Wally's Weekly 1/19/09: Honoring African American Red Sox Legends

E ASenior Analyst IJanuary 19, 2009

Happy Martin Luther King Day to all!

I'd like to use this special day as to honor African American legends of Boston's past. It's only fitting to do so on the day of Dr. King. Unfortunately, this won't be a very long article because the Red Sox have an embarrassing past with dealing with African American players (i.e.: being the last team to integrate).

Finding notable African American players in Red Sox history, is unfortunately like finding a needle in a haystack, so I'm going to include just the two top players of African American descent in Red Sox history.

#1: Left Fielder Jim Rice (1974-1989)

I would first like to congratulate Jim Rice for being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jim Rice had an illustrious career with the Red Sox, after being selected with the 15th pick of the 1971 amateur draft.

After a brief stint with the Red Sox in 1974, Rice blossomed and became the starting left fielder for the big club in 1975. His .309 batting average, 22 home runs, 102 runs batted in, and ten stolen bases earned him second place in Rookie of the Year voting as well as third in Most Valuable Player voting.

The best part was he was just getting started. Three seasons later, Rice clubbed 46 home runs, compiled 139 runs batted in and hit .315 en route to winning the MVP award.

That may have been his only MVP, but his production never changed. Rice was honored with All-Star selections in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1986. In his 16-season career, Rice compiled 382 home runs, 1,451 runs batted in, a .298 batting average, one MVP award, two Silver Slugger awards, and eight All-Star selections.

His brilliant career was just capped off by being selected to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

#2: First Baseman Mo Vaughn (1991-1998)

Again, not many African American players of notability in our storied history, so the second and third players might be a bit of a reach. Mo Vaughn, who played all but four years of his career with the Red Sox, was drafted in the first round of the 1989 amateur draft, and he had a very short road to the majors.

Vaughn didn't really do anything special, hitting .247 in the two first years of his career, while only making it into 113 games in 1992. However, in 1993, Vaughn burst onto the scene, hitting .297 with 29 home runs and 101 runs batted in.

The success only continued from there for the up-and-coming Vaughn, because from there on out he never hit under .300 for the Sox. In 1995, Vaughn hit .300, with 39 home runs and 126 runs batted in, and received the MVP award for his efforts.

The next year, Vaughn followed up with a whopping 44 home runs, 143 runs batted in, and a .326 batting average. Somehow, that was only good for fifth in MVP voting. Vaughn's Red Sox career ended after 1998, when he and Nomar Garciaparra hit in the middle of the lineup, combining for 75 home runs.

There was a rift between Vaughn and the Red Sox front office, and when he reached free agency he promptly signed a six year, $80 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

Despite playing four seasons out of Boston, two for the Angels and two for the Mets, all of Vaughn's accumulated awards: three All-Star appearances, one MVP, and a Silver Slugger; came from his career with the Boston Red Sox, his best years.