Brian Daubach was a late bloomer, arriving in Boston after almost nine years in the minors before quickly becoming a hero in Boston.
As I watched the Red Sox bring back every living player who put on their uniform for the Fenway Park 100th Anniversary celebration last week, I really enjoyed being able to see so many wonderful players again. Names like Yastrzemski, Pesky, Martinez, Garciaparra, Rice, Evans, Fisk and Varitek all come to mind when thinking of the living legends who descended upon Fenway Park to commemorate the occasion.
But then I got to thinking about the other players who also came back, the ones whose Sox careers did not include Hall of Fame numbers or contributions. I’m talking about the Darren Braggs, the Brian Roses, the Luis Aliceas, the men who filled out the lineup card or rotation but did not really make any lasting contributions to the franchise’s history.
These players had a couple of memorable moments, but as a whole their careers do not stand out in any profound way. They have all blended into one unit: the “That Guys.”
Rather than allow these players to go unrecognized, every week I am going to take a look at the Red Sox career of one of the “That Guys.” I’ll look at what defined his tenure in Boston, what he actually accomplished on the field and what he went on to do after leaving.
For the inaugural edition of “Remember That Guy?” let’s take a look at a charter member of the Dirt Dogs, Mr. Brian Daubach.
Daubach in his pre-Red Sox days as a Florida Marlin.
Originally drafted in 1990 by the New York Mets, Daubach spent nearly nine full seasons in the minor leagues before finally getting a big league at bat. He made his MLB debut on September 10, 1998, for a truly horrendous Florida Marlins squad that would go on to finish 54-108.
His first hit did not come until an eighth-inning pinch-hit appearance on September 26, but it was a memorable one. With the Marlins trailing 3-1 and a runner on first, Daubach doubled to centerfield for the first hit and RBI of his MLB career.
The pitcher? Future Sox ace and World Series hero Curt Schilling.
Daubach’s flair for the dramatic was not enough to earn him another shot with the Marlins for the 1999 season, and in November they released him. About a month later, he inked a deal with the Boston Red Sox.
Daubach had his share of big hits for the Sox, especially as a rookie in 1999.
The man once nicknamed the “Belleville Basher” had his share of heroics in Boston. He burst onto the scene in his first game with the Sox in 1999, clubbing a double and a triple and driving in two runs as the Sox beat the Devil Rays 4-1.
As a rookie he was also instrumental in the Game 5 comeback against Cleveland (the famous “Pedro Martinez six no-hit innings out of the bullpen” game), going 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored.
His greatest stretch for the Sox came during the team’s August push for the 1999 AL Wild Card, during which over two games at Fenway against the Seattle Mariners the first baseman went 8 for 10 with two home runs, two doubles and 11 RBI.
Staying humble even with all of his success, Daubach had cemented his status as cult hero in Boston.
Daubach put up historically good numbers over his first four seasons in Boston.
Daubach was a model of consistency over his four full years in Boston. Each season between 1999 and 2002, he hit between 20 and 22 home runs, drove in between 71 and 78 and had between 107 and 123 hits.
Somewhat surprisingly, this stretch of play was one of the finest in Sox history for a young player. Daubach is one of just five rookies in team history to hit at least 20 home runs in their first four seasons.
The others? Ted Williams, Tony Conigliaro, Jim Rice and Nomar Garciaparra. As Daubach himself once said: “That’s a pretty good trivia question. I’m the part everyone gets wrong.”
Though he did return for 30 games at the end of the 2004 season, Daubach was no longer the effective hitter he had been earlier in his career; in 75 at-bats, he hit just .227 with two home runs and 21 strikeouts.
There were not a lot of highlights during Daubach's one season in Chicago.
After the 2002 season, new Sox GM Theo Epstein had to decide what to do about first base. Rather than keep Daubach, he opted to sign another young non-tendered corner infielder: David Ortiz.
Although the two had put up similar numbers the previous year, Ortiz had the benefit of being five years younger. The Sox also signed Jeremy Giambi, who the previous season had posted a gaudy .414 OBP and .919 OPS.
With these two new players on board there was no room in Boston for Daubach, who the previous season had started to show signs of decline. Although Daubach felt that he “should have been in Boston,” he signed a one-year deal with the Chicago White Sox.
After his brief reunion tour in Boston in 2004 that earned him a World Series ring, Daubach toiled in the minors again for the Mets in 2005 and Cardinals in 2006 before retiring upon being released.
Daubach has spent much of his post-playing days coaching. New Englanders’ affinity for the former Sox hero led to a much-ballyhooed stint for Daubach first as hitting coach and then as manager for the Can-Am League’s Nashua Pride (later re-named American Defenders). He also sporadically appeared on Boston sports radio station WEEI and on TV on Comcast Sports Net.
Despite being shunned for many years as a result of his participation as a replacement player in 1995, Daubach has now broken into the managerial ranks in an MLB organization. He has just started his second year at the helm of the Hagerstown Suns, a Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
In his first season, Daubach’s squad posted a solid 75-64 record as the new manager oversaw the development of phenom Bryce Harper and the rehab of ace Stephen Strasburg.