Did You Know? – Red Sox All-Star Game Final Vote Winners

With 4.3 million votes cast in his favor over four days of online balloting on MLB.com, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Hideki Okajima became the final player selected to represent the American League at tonight’s All-Star Game in San Francisco. The first-year pitcher, who played for 12 seasons in Japan, beat out fellow pitcher Jeremy Bonderman of the Detroit Tigers for the honor.[1] He also became the sixth Red Sox player to join the All-Star team alongside pitchers Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, first baseman David Ortiz, third baseman Mike Lowell, and outfielder Manny Ramirez.

Okajima also becomes the third Red Sox player selected to the All-Star game through the All-Star Final Vote process. In 2002, the first year that the selection was made by the fans, former outfielder Johnny Damon made his first of two eventual trips with Boston to the All-Star game; he would enter the game in the fifth as a defensive replacement and go 1-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The following season, the honor went to catcher Jason Varitek who made his first All-Star squad but never entered the game at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Both players would make their second appearance with the Red Sox at the Mid-Summer Classic in 2005 and get the nod from the fans as starters for the American League squad along with Ortiz and Ramirez in the starting lineup at Comerica Park in Detroit.

[1] Hideki Okajima wins 2007 American League Monster All-Star Final Vote. MLB.com, 05 July 2007.

Did You Know? – Don Baylor

By the early 1980s, former outfielder Don Balyor had been regulated to the designated hitter’s role by the California Angels and remained in that role for three seasons with the New York Yankees between 1983 and 1985. Less than two weeks before the start of the 1986 season, Baylor was traded straight up for Boston Red Sox designated hitter Mike Easler. In the end, Baylor batted just .238 in 160 games played, but he also led the club in home runs with 31, drove home 94 runs, and provided some veteran leadership in the clubhouse as the Red Sox ran away with the American League East division title. The next season, he cracked another 16 home runs and drove in 57 more runs before being traded away to Minnesota in late August.

He also set a record that possibly very few Red Sox batters aspire to hold: given that he loved to lean out over the plate, daring opposing pitchers to throw inside to him, he was hit by 35 pitches over the course of the 1986 regular season, an American League record. Only one other player since 1900 has been hit by more pitches in a single season and, until 2005, he owned the career mark for a major league player, having been plunked 267 times over 19 big-league seasons. To put in perspective another way, Baylor ranks number one and number two in Red Sox franchise history for the single-season record, having been hit another 24 times in 1987. He is also third all-time, tied with Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, for the most times hit by a pitch in a Boston uniform and sits only twelve behind the Red Sox career leader, Mo Vaughn. Perhaps even more interesting is that he reached his personal mark in only 1,096 plate appearances for Boston, less than a quarter of the number that both Fisk and Vaughn had with the Red Sox. Ouch!

Did You Know? – Ground-Rule Triple at Fenway Park?

In baseball, a ground-rule double is usually called when a batted ball bounces in fair territory on the field of play and then goes into the stands, in which case the batter and any runners are awarded two bases. These can also be called when a ball in play hits or gets lodged in an on-field obstruction; an example of this would be a ball that rolls under the canvas that covers the tarp cylinder at Fenway Park in the right field corner, known as “Canvas Alley.” Some time ago, a story began to circulate, thanks in part to Boston-area television sports reporters, that Fenway was the only ball park in Major League Baseball that included in its ground rules a ruling for a ground-rule triple. Apparently, there was a belief that if a batted ball strikes the ladder on the Green Monster during play, the batter would be awarded three bases. This has also been given credibility by several respected online sources to further perpetuate this belief.

For several years before the Monster Seats appeared above the infamous green left field wall, the Red Sox erected a 23-foot-high net above it in 1936 that stretched its entire length to offer some protection to businesses on Lansdowne Street from home run balls hit over the 37-foot-high structure. To enable groundskeepers to climb up to the netting and retrieve any balls that landed there, a ladder was installed that starts near the upper-left corner of the manual scoreboard, 13 feet above the ground. Once the Monster Seats were installed in 2003, the ladder was no longer a necessity but the team left it in place as a visible reminder of a “forgotten” feature of the ball park.

In truth, hitting the ladder with a batted ball only matters if the ball strikes the top of it and then goes out of the park, in which case the batter along with any base runners are awarded two bases; otherwise, the ball stays in play and batters and base runners alike can advance on their own free will. According to Fenway Park ground rules listed at the official online site for the Red Sox, there is no mention of a ground-rule triple, thereby making it merely an urban myth.

Did You Know? – Hot Starts in Red Sox History

Through Sunday, Boston’s record is 30-13 on the regular season, which puts the team 10-1/2 games in front of second-place Baltimore and New York for the lead in the American League East. However, believe it or not, this only ties the second-best record to start a season to this point. In 2002, Boston also began the season at 30-13 through 22 May but, to that point of the season, the Red Sox were only one game in front of the second-place Yankees, who had started 31-16. Two days earlier, Boston had improved its fast start to 30-11 after thumping the Chicago White Sox 9-0 at Fenway Park behind Derek Lowe’s eight-inning masterpiece on the mound and home runs from Jason Varitek and Shea Hillenbrand, but had dropped the final two games of the series. Boston would go on finish at 93-69 in skipper Grady Little’s first year as manager but 10-1/2 games behind eventual division champion New York.

In 1946, Boston’s record after 43 games of play was an amazing 34-9, in part thanks to a team-record 15-game winning streak between 25 April and 10 May of that season, which put their record to that point at an unbelieveable 21-3. The Red Sox had gone on to win another 13 of 19 and put themselves seven games in front of second-place New York. Boston would finish the season at 104-50, the second-best record in team history behind the 1912 club that had won 105 games and the World Series, and easily won the American League pennant by 12 games over Detroit and 17 games over New York. In contrast, the team’s worst record after 43 games was 8-35 in 1932 on a club that would finish with 111 losses that season, a franchise record for futility.

Did You Know? – Red Sox 20-Game Winners

In team history, the Red Sox have seen 26 different pitchers win at least 20 games in a season at least once in a Boston uniform. The pitcher who holds the franchise record for the most victories in one season is Smoky Joe Wood, who won 34 games in 1912 for the eventual World Series champions; he was one of three pitchers on the 1912 staff, along with Buck O’Brien and Hugh Bedient, to reach the 20-win threshold, as the latter two each won exactly 20 games on a team that set the franchise record for wins in a season (105). Only one other pitcher in team history, Cy Young, won better than 30 games in a season; he accomplished this feat twice, once in Boston’s inagural season of 1901 (33) and then again in 1902 (32). Young also holds the record for the most seasons of 20 or more wins with the Red Sox, having accomplished the feat six times in the eight years that he was part of the starting rotation. After him, there are three pitchers with three seasons of 20 or more wins: Bill Dinneen (1902-1904), Luis Tiant (1973, 1974, 1976), and Roger Clemens (1986, 1987, 1990). Other multiple winners include Babe Ruth, Carl Mays, Boo Ferriss, Jesse Tannehill, Mel Parnell, Wood, Tex Hughson, and Wes Ferrell.

In total, there have been 46 instances where a pitcher won 20 games or more in a season for the Red Sox. Nine times, the starting rotation for Boston has had multiple 20-game winners. Between 1902 and 1904, Dinneen and Young won at least 20 games in each season for the Red Sox and, with Boston pitchers Tom Hughes (20 wins in 1903) and Tannehill (21 wins in 1904) also reaching that plateau, fans were witness to eight instances in three straight seasons that a Sox pitcher accomplished this feat. The most recent instance in which two players on the Red Sox pitching staff won at least 20 games in a single season happened just five years ago in 2002, when Derek Lowe (21) and Pedro Martinez (20) both managed the feat; before that, you have to go back to 1949 to find multiple 20-game winners on the Red Sox pitching staff for one season: Parnell (25) and Ellis Kinder (23). Curiously, there have been ten Boston pitchers in franchise history to fall just one win short of the mark for a single season; of those ten, both Martinez and Howard Ehmke did reach the mark in another season for the Sox. Martinez fell one win shy his first season with the club in 1998 but won 23 the next year, while Ehmke won 19 in 1924, one year after winning 20.

Did You Know? – Irish Red Sox Ballplayers

A short time ago, we took a quick look back at Japanese ballplayers that have played for the Boston Red Sox. With today being St. Patrick’s Day and the team breaking out the green uniforms for its game at Fort Myers this afternoon, it made us wonder about how much of an Irish influence there has been on the franchise in team history. Of course, Boston has always had a rather large population of Irish descent and it would not be surprising to find that there have been several players with Irish heritage to wear a Red Sox cap, but we were curious as to how many Boston players were native to the Emerald Isle.

As it turns out, according to Baseball-Reference.com, there has been exactly one player born in the Land of Saints and Scholars: the legendary flycatcher Jimmy Walsh. Well, actually, not quite that legendary, as he played just the better part of six seasons with three American League teams and was barely a blip on the radar in Red Sox history. Born in Kallila, Ireland, he began his career in 1912 with the Philadelphia Athletics following a trade from the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. He was picked up by the New York Yankees to begin the 1914 season, but was then traded back to Philadelphia at mid-season; just over two years later, in early September, he found himself traded once again, this time to the Boston Red Sox. After a brief appearance with the club in 1916, Walsh returned to play the entire 1917 season in Boston, but that would mark the end of a rather unremarkable career in which he batted just .232.

The only other individual to have donned a Red Sox uniform was Patsy Donovan, born in Queenstown, Ireland and who played 17 seasons, mostly in the National League, as one of baseball’s top outfielders between 1890 and 1907. His career numbers were much better than what Walsh accomplished: over 2000 hits, a .301 career batting average, and 518 stolen bases, having finished in the top 10 five times in his career and leading the league one year (1900) with 45 for the St. Louis Cardinals. He often served as a player-manager, taking on that role eight times in his career. However, his playing days were behind him when he accepted an offer to manage the Boston Red Sox in 1910. In two seasons at the helm, Donovan compiled a record of 159-147, but the team seemed to take a step backwards during his tenure as they finished fourth and fifth, respectively. As the Red Sox prepared to move from the Huntington Avenue Grounds into a brand-new venue named Fenway Park, Donovan was replaced by player-manager Jack Stahl; Stahl immediately turned the club around, not only winning a franchise single-season record 105 games but the club’s second World Series title.

As a final note: in total, according to Baseball-Reference.com, there have been exactly 40 players born in Ireland to play baseball for a professional major league club. As would be somewhat expected, most played in the nineteenth century, with only nine such players to have donned a uniform in the 20th century. In fact, the last Irish national to play for either an American or National League club was Joe Cleary, born in Cork, Ireland in 1918, who appeared in exactly one game as a relief pitcher for the Washington Senators (later the Minnesota Twins) in 1945. In just one-third of an inning pitched, he gave up seven runs on five hits and three walks, giving him a career ERA of 189.00, and the only out he managed came by way of a strikeout.

Did You Know? – Red Sox 20-Game Losers

Since 1901, there have been 201 instances where a pitcher has lost 20 games or more in a single season. The most recent pitcher to suffer this dubious “honor” was Mike Maroth in 2003, who went 9-21 for the Detroit Tigers ballclub that lost 119 games, one loss shy of the modern record for most losses in a season by one club. Before that, you have to go back to Brian Kingman, who lost 20 games with the Oakland Athletics in 1980.

In the team’s 106-year history, the Boston Red Sox have had exactly ten 20-game losers. The last time it happened, in 1930, the team actually had two 20-game losers in the rotation: Milt Gaston, who led the team with 13 wins against 20 losses, and Jack Russell, who posted a record of 9-20. That club also lost 102 games, the fourth time in six seasons that the club had lost 100 games or more. Gaston and Russell were also two of five pitchers that had lost 20 games or more over the previous six seasons; Red Ruffing, a future Hall of Fame pitcher whose career would blossom after being traded to New York in 1930, lost 25 and 22 games in 1928 and 1929, respectively; Slim Harriss lost 21 games againt 14 wins in 1927; and Howard Ehmke went 9-20 in 1925.

The four other pitchers in Red Sox history to lose 20 games in a season were: “Sad Sam” Jones, in 1919, two years before he would win a career-high 23 games while still with Boston; Joe Harris, who won just two games while collecting 21 losses in 1906; the legendary Cy Young, who lost 21 games in 1906, the third time in his career that he had lost 20 games or more in a season; and Bill Dinneen, who matched his 21 losses with 21 wins in 1902. Dinnenn was also the only pitcher to lose 20 games for a Boston club that had a winning record.

Did You Know? – Japanese Red Sox Ballplayers

With the hype surrounding Japanese pitching phenomenon Diasuke Matsuzaka as he prepares to make his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox this spring, it’s worth noting the accomplishments of Japanese baseball players in Major League Baseball history. According to Baseball-Reference.com, in total, there have been 27 Japanese ballplayers who have worn an MLB uniform. The first such player was Masanori Murakami, who debuted at the age of 20 in September of 1964 for the San Francisco Giants; he would pitch one full season the following year before contractual obligations forced him back to the Nankei Hawks of the Japanese League, where he pitched another 17 seasons.

It wasn’t until thirty years later that another Japanese ballplayer, Hideo Nomo, would take the field with a Major League club. In 1995, “The Tornado” (named so for his winding delivery style) made his first start for the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Giants in May of that season; at season’s end, he was 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 236 strikeouts, beating future NL MVP Chipper Jones by 14 points for Rookie of the Year honors. Six years later, in 2001, he would spend his first and only season in a Boston Red Sox uniform. The year began well for the then-32-year-old veteran; making his first start of the regular season in Baltimore, Nomo pitched the first official no-hitter by a Red Sox pitcher since Dave Morehead no-hit the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park in 1965. Having thrown a no-hitter against Colorado in 1996, he became the fourth pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter in both the American and National Leagues. He would finish the season at 13-10 in 33 starts with a 3.09 ERA and 220 strikeouts and then return to the Dodgers in 2002 as a free agent.

Nomo was actually the second player of Japanese descent to play for the Red Sox; in July of 1999, Tomokazu Ohka made his MLB debut for Boston and would remain with the club until 2001 when he was shipped mid-season to Montréal in exchange for fellow pitcher Ugueth Urbina. Ohka began his baseball career in Japan with the Yokohama Giants of the Central League, where he was 1-2 in 34 appearances over four seasons. Starting at Double-A Trenton to begin the 1999 season, he went 8-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 starts; he was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket and went 7-0 with a 1.58 ERA in 12 more starts. He soon made his major league debut as a mid-season call-up on 19 July; unfortunately, he lasted just one-plus innings in his first start, giving up five runs on five hits and a walk. He did not fair any better in his second start and was sent to the bullpen for the rest of the season.

The following spring, Ohka again started the year in the minors with Pawtucket and enjoyed another fast start, beginning the season with a 9-6 record and a 2.96 ERA in 19 starts, which included a perfect game against the Charlotte Knights on 01 June 2000. Once more, the Red Sox promoted him mid-season and, after saddling two more losses in starts with Boston, he finally earned his first major league win on 13 August in Texas against the Rangers, the first of three straight wins; at season’s end, he was 3-6 in 12 starts but with a respectable 3.12 ERA. He would begin the next season with Boston, winning two of his first three starts, but those would be the last wins for Ohka in a Boston uniform before the deadline trade. In total with the Red Sox, he compiled a 6-13 record in 25 starts and 33 total appearances with a 4.61 ERA.

Only one other Japanese-born player has worn a uniform for the Boston Red Sox, though many fans may not be familiar with this player’s heritage: Dave Roberts, one of the heroes of the 2004 World Series champions. Forever remembered in Boston lore for his stolen base in the ninth inning of Game Four of the 2004 ALCS, now often referred to as “The Steal,” his father, Waymon Roberts, was a Marine stationed in Okinawa, Japan; his mother, Eiko, is of Japanese descent. However, despite being born in the Land of the Rising Run, Roberts spent most of his youth in San Diego, CA. In total, counting players with other heritages, there have been 34 players born in Japan to don a major league uniform.

Did You Know? – Football at Fenway Park

Though it may come as a surprise to some, Fenway Park has been the home of more than just baseball and the Boston Red Sox; not once, not twice, but professional football franchises have occupied Fenway Park three times in its 95 years of existence since the park opened in April of 1912 with an exhibition baseball game between its primary resident and Harvard University (the Red Sox prevailed, 2-0). Yes, in its storied past, the beautiful park has been transformed from a baseball diamond into a football gridiron, with goal posts standing before the bullpens and hash marks crossing through the infield, as the national pastime gave way to Sunday afternoon turf wars.

With the city awarded a National Football League (NFL) franchise in 1932, the Boston Braves took residence at Braves Field, the team taking the moniker of the baseball team with which it shared its season at home, in its first year of existence; the following season, owner George Preston Marshall moved the team across town to Fenway and changed its name to the Redskins. Unfortunately, the city showed little interest in football and attendance was poor, so much so that the 1936 NFL title game, which was scheduled to be played in Boston, was moved to the Polo Grounds in New York City. Ironically, the Redskins finished first in the NFL East division that season for the only time while in Boston and would lose in that title game to the Green Bay Packers, 21-6. The next year, the Redskins moved to Washington, DC, where they remain today.

The next team to play football at historic Fenway Park was the Yanks, the NFL’s second attempt to establish a Boston franchise; team owner Ted Collins picked the name “Yanks” because he originally wanted to have the team play at Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees. The franchise lasted five seasons in Boston but never caught on, likely due to the lack of success on the field; the team’s best record came in 1947 when they finished 4-7-1 in regular season play. Citing financial woes, Collins asked the league to fold the team in favor of a New York City franchise; that team would play three seasons in New York, first as the Bulldogs and then for two seasons as the Yanks. Collins would then sell the franchise to Giles Miller, who would move the franchise to Dallas for one season and watch the team go 1-11, the only win coming against George Halas and the Chicago Bears. Miller then sold the team back to the NFL, which awarded the franchise to Baltimore with Carroll Rosenbloom as the team’s new owner; that team would eventually become today’s Indiannapolis Colts, winners of Super Bowl XLI.

The last team other than the Red Sox to occupy Fenway Park was none other than the Boston Patriots, one of the original teams in the American Football League (AFL). After playing its first three seasons at Boston University’s Nickerson Field, the original site of Braves Field, the team moved to Fenway Park, where they played six seasons from 1963 through 1968. In its first season there, the team managed a record of 7-6-1, tying the Buffalo Bills for first place in the AFL East. Boston would win a one-game divisional playoff game against the Bills in Buffalo but then would lose the AFL championship against the Chargers in San Diego. The next season, the Patriots improved to 10-3-1 but finished out of the playoffs in second place behind Buffalo, which had gone 12-2. After another four seasons at Fenway Park, in which the team went 19-32-5, owner “Billy” Sullivan moved the team to Boston College’s Alumni Stadium. The team would play the 1969 season there, the 1970 season at Harvard Stadium, then finally took residence in Foxboro, MA, changing its name to the New England Patriots.

The ballpark has also been host to other teams as well, including the National League’s Boston Braves (known today as the Atlanta Braves), who played for a season there in 1914 while Braves Field was under construction; that “Miracle Braves” team eventually won the 1914 World Series, sweeping Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The ballpark also hosted home football games for Boston College and Boston University; oddly enough, one-time BU All-American Harry Agganis quarterbacked more than a few games for the Terriers at Fenway Park before he eventually signed to play baseball with the Red Sox in 1952. Tragically, the Lynn, MA native would die just three years later at the age of 26 from a pulmonary embolism in the midst of the 1955 season.

Did You Know? – Unassisted Triple Plays In Red Sox History

Considered one of the rarest of feats, an unassisted triple play occurs so infrequently that only 12 have been turned in modern Major League Baseball history. It’s even more astonishing when you consider that the triple play itself is an unusual event and that there have been more perfect games (17) than unassisted triple plays. Most often, unassisted triple plays require luck more than anything; often times, a ball must be caught on a line drive by a middle infielder with no outs and runners on the move from first and second, giving the defensive player time to tag the runner from first and step on the bag at second for the force out of the other runner.

In Red Sox history, Boston has been not only a victim (once) but the beneficiary (twice!). In 1909, shortstop Neal Ball of the Cleveland Indians became the first player in modern baseball history to turn the trick. In the top of the second at Cleveland on 19 July, with Red Sox shortstop Heinie Wagner on second base and first baseman Jake Stahl on first, Boston second baseman Amby McConnell struck a hard line drive right at Ball. In one quick motion, the infielder caught the ball, stepped on second to force Wagner, and then tagged out Stahl, who was just a couple strides away. Boston would end up on the losing end of a 6-1 Cleveland win but take revenge in the second game with an 8-2 victory.

14 years later, on 14 September 1923, Red Sox first baseman George Burns becomes the first Red Sox player and third ever Major League player to perform the rare feat, and one of only two infielders other than a shortstop or second baseman to do so. Facing the Indians at Fenway Park, Burns snares a line drive off the bat of Frank Brower and tags Rube Lutzke who had strayed too far from the bag at first. Burns then found himself in a foot race to second base with Riggs Stephenson, who had started running towards third as the pitch was delivered. With every ounce of effort he had, Burns managed to slide into the bag, the ball still in his glove, ahead of Stephenson to complete the trifecta.

More than seventy years would pass after Burns’ feat when shortstop John Valentin took the field on 08 July 1994 against the Mariners at Fenway Park. Trailing 2-0 at the time and with runners on first and second, Marc Newfield hits a line drive off Red Sox pitcher Chris Nabholz straight at Valentin, who goes down on one knee to snare the line drive with the runners going. Valentin then casually runs to second to double off Mike Blowers and nonchalantly tags Keith Mitchell, who had virtually come to a stop, realizing that his goose was cooked. It wasn’t until Valentin reached the dugout and teammates began to congratulate him that he realized what he had just accomplished; ironically, he had only tagged Mitchell in fun, thinking that there was already an out in the inning.

Oddly enough, of the twelve players that have turned an unassisted triple play, two of these players have also hit for the cycle, a feat rarer than a standard triple play: Valentin and Burns. Burns accomplished that feat as a member of the New York Giants in 1920; Valentin made his mark on 06 June 1996, the last of 18 Boston players who have hit for the cycle.