Red Sox History: 10 Great Memories to Look Back on This Offseason

Ben ShapiroAnalyst IIIDecember 24, 2011

Red Sox History: 10 Great Memories to Look Back on This Offseason

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    With the holiday season upon us, many Red Sox fans find themselves a bit...anxious. 

    After all the Red Sox have publicly played the same role that their fans have this offseason. Just sort of observing and watching everything transpire. 

    They've actually made a number of moves, moves that could have a far greater impact on the team for the next 10 years than the big splashy Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez moves of last season will. 

    New general manager, new manager, new coaching staff. If this was a college football team, it would be like a day of reckoning. 

    Rather than rehash the moves they've made in detail, or try and predict the moves that they'll make in the next 56 days ( who's counting though?) until Spring Training officially begins, this might be a nice time to just look back at some memories, good memories. Given my age and given the long history of the Boston Red Sox, it might be worth strolling down memory lane. 

    Here's a list of 10 great memories for Red Sox fans in the years since the end of the 1978 season. 

Morgan Magic 1988

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    "Morgan Magic" 

    Younger Red Sox fans know all about the well documented trials and tribulations of 2003, and 2004. 

    No the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series before the 2004 season. 

    Yes there were some amazing memories before that though. 

    In 1988 the Red Sox opened the season still reeling from the disastrous end of the 1986 season. The previous season had been one of disappointment as the Red Sox had failed to adequately defend their 1986 American League crown. They missed the postseason all together in 1987. 

    1988 didn't look like it was going to be much better. The Red Sox started the season with high hopes. They had sought in the offseason to rectify a major weakness in the bullpen as well as rid themselves of some players who they felt carries too much baggage from the 1986 World Series loss so the Red Sox traded pitchers Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi to the Chicago Cubs for their closer. Lee Smith.

    Smith's Red Sox debut was not one he or any Red Sox fan would want to remember as he entered the opening day game against the defending American League East champs the Detroit Tigers in the 10th inning of a tie game and promptly surrendered a game winning two-out, two-run home run to Alan Trammell. Tigers-5 Red Sox-3 was the opening day final.

    Things didn't get much better for the Red Sox and they stumbled to an unspectacular 43-42 All Star break record.

    That was when The Red Sox fired manager John McNamara and named third base coach Joe Morgan interim manager. The "interim" label would be one of the only things Morgan would lose in the upcoming weeks.

    The Red Sox stormed out of the All Star break, taking three at home from the Kansas City Royals punctuated by a Sunday July 16th walk-off home run by Kevin Romine to win that game 7-6.

    The winning streak would eventually reach 12 games. The highlight of the streak was Todd Benzinger's walk-off home run against the defending World Series Champs the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night July 20th.

    The three run walk-off homer wrapped itself around Pesky Pole in the bottom of the tenth inning to give the Red Sox a dramatic 9-7 win and set off a mini-celebration.

    The Red Sox would go on to win 19 Morgan's first 20 games as Manager as well as the American League East. The postseason would not pan out as anyone wanted but the regular season would- and still does provide some great memories.  

The Rocket K's 20 Tigers.

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    When the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers took the field on the night of Wednesday September 18th 1996 there weren't too many reasons for fans of either team to watch. 

    The Tigers were a mess,enduring one of the worst seasons in major league history. They entered the game having already lost 100 games with a record of 51-100. Win number 52 wasn't happening that night.

    Clemens who had already engaged in a nasty public feud with Boston Red Sox management seemed destined to leave Boston following the season. His 1996 numbers were a far cry from the three Cy Young seasons he had had previously in a Red Sox uniform.

    That night he was both a blast from the past as well as a glimpse into the future.

    Clemens already owned the single game strikeout record of 20 in a game. Tonight he would match it. Clemens would go the full nine innings, he walked no one, allowed five hits and would strikeout 20 Detroit Tigers. Travis Fryman provided the final out as well as the record tying 20th K of the evening in the bottom of the ninth and the Red Sox would win 4-0. It was Clemens final win in a Red Sox uniform and it is a lasting memory.  

Mo Vaughn's Opening Day Blast

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    As the 1998 season approached there was already an impending feeling of trouble in Red Sox Nation. Yes, the Red Sox had made a major offseason acquisition in bringing on the reigning National League Cy Young Award Winner in Pedro Martinez. 

    Yet the Boston sports world was filled with the sinking feeling that 1998 could be the final season in a Red Sox uniform for Mo Vaughn.

    " The Hit Dog" as he was known was a wildly popular player in Boston for most of the 1990's. He won the 1995 American League MVP Award and was a big guy with a penchant for big hits.

    The Red Sox opened the 1998 season with an eight game road trip that they emerged from with a 3-5 record.

    Their home opener was on April 10th against the Seattle Mariners who were starting Randy Johnson. The Red Sox would counter with Brian Rose. For good reason Red Sox fans looked at the game with a fair amount of skepticism from the get-go.

    Those concerns seemed possible premature when the Red Sox were staked to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth on a Damon Buford 2-run home run.

    The Red Sox would give that lead away in the sixth as the Mariners rallied for three runs. Seattle would extend that lead all the way to 7-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning.

    A leadoff single by Troy O'Leary as followed by a Mark Lemke walk. That brought up Darren Bragg whose double scored O'Leary and sent Lemke to third. Mike Benjamin would draw a walk and that prompted Mariners manager Lou Pinella who had already used his closer Heathcliff Slocumb that inning to remove his current pitcher Tony Fossas and bring in Mike Timlin ( yes that Mike Timlin).

    Nomar Garciaparra would single making the score 7-4 and advancing the runners one base. Timlin then plunked Jon Valentin making it a 7-5 game and causing Pinella to once again go to his bullpen.

    Pinella's fourth pitcher of the inning was Paul Spoljaric. The first batter Spoljaric faced was Mo Vaughn. The score was 7-5. The bases were loaded and there were still no outs. Spoljaric got ahead on Vaughn 0-2 which would suggest an advantage for the pitcher. Not in this case though as Vaughn unleashed a monster home to right field resulting in a 9-5 Red Sox opening day victory.  

The Tom Brunansky Catch

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    In 1986 the Red Sox were American League Champs. 

    In 1988 the Red Sox won the American League East. 

    In 1990 they would win the American League East and like all accomplishments in Red Sox history they wouldn't make it easy on themselves. 

    The Red Sox were six-and-a-half games up in first place on September first of that year. The Toronto Blue Jays were not going to make September easy on Boston. 

    The Blue Jays got hot, the Red Sox got cold and by the time the two teams faced off in Fenway for a three game set the weekend of September 28th the two teams were tied atop the division and this was before the wild card was an option.

    The Red Sox would take two out of three from Toronto that weekend including an improbable ninth inning walk-off win on Friday night on a single by the immortal Jeff Stone.

    The Red Sox would enter the final night of the season with a one game lead on Toronto. Up 3-1 in the ninth inning and with closer Jeff Reardon on the mound the White Sox got two on and had two outs with Ozzie Guillen at the plate.

    Guillen hit a hard line drive down the right field line but Tom Brunansky made a spectacular sliding catch to end the game and ice the division for the Red Sox.  

September 10th 1999

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    Some people have called this the greatest game ever pitched by a visiting pitcher in Yankee Stadium. On the night that it happened Tim McCarver who was the color man for the local broadcast of the game told his broadcast partner Bobby Murcer that the game was in some ways more dominant than the perfect game thrown by David Cone earlier in the season. 

    That's how good Pedro Martinez was on the night of September 10th 1999. 

    It was of course the second place Red Sox battling the first place Yankees. This was a very good Yankee team that would go on to beat the Red Sox in the ALCS and the Braves in the World Series. 

    No one was beating Pedro Martinez that night. 

    With two outs in the bottom of the second inning Pedro gave up a towering solo home run to Chili Davis which staked the Yankees to a 1-0 lead. At that point Pedro had only two strikeouts. 

    Following the fourth it was still 1-0 Yankees and Pedro had only five strikeouts. 

    There were still 15 outs to be recorded and Pedro would record all 15 in order and 12 of them would  be strikeouts.

    Facing a Yankee lineup that entered the evening with Bernie Williams batting over .340 and Derek Jeter batting over .350 Pedro was simply astounding.

    He had the entire repertoire working that night. The high fastball, the cut fastball, the change-up and a knee buckling breaking ball that at various times had Yankee hitter ducking out of the way of a pitch that would eventually drop in for a called strike. Pedro would strikeout the side in the fifth, the seventh, and the ninth.

    By the end of the game everyone in the stadium seemed to understand that what they were watching was special. More than twelve years later it still is.  

Roger Clemens K's 20 Mariners

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    When the 1986 season began for the Boston Red Sox Bostonians weren't paying as much attention as they usually did. That's because the Boston Celtics were in the midst of one of the the greatest seasons in that franchises long storied history. 

    So when Roger Clemens took the mound on the night April 29th 1986 there were only a bit over 13,000 in attendance. After all the Celtics were facing off against the Atlanta Hawks in a playoff game across town at the Boston Garden. Why would anyone venture out into the cool April night to watch the Red Sox? Yes they were 9-8 entering the evening but that's nothing special. What could a Red Sox fan miss? 


    When that night began there were a few names that were always mentioned when discussions of strikeouts and dominance were had. Nolan Ryan was of course the obvious one, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton had both had 19 strikeout games. Ryan too had 19 strikeouts in a single game. It was a record that Ryan, Seaver, Carlton all shared- until April 29th, 1986. 

    On that night Clemens would sit down 20 Seattle Mariners via the strikeout. He would claim the single game record for himself when he struckout Phil Bradley for the second out of the ninth inning. The Red Sox would win the game 3-1 and Clemens became an instant New England Legend. 

Pedro Can't Be Hit in Relief

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    After Pedro's masterpiece in Yankee Stadium the Red Sox would move on to claim the wildcard entry into the 1999 postseason. 

    Their opponent in the American League Division Series was the Cleveland Indians. The 1999 Cleveland Indians featured one of the best lineups in the league. 

    Four hitters finished the season with over 100 runs batted in. The team batting average was .289, the team ops was .840. There were also five hitters with over 20 home runs. The star among stars was Manny Ramirez who finished the season with a batting average of .333, 44 home runs, and 165 runs batted in. 

    The Indians were clear favorites in the series and when they won game one against Pedro Martinez who exited in the fifth inning with a back injury the Red Sox appeared to be in serious trouble. 

    Those troubles were compounded when they dropped game two by a lopsided score of 11-1. The Red Sox headed back to Boston and appeared ready to be swept. 

    Then in what would later prove as a form of foreshadowing the Red Sox put together a miraculous pair of home wins in an attempt to mount a comeback. They won game three by a score of 9-3 and then rode a monster performance by Jon Valentin who was 4 for 5 with 7 rbi and two home runs to a 23-7 game four victory. 

    That set the stage for a winner-take-all game five in Cleveland but it appeared that the Red Sox would have to make do without Pedro Martinez and in his place send aging former Cy Young winner Brett Saberhagen who the Indians had mashed in game two to the mound in his place. 

    The results were unfortunately as expected. 

    Saberhagen was lit up for five earned runs in just over one inning of work.  Derek Lowe entered the game in the second was barely more effective. The score was 5-2 after just two innings. 

    The Red Sox stormed back in the top of the third to take a 7-5 lead on the strength of a Troy O' Leary grand slam home run. Could Lowe settle down and lead the Red Sox to a win? 

    No, the Indians scored three in the third and after the top of the fourth when the Red Sox were able to score one run the game stood tied, 8-8 and it was still only the bottom of the fourth inning. Sox pitchers had allowed eight runs already and there were still six innings left assuming that the game didn't go into extra frames. 

    Then Pedro Martinez entered the game. 

    Throwing pitches with about four or five miles per hour less velocity than this he usually would Pedro worked like a surgeon exercising precision, painting the corners, changing speeds, and rarely giving in to the Indians hitters. 

    The score remained 8-8 into the top of the seventh when Troy O' Leary the hero of the third inning hit another home run, his second of the night a three run job that gave the Red Sox an 11-8 lead. It was as it turned out two more runs than were necessary. 

    Pedro would go the remaining six innings of the game. He allowed no hits, walked three batters, and had eight strikeouts. It was a miraculous performance and cemented his legacy as one of the all-time Red Sox greats. 

Nixon Hits a "Trot-Off" Home Run

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    When the 2003 Red Sox made the playoffs it was their first trip to the postseason since their 1999 journey. That journey started off by falling down 0-2 on the road against their opening round opponent. 

    Naturally the Red Sox would want to repeat their path down that road to the brink of elimination. 

    This time the opponent was the Oakland A's. The results were identical as the Red Sox returned to Fenway down 2-0 and needing three wins in a row including a winner-take-all game five on the road to stave off elimination. 

    The Red Sox had to win game three before thinking about anything else though. 

    Derek Lowe took the mound and was great. The two teams were tied 1-1 at the end of the seventh inning. It would remain 1-1 after both starters Lowe and Ted Lilly exited the game. 

    It was 1-1 as the game headed into extra innings as well. In the bottom of the eleventh with one out Doug Mirabelli hit a one out single. Red Sox manager Grady Little decided to pinch hit Trot Nixon for Gabe Kapler. 

    Nixon stepped in to face Oakland pitcher Rich Harden and launched a 1-1 pitch deep into the night for a walk-off home run to win the game 3-1. The Red Sox took the momentum gained from that shot and won two more nail biters including the decisive game five in Oakland to advance to the ALCS. 

Four Days in October

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    If it had never happened then the story would play-out like some sort of fairy tale. 

    The same Boston Red Sox who had advanced to the ALCS in both 1999 and 2003. 

    The same Red Sox who had lost in both those series to their hated rivals the New York Yankees. 

    The same Red Sox who had lost in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS in a manner so absurd that it triggered the firing of the manager and brought the already boiling Yankee-Red Sox rivalry to levels never seen before. 

    Those same Red Sox now found themselves down 0-3 to the Yankees following a humiliating 19-8 game three defeat in Boston.  

    The Red Sox would win game four by first scoring the tying run off of Mariano Rivera in the ninth when pinch runner Dave Roberts stole second base and was then scored by Bill Mueller's single. That was followed by a walk-off solo home run off of Paul Quantrill in the bottom of the twelfth inning.

    Game five actually took place later in the same day as game four had lasted until 1am. It was another classic with Pedro Martinez on the mound and a lead heading into the sixth inning. Then the Yankees struck for three runs on a bases clearing double by Derek Jeter. It was 4-2 Yanks.

    The Red Sox would tie it up 4-4 in the eight with a familiar cast of characters playing key roles. Ortiz hit a solo home guessed it David Roberts scored the tying run as a pinch runner from third base on a Jason Varitek sacrifice fly.

    The game would of course go into extra innings where once again the hero would be played by David Ortiz. This time it was a single he seemingly willed into centerfield to conclude a 10 pitch at bat against Yankee reliever Estaban Loaiza.

    The series went back to New York where once again an injured starting pitcher would play a pivotal role in shaping Red Sox history. This time it was Curt Schilling who endured pre-game surgical procedure that left his sock bloody.

    His sock and ankle looked bad but his stuff was great. Schilling held the Yankees in check for most of the game and the Red Sox bullpen navigated a number of tough innings including an absurd play in the eighth inning in which Alex Rodriguez attempted to slap the ball away from pitcher Bronson Arroyo. It almost worked but the umpires convened and eventually order Jeter who had appeared to score on the play back to first base and Alex Rodriguez out. The Red Sox would go on to win game 6 and move onto game 7.

    Game 7 held didn't have the spine tingling drama for the Red Sox and their fanbase. No, game seven was almost downright relaxing. The Red Sox stormed out to a 6-0 lead on the strength of a pair of towering home runs. A two run blast by Ortiz in the first and a second inning grand slam by Johnny Damon who greeted relief pitcher Javier Vasquez with a first pitch swing that ended up in the right field stands.

    From then on it was just a matter of time as Derek Lowe pitched one of most easily forgotten game seven masterpieces in ALCS history. The final score was 10-3. The Yankees never threatened in the game and the Red Sox completed what was a historical comeback in numerous ways.

    The Sox had never beaten the Yankees in a playoff series.

    No Major League Baseball team had ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

    It was an amazing run.  

Manny's KO's K-Rod.

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    When the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series it was a surprise that no one really thought would happen. 

    In 2007 the Red Sox were a team that everyone knew had a good chance to win the World Series. 

    Their American League Division for the Los Angeles Angels had a pretty good team of their own. 

    In game one Josh Beckett was dominant shutting down the Angels but game two would prove a much tougher test. 

    The game was knotted at 3-3 from the sixth inning on. Entering the bottom of the eighth Angels' manager Mike Scioscia went with reliever Justin Speier who had been a reliable option out of the pen all season.

    Speier rewarded Scioscia with an easy 1-2-3 inning. Then came the bottom of the ninth.

    Julio Lugo led off with a single which was followed by a ground out by Dustin Pedroia. With one out Scioscia opted to bring in his closer Francisco Rodriguez who was known as " K-Rod" due to his propensity for striking out his opponents.

    "K-Rod" lived up to his billing by immediately getting Kevin Youklis on strikes. Then the Angels decided to intentionally walk the Red Sox postseason hero of 2004 David Ortiz.

    The only problem with that strategy is that it brought up Manny Ramirez who at the time had cemented himself as one of the great power hitters of the previous ten years. K-Rod's first pitch was a "ball" and the second pitch left Fenway Park like a rocket.

    Manny launched one of the more majestic home runs in Red Sox history. For all the critics who constantly harp on the green monster as an advantage for the Red Sox in this case Manny hit the ball so hard that he would have had a home run in any ballpark.

    The Red Sox walk-off victory took all the wind out of the Angels' sails. It would be a Boston sweep on the way to another Boston Red Sox World Series victory.

    The next World Series? Well hopefully it's sooner than later. Happy Holidays Sox fans.