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Red Sox Triviology
By Neil Shalin
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2011 Neil Shalin
All rights reserved.
1. Jimmie Foxx
2. David Ortiz
3. Mo Vaughn
4. Kevin Youkilis
5. George Scott
6. Adrian Gonzalez
7. Bill Buckner
8. Stuffy McGinnis
9. Phil Todt
10. Walt Dropo
HM. Dick Gernert
HM. Kevin Millar
We're in trouble right from the beginning. Foxx had some great years in Boston, but he was better in Philadelphia. However, he's Jimmie Foxx and you've got to respect that. Our No. 2 guy Ortiz hasn't played much first base, but we're not doing a whole chapter about designated hitters, and Big Papi could be the best of all time. But Foxx played the position, so he gets the No. 1 spot.
Vaughn is solid at No. 3, but we give the edge to Ortiz because he's been "the man" in what has turned out to be the Red Sox Golden Age.
Youkilis has been playing first base for the past few years and has done a great job both with the bat and in the field. However, by the time you read this he will have established himself back at third base, where he wasn't as good. Gonzalez was the big pick-up and, based on his past production, he could be near the top of the list by the end of the year.
We're comfortable with Scott at No. 5. He won eight Gold Gloves (three in Boston) and was a force with the bat. After Gonzalez we have a group of six players who all contributed to the cause but none for a full career in Boston.
This was supposed to be a Top Ten, but we couldn't decide who to drop, so we kept everyone. Buckner was certainly better than that one play. McGinnis has gotten some Hall of Fame support from the veterans committee for a career that started with the famous $100,000 infield of the Philadelphia Athletics in the early 1910s, before he spent four seasons with the Sox.
Todt was a fair hitter, but one of the top defensive first basemen of his day. Dropo did have that great rookie season, even though he was gone a few years later. Gernert was a good slugger who had the respect of his Red Sox teammates, who believed that he was handled all wrong by the organization and that he was probably better than his record. And Millar was a major player on "The Idiots" who finally broke "The Curse of the Bambino."
So, we've got a Top 12.
Kevin Youkilis is a throwback to the days of baggy flannel uniforms and scrappy Gas House Gang baseball, a time when there was a giant tobacco chaw stuffed in almost every player's cheek. He's one of the game's hard-nosed players, who doesn't take a brush-back pitch lying down and who plays through pain and disappointment. But he's also the epitome of the modern player, the guy who managers and new-age statisticians are looking to for on-base percentage and clutch hitting.
Youkilis has spent four years as the Red Sox first baseman, where he's distinguished himself by setting a record for most consecutive errorless ball games and won a Gold Glove. But in 2011 he was moved back to his original position at the hot corner to make room in the lineup for Adrian Gonzalez, who was acquired in the off-season from the San Diego Padres.
Youkilis considers himself a third baseman and has, in fact, filled in at third multiple times every year when he was needed.
"Hopefully, Adrian Gonzalez is here a long time, and hopefully I'll play at third the rest of my career," Youkilis said recently. "It would be cool to both start my career and end it there."
And, as we look forward to the 2011 season, there's every reason to believe that Youkilis, who turned 32 in March, will continue his high production and will contribute in all the little ways to help the Sox in their quest for their third title in the past eight seasons.
Youk's rise to stardom as a Boston icon has been a mild surprise to fans who expect their diamond heroes to be graceful like Joe DiMaggio, elegant like Ted Williams, fast and fluid like Ken Griffey Jr., and/or chiseled and muscular like the products of the steroid era.
When he was drafted in the eighth round after a brilliant career at Cincinnati University, there were some doubts due to his thick body (he was heavier then) and lack of outstanding speed.
At times he's been described as roly-poly or pudgy, or as the Boston Globe's Jackie MacMullen wrote, "He does not look like an MVP candidate, more like a refrigerator repairman, a butcher, the man selling hammers behind the counter at the True Value hardware store."
Last season, a year that was shortened by a thumb injury, Youkilis hit .307 with 19 home runs, 62 RBIs, scored 77 runs, and had an OBP of .411, thanks to his ability to draw walks. That ability has earned him the nickname "The Greek God of Walks."
"He's going to work the count about as good as any hitter in baseball," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
His patience at the plate is reflected in his perennial place among the league leaders in walks, pitches per plate appearance, and being hit by pitches. And when he does swing, Youkilis usually puts the ball in play, often smashing line drives and hitting into the gaps.
He's been called an "on-base machine."
He has also consistently been among the league leaders in sacrifice flies, as well as batting average with runners on base and in scoring position, and bases advanced on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, and balks.
Youk has been equally productive in the postseason, hitting for a .306 average with six homers, 17 RBIs, and an OBP of .376.
He has been to the All-Star Game three times, won the Gold Glove Award in 2007, and was named the Red Sox MVP in 2009.
"Youk fooled all of us," said former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan. "Not one person in the Red Sox chain thought he would be this kind of player and hitter. He's so good it's unbelievable."
The Golden Greek
First baseman Harry Agganis was a legend in Boston before he ever donned a Red Sox uniform.
People who saw him play agree that had tragedy not struck, he would have become an all-star first baseman .
The native of Lynn, Massachusetts, was an All-American quarterback at Boston University. While there he set the school's all-time passing record, 1,402 yards for the season. In those days of ironman football he also had nine interceptions as a defensive back.
After being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns, then the dominant team in the NFL, in the 1952 NFL draft, Agganis turned down a $25,000 bonus offer from the Browns to sign with the hometown Red Sox as a first baseman for $35,000.
He spent a year at Louisville (Triple A) where he hit .281 with 23 home runs and 108 RBIs, and he was called up to the Red Sox in the spring of 1954. He established himself as an agile and outstanding fielder, but had limited success at the plate, hitting .251 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs.
Teammate Ted Lepcio, who'd been close to Agganis from their days at a college prospect camp in 1949, recently talked about the Golden Greek.
"Harry was a true athlete, a great hustler, and a great competitor," said Lepcio. "He was an outgoing guy who was full of life."
Agganis got off to a fast start in his second season and began to look as though he would develop into a competent contact hitter who could spray balls to all fields, and eventually hit with some power.
He was hitting above .300 when he was hospitalized for 10 days in May with pneumonia. Agganis continued to suffer with a cough and fever and was back in the hospital in June, and on June 27, he died of a pulmonary embolism.
"Billy Consolo, George Susce, and I went to visit Harry in the hospital the day before he died," Lepcio said. "We were leaving that night for an exhibition game in Pittsburgh, and we spent some time with him just chatting and joking around. But he kidded that it hurt when he laughed."
The next day in Pittsburgh the Red Sox got the word that Agganis had died.
"We were fairly close as friends and roommates," Lepcio said. "We'd horse around like college kids, but Harry didn't really go out a lot. He was very devoted to his mother, who was a widow, and he would go home a lot and spend time with the family."
More than l0,000 people filed by Harry's coffin, and many attended the funeral for this hometown hero who was admired by so many, especially by those in the Boston area's large Greek community.
"He was a good fielder and a dangerous hitter," Lepcio said. "Who knows how good he could have been?"
But the memory of the Golden Greek will never die.
Each year, the Red Sox Rookie of the Year is presented with the Harry Agganis Award by the Boston Baseball Writers Association. In 2005, Boston University opened its new athletic facility, Agganis Arena, and the Agganis Foundation has awarded more than $1 million in college scholarships to more than 800 student-athletes from Boston and the north shore.
In 1974, Agganis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
1. Adrian Gonzalez starred for five years with the Padres, but what was his first major league team?
2. Which team drafted Gonzalez with the first pick in the first round of the 2000 amateur draft?
3. Bill Buckner won the National League batting title in 1980 as a member of which team:
a. San Francisco Giants
b. Los Angeles Dodgers
c. Chicago Cubs
d. San Diego Padres
4. With what team did Kevin Millar make his major league debut?
5. In what year or years, if any, did David Ortiz lead the American League in RBIs?
6. How many times has Ortiz had 100 RBIs or more in one season?
7. What is Stuffy McInnis' real first name?
8. Who holds the Red Sox record for home runs in a season with 54?
a. David Ortiz
b. Ted Williams
c. Jim Rice
d. George Scott
9. Which Met hit the ball that Bill Buckner let go through for an error in the 1986 World Series?
10. How many times in his career did Mo Vaughn hit more than 30 home runs?
1. Texas Rangers
2. Florida Marlins
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Florida Marlins
5. 2005 with 148 and 2006 with 137
8. David Ortiz in 2006
9. Mookie Wilson
10. Six times (1995–2000). The first four with the Red Sox and the last two with the Angels.CHAPTER 2
1. Bobby Doerr
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Pete Runnels
4. Billy Goodman
5. Marty Barrett
6. Jody Reed
7. Jerry Remy
8. Hobe Ferris
9. Mark Bellhorn
10. Bill Regan
Second base has not been the Carmines most decorated position through the years.
We have a legend and Hall of Famer at No. 1 in Doerr. That was a no-brainer. But we're betting on Pedroia as runner-up for his early career Rookie of the Year, MVP, and infield leadership, even though he hasn't played very long.
Runnels and Goodman were both batting champs, but neither was a perennial all-star, though it's agreed that they were under-rated. After that it's a trio of workmanlike players, Barrett, Reed, and Remy, who were loved by fans and did have some impact on Red Sox history. Throughout this process, we tried to err on the side of rating modern guys a little higher because readers might remember them. The roll Bellhorn played in the breaking of the curse certainly earned him his spot.
Ferris and Regan are ancients, the former on great Boston teams and the latter when things weren't going so well.
Who would ever have believed that Dustin Pedroia would be this good?
The five foot nine second baseman with an "average arm and average speed," who was projected as a "dependable major leaguer" by scouts, has become one of the stars of the game and the heart of a Red Sox team that was favored to win the American League pennant going into 2011.
Last season, Pedroia, as well as fellow starters Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, and pitcher Josh Beckett, missed major time due to injuries, and the Red Sox still managed to stay in the playoff race until the final weeks. All are due back to full strength this year, and the addition of prime-time players Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford has the experts referring to the Sox lineup as a juggernaut.
But it is Pedroia, who in his short career has been named Rookie of the Year and AL Most Valuable Player, who personifies the team's aggressive nature and its expectations for a long run at the top. As one observer told the Sporting News, "There are few players who embody the traditional image of the gritty, dirtball-type Red Sox player [more] than Pedroia the spunky second baseman."
At the beginning of his rookie year in 2007, while platooning at second base, Pedroia went on a 13-game hitting streak and claimed the job for himself. He went on to lead the team both on offense and defense, won Rookie of the Month honors for May, and ultimately the American League Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .317. In the seventh game of the ALCS, Pedroia's three-run homer and five RBIs led the team to the World Series.
In his first World Series plate appearance, Pedroia socked a home run over the Green Monster, making him the second player in history and the first rookie to lead off the Series with a home run. The Sox went on to sweep the Colorado Rockies with both Pedroia and fellow rookie, outfielder Ellsbury, playing key roles.
What did Pedroia, the Arizona State grad, do for an encore?
In 2008, his second season in the bigs, Pedroia won the AL Most Valuable Player Award. His numbers were impressive. He batted .326 with 17 homers and 83 RBIs, and he tied for the MLB lead in hits with 213. He led the league in runs scored with 118, in doubles with 54, and he stole 20 bases. He also won the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger Award for second basemen.
In the ALCS he batted .346, including three home runs, but the Sox lost to the Rays, who advanced to the World Series. Last June 24, he went 5-for-5 with three home runs and five RBIs in an extra-inning game against the Rockies.
Pedroia was chosen as an All-Star Game starter in both 2008 and 2009, and named as a reserve in 2010, when he couldn't participate because of injury.
As of the start of the 2011 season, Pedroia is carrying a .305 lifetime batting average with a .376 on-base percentage.
"A lot of people said Dustin couldn't do well," said former Sox skipper Joe Morgan. "They said he couldn't hit. But any guy that aggressive at the plate is going to hit. And on the field, he's made some of the damnedest plays I've seen. The greatest things about him are his determination and his overall love of baseball."
Runnels and Goodman, the Forgotten Batting Champions
Billy Goodman and Pete Runnels had a lot in common.
Both were AL batting champions when they played for the Red Sox and both were capable players at multiple positions. They were slender, left-handed batters with very little power. They both had a great batting eye, could spray the ball to all fields and be patient at the plate, and they both could get on via the base on balls. Goodman stood five foot 11 and weighed 165 pounds, while Runnels was an inch taller and maybe five pounds heavier.
Goodman, whose major league career went from 1947 to 1962, hit only 19 career home runs, while Runnels, who played from 1951 to 1964, was a veritable thumper with 49 career home runs.
Runnels was chosen for three All-Star Games and Goodman for two; and they both finished their baseball playing days in Houston. Both were respected by their teammates for their ability and their character. They were elected into the Red Sox Hall of Fame the same year, 2004.
The two of them were "quiet" ballplayers who have been largely forgotten outside of New England, though Goodman did play in the 1959 World Series with the White Sox — the only postseason appearance made by either of these two professionals.
Let's start chronologically with Goodman, the 1950 American League batting champion with a .354 average, when he was actually a utility man in a powerful Red Sox lineup that included Ted Williams, Vern Stephens, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and AL Rookie of the Year Walt Dropo.
Goodman, who topped the .300 mark five times in his career, played first base, second base, and the outfield, and even had one appearance at third base, the position that became his primary assignment with the White Sox later on. He came in second that year in the Most Valuable Player balloting behind Phil Rizzuto. A lifetime .300 hitter, Goodman also had a career .376 on-base percentage. He later played for the Orioles, the White Sox, and the Houston Colt 45s.
Excerpted from Red Sox Triviology by Neil Shalin. Copyright © 2011 Neil Shalin. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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