Okay, so I am fully prepared to date myself with this post. Anytime you can talk about a player who was a big part of your college years and that was in the mid-90’s, you are pretty much telling everyone how old you are.
But in this case, I am more than happy to date myself and more than happy to talk about Nomar Garciaparra. Garciaparra retired yesterday as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
While I believe in my heart of hearts the Red Sox would have never won the World Series in 2004 with Garciaparra on the team, I don’t want to talk about that today. I have heard stories about what went on behind the scenes towards the end with Nomar—he was a “Debbie Downer,” moody, he was always hurt, not considered a winner, etc…
That stuff is for another day. Today is about the Nomar I knew when he was king of Boston.
When I began my college career in Massachusetts in 1995, the Red Sox had a bunch of good players on their roster, but superstars were few and far between. Sure they had Roger Clemens, but he was supposedly at the end of their career and Mo Vaughn was a star, but never a superstar.
Then in 1996, the Red Sox called up Garciaparra and while he didn’t get off to the best start in September (.241 in 24 games), you just knew Boston had something special on their hands. In 2007, Nomar showed everyone how special he was and officially arrived in Bean Town.
Nomar led the American League in hits (209), triples (11), and won the Rookie of the Year award. From 1996-2000, Garciaparra averaged .337/28/105 and 198 hits a season. He was a right-handed hitting machine. He could pepper the Green Monster, but in the same game drive three balls into the right centerfield gap.
While he wasn’t the most popular with the media, he was extremely popular with the fans. He was the “It” guy. He was the superstar shortstop for the Red Sox.
We loved everything about him. We loved his swing, his sling-shot throwing style from short, and even his big nose. My roommate Odie referred to a kid as “Nomar nose” outside of a bar one night. The kid wanted to fight him, so Odie picked him up and tossed him like a sack of potatoes into a mailbox.
As he was sitting on the floor, my other friend Will had one of the classic lines ever. He walked up to the kid and said “You know, your mother wouldn’t be proud of you right now.” To this day I still laugh thinking about that night.
I am really happy Garciaparra retired as a member of the Boston Red Sox. While he did go on to play for the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Oakland A’s, he will always be remembered as a member of Red Sox Nation.
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