a hit in the eighth allowing no runs while the Mariners tied the game at three. In the bottom of the ninth in his fourth inning of relief work, Lowe gave up back to back one out singles before being replaced by Norm Charlton. Charlton wasn't able to close out the inning and Derek Lowe's first appearance in the big leagues resulted in a well pitched loss.
Lowe would go on to start nine games for the Mariners going 2-4 with a 6.96 ERA before being traded to Boston along with catcher Jason Varitek at the July 31st trading deadline for Red Sox closer Heathcliff Slocumb in what would go down as one of the best trades in Boston Red Sox history. Lowe would go on to make his Red Sox debut on September 1st and compile a 0-2 record and 3.38 ERA in 8 relief appearances for the Red Sox in 1997.
Lowe started 1998 in the starting rotation before going 0-7 with a 5.81 ERA over ten starts before being moved to the bullpen where he found a niche setting up for Tom Gordon and excelled. In 53 games as a reliever in '98 Lowe went 3-2 with 4 saves and a 2.88 ERA. As a reliever, his BAA dropped .057 points and his Opponent SLG dropped .124 points to .301 while his K/BB ratio doubled. Lowe found comfort in the 7th and eighth innings and began to stand out as one of the better setup men in baseball.
The 1999 season saw Derek Lowe continue to evolve; this time from setup man to closer. As he did in 1997, Lowe flourished in his new role as the season progressed. Over his first 42 games, he was primarily a set up man for, of all people, Tim Wakefield who had been called upon to close games to start the season. Lowe did his set up job well going 0-2 with a 3.04 ERA, 4 saves, 34 K and 19 BB. In his final 32 appearances, primarily as the closer, Lowe was 6-1 with 11 saves, a 2.21 ERA, and only 6 BBs compared to 46 Ks. The closer role suited him and set him up for a breakout year in 2000.
In 2000, Derek Lowe built off his positive experiences in the ninth inning the year prior resulting in an All-Star appearance on his way to lead the American League in saves with 42. In 74 games, Lowe was 4-4 with 42 saves, a 2.56 ERA, and a 79/22 K/BB ratio. For all Lowe's success however, his future career wouldn't see him continue to flourish as a closer.
Looking to back up his '00 season with another stellar campaign, 2001 didn't get off the start that Derek Lowe was hoping for. In April, Lowe couldn't get out of his own way going 1-4 with 3 saves in 13.1 innings giving up 20 hits on his way to a 6.75 ERA. Lowe settled into the season in May and June, before struggling again in July and losing his closing job to acquired Ugueth Urbina in August. Lowe would make three successful starts in September, once again taking the lows of losing his job as a closer to an opportunity to excel in another role. Over the three starts he would go 1-0 with a 1.12 ERA.
In what would become a common trait for Derek Lowe, he would bounce back from adversity in a big way in 2002. As a starting pitcher for the first time since he started his Red Sox career, Lowe had another All-Star appearance, this time as the games starting pitcher. And that wouldn't even be the high point of his season. Lowe would go 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA over 32 starts finishing third in the Cy Young race to teammate Pedro Martinez and award winner Barry Zito. But when he looks back on what could be called the most successful season of his career, Lowe will remember one day above all others, April 27th 2002. Against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Fenway Park, Derek Lowe would pitch the game of his life no hitting the Rays in a 10-0 win. After the game ended and the fans partied to a rousing rendition of "Low-Rider" Lowe came back on the field and addressed the fans.
"I'm just glad all you guys were here to enjoy this with me. I know last year you guys had no confidence in me, and I deserved that. And I just want to come out in this park and give the confidence back to you guys. And I'm just very glad that you guys stayed with me and cheered me on throughout the game. Thank you very much."
Once again, success was hard for Derek Lowe to repeat for Lowe in 2003. Lowe would end up a respectable 17-7 behind the strength of a stellar offense, but would post a 4.47 ERA over 33 starts. At Fenway Park, Lowe approached the pitcher we say in 2002 going 11-2 with a 3.21 ERA. On the road however, Lowe was 6-5 with an abysmal 6.11 ERA. It would be on the road however that Lowe would make his most lasting memory of the season. With the Red Sox on the brink of erasing an 0-2 deficit against the Oakland A's in the ALDS, Lowe was called upon in a role that he had given up years before; the closer. After starting game four in which he pitched well but yielded a no decision in a Red Sox win, Lowe was called on in the ninth inning striking out two A's on nasty diving sinkers with the game in the balance. Jason Varitek would call the last strike "the best pitch he's ever made." Here is my recap from that game.
2004 would be Lowe's last in a Red Sox uniform before leaving in free agency and signing a contract with the L.A. Dodgers. He would in fact save his best for last. Both fortunately and fortunately, his best wasn't on display until the very end. Lowe would struggle through most of the season with questionable mental makeup and a 15-12 record and a 5.42 ERA. Luckily for Red Sox fans, even after being left out of the rotation in the 2004 post season, Lowe's ability to bounce back from the lowest of lows was never more apparent.
In game three of the ALDS against the Anaheim Angels with the Red Sox up two games to none and the game headed to extra innings, Lowe pitched a scoreless tenth inning before David Ortiz ended the game and the series with a walkoff two-run homer into the Monster Seats making Lowe the winning pitcher. After being called upon to start game four of the ALCS against the New York Yankees because of the devastation that long games prior had on the Red Sox pitching staff forcing schedule starter Tim Wakefield into action, Lowe pitched well keeping the Red Sox in the game through his 5.1 innings of work. By the time the series had reached game seven, Lowe was called upon again, this time on only 2 days rest. Lowe pitched his way into Red Sox history allowing only one run and one hit over six innings on his way to another series clinching win solidifying the greatest comeback in the history of team sports. Not to be outdone, Lowe finished off his amazing post season run with a victory in the clinching game of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 27th, 2004. In what would be his last game in a Red Sox uniform, Lowe would go seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits while walking one and striking out four. The Red Sox won the game 3-0, the series 4-0, and after a horrid regular season, Derek Lowe was the winning pitcher in all three series-deciding games in the 2004 playoffs.
This Top 100 Red Sox profile was written by Tim Daloisio, Editor and Chief Blogger of the Red Sox Times.
Bill Monbouquette, SP, #27 (1958-1965)
96 W - 91 L, 254 G, 72 CG, 16 SHO, 3.69 ERA, 969 K, All-Star (1960, '62, '63)
He was known to his friends and teammates as "Monbo." He grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, and turned down offers from the Tigers and Cubs to pitch for the Red Sox, his hometown team that he grew up rooting for.
But Bill Monbouquette joined the Red Sox at a very inopportune time, during a dark period in Red Sox history.
Bill Monbouquette was born in Medford on August 11, 1936. He signed with the Sox in 1955 as a free agent and for a $4,000 bonus. He was a righthander who was a finesse pitcher who relied on changing speeds and had pinpoint control. He was brought up by the Red Sox in 1958 and made his debut with them on July 18. He went 3-4 in 10 games with an ERA of 3.31 in just over 54 innings.
Monbouquette was brought up to the Sox at a time when the Red Sox were in a downward spiral, and one of the only reasons many fans came to Fenway in the late 1950s was to see Ted Williams, who was winding down his brilliant career. Monbouquette was used as a spot starter and reliever in 1959, but became a full-time starter in 1960 and began to blossom into a reliable starting pitcher, and was named to the AL All-Star team that season.
Monbouquette also played a little-known part in the social history of the team. In 1959, when Pumpsie Green became the first black player on the Red Sox, he saw that a coach on the Red Sox named Del Baker was giving some racial abuse to the White Sox' Minnie Minoso, who was from Cuba. Green confirms that it was Monbouquette who went over to Baker and let it be known in no uncertain terms to cut it out, and that sort of ugliness had no place on the team. Monbouquette would later say that the racial abuse was upsetting Green, who Monbo considered a friend.
Monbo went 14-11 in 1960, and 14-14 in 1961, with over 200 innings pitched both seasons and respectable ERAs both years as well. His first career highlight came in the 1961 season when he struck out 17 Washington Senators in a game on May 12, a 2-1 Red Sox win. It set a team record that would last until April of 1986, when Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners in a nine-inning game to set the major league record.
1962 would be an even better season for Monbo. The Red Sox were a very mediocre club, but Monbouquette took another step as a bonafide top-notch starter. He won 15 that season, with the highlight being a no-hitter he pitched against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park on August 1, a 1-0 win over Early Wynn. (It was one of two by the Sox that season, as Earl Wilson threw one as well.) He was also named to his second All-Star team as well.
But the next season would prove to be the best season in Monbouqette's career. He reached the magic number of 20 wins for the first and only time, and made another All-Star team. He also established career highs in innings pitched ( 266.7) and strikeouts (174). But again, the Red Sox had a rather miserable team and were nowhere near a pennant race.
The next two seasons would see a decline in Monbouquette's numbers, as he went 13-14 in 1964 and 10-18 in 1965. He was still the ace and workhorse of the Red Sox staff, but the team's on-field play still didn't improve very much. Just after the 1965 season, Monbouquette was dealt to the Detroit Tigers for George Smith, George Thomas and Jackie Moore.
Monbouquette went 7-8 for Detroit in a spot starter/reliever role in 1966, and shortly into the 1967 season, he was released and picked up by the New York Yankees. They used him in a similar role, and he pitched well, going 6-5 with a 2.36 ERA in 101 innings. In 1968, he pitched for both New York and the San Francisco Giants, going 5-8 in 101 innings combined for both clubs. He was released by the Giants before the start of the 1969 season.
At 32, Monbouquette decided to retire rather than go back to the minors to try to fight his way back. He became a very successful minor league pitching coach and scout for such teams as Mets, Blue Jays, Yankees and Tigers. For over 30 years he has been a very-well respected teacher of pitchers in baseball's minor leagues.
In 1988, Monbouquette was coaching for Myrtle Beach in the Toronto organization, when he saw a tall, lanky kid from Texas who he thought had a lot of raw ability but not much "killer instinct." He taught the kid a sinker, and the pitcher credits Monbouquette with changing his career completely. That kid's name: Mike Timlin.
"I like working with the kids," Monbouquette once said to Steve Buckley, in his book, Red Sox, Where Have You Gone. "You like to think you can have an impact on their lives, their careers. It's a good feeling when you can connect with them."
Monbouquette has served as a major league pitching coach on two occasions: with the Blue Jays, and with the Mets from 1982-83. Recently he has been the pitching coach for Oneonta of the New York-Penn League, the Tigers affiliate.
Monbouquette has been married twice, and has three grown children.
He finished his Red Sox career with some very respectable numbers, winning 96 games in nine seasons with some less-than-stellar Red Sox teams. He left the Red Sox shortly before the 1967 Impossible Dream season, and it was a shame that Monbouquette never pitched in a postseason game in his career, in Boston or anywhere else, and that he never got to pitch for the Red Sox after their fortunes improved.
He was the best pitcher on the Red Sox in a bad era in Red Sox history. But at least he will always be remembered in Red Sox history, as he was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2000.
John Quinn is a writer who lives in New York City and runs the web site, "The Mighty Quinn Media Machine," and writes for the Red Sox fan site, Bornintoit.com, as "Brooklyn Sox Fan."
Sunday, March 4, 2007
Reggie Smith, OF, #7 (1966-73)
1014 G, 1064 H, 149 HR, 536 RBI, 84 SB, .281 Avg, .354 OBP, .471 SLG
Switchhitter Reggie Smith came up to the Red Sox in 1966 at the age of 21. He became known for his decent power, his high batting averages, and his good on-base percentages. Smith contributed 2 HR's in the 1967 World Series. He won a Gold Glove for the Red Sox in 1968, hit over .300 three times and led the AL in doubles in 1968 and 1971. He was the first African-American star for the Red Sox, paving the way for Jim Rice later in the 70's. The Red Sox had a bad reputation when it came to baseball intergration, and the city was not always the kind to minorities.
Reggie was traded to St. Louis Cardinals along with Ken Tatum in October 1973. In return the Sox received two key members of the 1975 AL Champions - Pitcher Rick Wise and OF Bernie Carbo. Smith went on to great success in the National League, being named to the NL All Star team in 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, and 1980. Smith hit 3 HR in a game on May 22, 1976. He ended up with the Dodgers midway through 1976. The well balanced Dodgers, led by the hitting and defense of Smith as well as Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Dusty Baker and the pitching of Don Sutton, Tommy John, Burt Hooten, won the NL pennant in 1977 and 1978. Each time they lost the World Series to the dreaded New York Yankees. Smith finally earned a World Series ring with the 1981 Dodgers. He played one more season with the San Francisco Giants, then retired. At that time he was 2nd only to Mickey Mantle in HR's by a switch hitter. He ended up hitting 100 HR in each league.
After his playing career ended, Smith rejoined the Dodgers, where he served as a coach under Tommy Lasorda , a minor league instructor and a player development official. Smith also served as hitting coach for Team USA during the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Despite playing only 8 seasons of his 17 year career in Boston, Reggie ranks 26th with over 1,000 games played and over 3,700 ABs, scoring 592 runs (just one behind Manny Ramirez). He ranks 16th on the Red Sox career HR list, with 149 roundtrippers.
This 100 Greatest Red Sox biography was written by SoxFan of http://soxfanzone.blogspot.com/.
Trot Nixon, RF, #7 (1996-2006)
982 G, 912 H, 547 R, 133 HR, 523 RBI, .278 Avg, .365 OBP, .478 SLG
Trot Nixon (or Christopher Trotman Nixon) was born on April 11, 1974 in Durham, NC. He went to New Hanover High School where he played both baseball and football. Both of which he was very adept at. During his senior year is where he came to his high school career peek. As a senior in football he broke records for passing and in baseball he got State Player of the Year and was named High School Player of the Year by Baseball America. He finished his senior baseball year with .512 BA, 56 RBIs (which was a state record), and 12 homeruns. He also pitched 40 innings with a 12-0 record and a .40 ERA.
He was drafted in 1993 in the amateur draft as first pick by the Sox, 7th overall. His first professional season came in 1996. His best year came in 2003 where he posted a .306 BA, 28 homeruns, and 24 doubles.
He is said to have been just about as Red Sox as they come. From saving the Sox from elimination in 2004 to wearing goofy hairstyles in the 2004 season, he’s said to be the one who coined the phrase “Boston Dirt Dog”. He also one of the rare cases of being on the disabled list and being kicked out of the game. When Gabe Kapler hit a homerun which the umpires counted as a double, Nixon ran out to contest the call and ended up getting ejected.
During the final game of the 2006 season Nixon got taken out in the 5th inning, everyone knowing it was his last game in Boston. He got replaced by David Murphy. He wasn’t offered arbitration by the Sox in the off-season either, and after the signing of JD Drew things started to look bleak for him on the Sox. In January of 2007 Nixon signed with the Cleveland Indians in a 1 year $3 million deal.
He also chose to change his number from 7 to 33 by the advice of his son Chase, who chose it because Nixon is turning 33 this year.
This 100 Greatest Red Sox biography was written by Mander.
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Rick Burleson, SS, #7 (1974-1980)
1346 Games, 656 Runs, 50 HR, 449 RBI, .328 OBP AL All Star 1977-79, 1981
One of my personal favorites, Rick Burleson was a scrappy Red Sox shortstop of the 1970's. Rick "Rooster" Burleson was a Red Sox first round draft pick in 1970. He made his major league debut with the Red Sox on May 4, 1974. Eventually he would end up being considered one of the best defensive shortshops in the history of the Boston Red Sox, playing in 1031 games (24th best), scoring 514 runs and amassing 1114 (19th best).
Rooster was an intense hard working player who won the hearts of Red Sox Nation. He was the starting shortstop during the magical 1975 season. Burleson hit over .290 in both 1976 and 1977, and was 2nd to Jim Rice among team hit leaders in 1977 with 194 base hits. In 1979 Burleson won a Gold Glove. From 1975 to 1980 Rooster played in at least 145 games and got at least 140 hits each season. Burleson help turn a record setting 147 double plays in 1980.
In one of the most unpopular moves in Red Sox history, Burleson was traded in December 1980 to the California Angels along with Butch Hobson for Carney Lansford, Rick Miller, and Mark Clear. Burleson then played with the Angels from 1980-1984 before finishing up his major league career with the Baltimore Orioles.
Burleson's last few years were tough, as he missed the entire 1985 season with a torn rotator cuff. Burleson came back in 1986 and earned Comeback Player of the Year honors.
However, the trade from Boston to California was a trade Burleson was not happy with. If he had it his way, he would have loved to play his whole career with the Red Sox. "I was disappointed to be traded from Boston after being there for seven years and basically in my prime," said Burleson. "I turned 30 that year and they traded (Fred) Lynn, myself and let Fisk go. That was a front office move through Haywood Sullivan where he got back at us for holding out in early 1976 when that was the first year of free agency.
After just one year removed from baseball, Burleson realized he enjoyed too many things about baseball and wanted to get back into it. The Oakland A's hired Burleson as a roving instructor, and he eventually became their major league hitting coach. Burleson returned as a coach with the Red Sox for the 1992 and 1993 seasons and also managed in both the Dodgers and Mariners organizations before joining the Reds.Today Burleson is still involved in baseball, managing at the Triple A level including several seasons with the Louisville Bats (Cinncinati Reds). He hopes to become a major league manager.
This 100 Greatest Red Sox biography was written by SoxFan of http://soxfanzone.blogspot.com/.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Johnny Damon, CF, #18 (2002-2005)
597 G, 730 H, 461 R, 56 HR, 299 RBI, 98 SB, .295 Avg, .362 OBP, .441 SLG
At 9:11 PM on the evening of October 20, 2004, the centerfielder for the Boston Red Sox hit what many have called the biggest home run in Boston Red Sox history. It was a first-pitch swing against New York Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez, and he hit it into the short-porch seats in rightfield, just a couple of rows deep. It was a grand slam that gave the Red Sox a 6-0, second inning lead in Game 7 of the American League Series, in a game the Sox would go on to win, 10-3, and complete the single greatest comeback in the 101-year history of baseball's postseason.
That one swing made Johnny Damon a legend in the annals of the long, storied history of the Boston Red Sox.
Johnny David Damon was born on November 5, 1973 to a white father and a Thai mother on an Army base in Fort Riley, Kansas. His parents met while his father wasa Staff Sergeant in the US Army. Johnny spent most of his early life as an Army brat travelling with his family to several Army bases before the family finally settled in the Orlando, Florida area. In his early life, Johnny suffered from a stuttering problem, which made his a rather quiet kid.
But he excelled in sports, and at Dr. Phillips High School in 1992 he was rated the top schoolboy prospect in the country by Baseball America, was named to USA Today's High School All-America team, and was the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year. He was the 35th overall pick in the 1992 MLB draft, and turned down a baseball scholarship to the University of Florida to sign with the Kansas City Royals.
Damon was the Royals' Minor League Player of the Year in 1994, and the Texas League MVP in 1995, and was brought up to Kansas City in August 1995. He became a regular in the Royals outfield in 1996, hitting a solid .271 and stealing 25 bases in 145 games.
Damon would soon gain a reputation as one of the fastest outfielders in the game, as he was in the Top 3 in AL in triples three straight seasons from 1997-99. His power numbers steadily increased, as he hit 18 homers in 1998. He stole at least 25 bases in three of his first four full seasons.
But Johnny Damon would have his breakout season in 2000, batting .327 with 16 HRs, 88 RBI, and 214 hits. He would lead the AL with 46 stolen bases, and runs, scoring 136.
The Kansas City Royals had a superstar player in the making, but being a small-market club, simply couldn't pay Damon enough to keep him. He was a free agent after the 2001 season, so in early January 2001, he was traded to Oakland Athletics in a three-team deal that also involved the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Damon's first year in Oakland got off to a rough start, and he struggled a good part of the season. But by August, he finally got hot and managed to salvage what was mostly a lost season for him, hitting .256 with 27 stolen bases and 108 runs.
But the A's had a wonderful season, winning the AL Wild Card with 102 wins. They faced the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series, and it would Damon's first taste of the postseason. He would have a fine series, hitting .409, scoring three runs and stealing two bases. But the A's lost a 2-0 series lead, as the Yankees won two games in Oakland and then wrapped up Game 5 back in New York to advance to the ALCS.
The A's would elect not to pursue Damon as a free agent, as GM Billy Beane would rather let the more expensive players walk and rebuild the farm system with draft picks than increase payroll. So Damon walked away, and on December 21, 2001, Damon signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. This would turn out to be the final move by then-GM Dan Duquette, as he was fired in early 2002, as the Red Sox had been sold that winter to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino.
It would also prove to be one of Duquette's best moves, as well.
Damon would take over centerfield at Fenway Park and make a big splash right away. He was picked for the AL All-Star team for the first time. He hit 14 HRs, 63 RBI and a .286 batting average. He played a tremendous centerfield, and gave the Red Sox an excellent leadoff hitter and stolen base threat, as he swiped 31 bases.
Damon would put up similar numbers for the Red Sox in 2003, but he would be at the top of one of the most dynamic lineups in baseball history. The Sox faded in June of 2002, finishing second and out of the postseason. But in 2003, they got hot in August and would go on to win the Wild Card in late September.
The Red Sox opponents in the first round would be Damon's former club, the Oakland A's. The Sox fell behind 2-0, losing the first two in Oakland. They returned to Boston and won Game 3 on a Trot Nixon 11th inning homer, and Game 4 on a clutch David Ortiz double in the eighth inning (it also included Damon's first career postseason home run).
Game 5 would be back in Oakland, and it would be a life-changing game for Johnny Damon.
The Red Sox scored four runs in the sixth on two homers by Jason Varitek and Manny Ramirez to take a 4-1 lead. In the bottom of the seventh, Jermaine Dye of the A's hit a pop up to short center. Damon and Damian Jackson, who had just gone in to 2nd base as a defensive replacement for Todd Walker, both attempted to catch it, but they wound up colliding in a horrendous scene that left Damon unconscious for a short time. He was taken off the field by ambulance, but gave the crowd a thumbs-up before he left. The Red Sox would go on to win, 4-3, to advance to the ALCS and a showdown with the hated New York Yankees.
Damon would be forced to miss the first two games in New York. He wanted to play but Red Sox doctors kept him on the sidelines. He would return for Game 3, but he clearly wasn't the same player before the collision. in the final five games, he would go 4-for-20 with just one RBI. The Red Sox would of course, just miss going to the World Series, but once the Sox season was over, Damon would return home to Florida and do something that would alter his career forever.
He let his hair grow, and he stopped shaving.
Damon showed up at spring training in Ft. Myers in February 2004 with a beard and hair down to his shoulders. It was the talk of training camp and around baseball. More than one sportwriter made the analogy that he looked like Jesus Christ. "How can we lose now that we have Our Lord and Savior playing center field?" T-shirts popped up with Damon's new look, and one catchphrase said, "What Would Johnny Damon Do?" Damon would later explain that the migrane headaches he suffered over the winter made him tired to the point where he didn't shave for some time, so he kept the beard when he came to camp.
2004 would be Damon's best season to date. He would hit 20 HRs, a career-high at the time, drive in an amazing 94 runs for a leadoff hitter, and hit .306. The Red Sox struggled through a good part of 2004, playing .500 ball for a good three months, before finally getting hot in mid-August and wrapping up a Wild Card berth in late September. Damon would have a terrific ALDS against Anaheim, going 7-for-15 with 4 runs scored in a three-game sweep.
The next ALCS would be a rematch with the Yankees. It would be the worst of times, and then the best of times for Johnny Damon.
The first three games of the 2004 ALCS were a total disaster for the Red Sox. They lost all three, and Game 3 was the worst of all, losing 19-8 before the Fenway Faithful. They were now in a 3-0 hole, and no team in history had ever come back to win after being down so far. And Johnny Damon was having an absolutely terrible series, going 0-for-8 with 5 strikeouts in the first two games. But like that person Damon was once compared to, the Sox rose up, and made it a series again. They won Games 4 and 5 both in extra innings and in dramatic style to get the series back to New York. Curt Schilling pitched and won one of the most heroic games in postseason history to even the series and force a winner-take-all Game 7. But through those three wins, Johnny Damon still wasn't hitting. He was 3-for-29 in the first six games.
All of that was forgotten the next night.
Damon led off with a single to open Game 7, stole second, but was thrown out at home on a Manny Ramirez single. David Ortiz would homer on the next pitch to give the Sox a 2-0 lead. Damon's second at-bat would be in the next inning, with one out and the bases loaded. Javier Vazquez came in to relieve starter Kevin Brown. Damon later said he knew Vazquez would try to get ahead with a fastball, so he looked for it on the first pitch and drove it over the rightfield wall near the pole to give the Sox a commanding lead of 6-0.
But Damon's heroics weren't through. In the fourth with another man on, he drilled another first-pitch from Vazquez into the upper deck to give the Sox an enormous 8-1 lead. Two pitches, two homers and six RBI. The previous six days were a long and distant memory for Damon as the Red Sox went on to win, 10-3 and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1986. They had pulled off the greatest comeback ever in baseball history, and they did it to their longtime rivals in their own backyard. It was a gift to every Red Sox fan, and Johnny Damon became an instant legend in Boston sports history.
The NL champion St. Louis Cardinals were simply no match for the Red Sox, who were now Destiny's Darlings. Damon opened the World Series with a double, and scored on David Ortiz' three-run shot. The Sox took the first three, and Johnny Damon would personally make sure it would be a four-game sweep. (Damon would also hit .286 for the Series.)
He hit the fourth pitch of the night off Jason Marquis for a long homer to right to open the game and get the Sox on their way. The Cardinals were kept off the board all night, and the Sox won, 3-0 for their first World Series championship since 1918. It set off wild celebrations all over New England and Red Sox Nation.
And it made a national celebrity out of Johnny Damon.
He turned up on "The Late Show With David Letterman," "Live With Regis and Kelly," "Saturday Night Live" and "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy," among other TV shows. He also collaborated with Peter Gollenbock on a biography about his life. (It's a shabbily written book though.) He also appeared in the film, "Fever Pitch," which centered on one Red Sox fan's obsession with the team. He had become the face of the club, and you couldn't go anywhere without seeing him that winter.
He had another good season in 2005, but he began to show signs that he was peaking as a player. His arm, never strong to begin with, seemed to be getting even weaker, and his defense wasn't as good as past years. His home run numbers dropped by half, down to 10, in 2005. He battled injuries, but Damon kept on playing through them. He was in the batting race for most of the year, and finished fourth at .316.
Damon was a free agent after 2005, and most fans thought he would be back. But in mid-December, the baseball world was stunned when Damon, the face of the Red Sox and the man who termed the 2004 club, "The Idiots," signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the rival Yankees. The Yankees desperately needed a centerfielder and made Damon an offer he couldn't walk away from and the Red Sox wouldn't match. It was all the more stunning after Damon made the following statement about the Yankees in May 2005:
"There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they're going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need."
Damon was vilified as a traitor and a turncoat for going to New York. Red Sox fans who once compared him to Jesus were now calling him "Judas." Fans burned Damon jerseys and other Johnny paraphernalia. Damon made his return to Fenway with the Yankees on May 1, 2006, to a crowd that booed far more than they cheered. Damon took the hostile reception in stride. He also had one of his best years in 2006, hitting 24 home runs, 80 RBI and a .285 batting average.
Johnny Damon became a father for the third time this past January, as his second wife Michelle had their first child together, a girl named Devon Rose.
He will always be part of one of the most beloved Red Sox teams in franchise, "The Idiots" who won the first title in team history since 1918, and one that did it in a way that will be remembered forever in baseball history. But as a businessman, he made a decision to continue his career in New York, rather than stay in Boston for less money. His legacy was at Fenway, but there most fans just look upon him with vile, because of the team he signed on with. If he'd gone anywhere else, it wouldn't be like this. His decision to leave would probably be more respected.
I can't help but think one day after his career is long over, Johnny Damon will give an inevitable interview about his baseball life. And in it, no matter what he's accomplished from 2006 on, he will say, "I made a mistake leaving Boston. Not signing with New York, but leaving Boston."
We can only hope so.
John Quinn is a writer who lives in New York City and runs the web site, "The Mighty Quinn Media Machine," and writes for the Red Sox fan site, Bornintoit.com, as "Brooklyn Sox Fan."