Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
There’s something about third basemen in Boston.
Tim Naehring. John Valentin. Kevin Youkilis. Mike Lowell. And now Will Middlebrooks.
Bill Mueller was in Boston for just three years, but like his past and future peers, it was as if he were born to play there.
There was his Silver Slugger-winning season of 2003. He won the American League batting title (.326) while hitting 19 home runs with 85 RBI and 45 doubles.
He remains the only player in major league history with two grand slams in a single game from opposite sides of the plate—a feat he achieved against the Rangers on July 29, 2003.
Not bad for someone batting primarily in the bottom third of the lineup.
If Mueller’s 2003 was highlighted by statistical brilliance, 2004 was all about coming up big when his team needed it the most.
With Boston’s season teetering on the edge on July 24, Mueller hit a walk-off, two-run home run against Mariano Rivera in a game that featured a memorable bench-clearing brawl.
If you talk to Red Sox fans and analysts today, they’ll fondly think back to that game as the turning point of 2004. And Mueller wasn’t done victimizing Rivera that season.
After Dave Roberts stole second in Game 4 of the ALCS, Mueller slapped a fastball back up the middle to drive Roberts home and knot the score at 4-all. Boston would not lose again that postseason.