White Hat Sports Headlines

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Summer of '95

I love Baseball. Red Sox Baseball in particular and I love talking about it or writing about it. So you can imagine right now my dismay that everything that involves the National Past time is about the following: Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee, Kirk Radomski, BALCO and everybody’s favorite science project, Barry Bonds. The only news being nationally covered about the Red Sox right now is the fact that Curt Schilling is out for an extended period of time and whether or not she should feel bad or if he’s ripping the team off for his 2008 salary. This column isn’t going to be about any of this; it’s going to be about a simpler time. A time back when I was a boy(indulge me, I’m going to Spring training in two weeks and I don’t want to spend the whole time looking for shady trainers lurking in the parking lot.)
One of my favorite Bill Simmons terms is to an era and it’s what he calls “The Time When Sports Means Just a Little Too Much”. I searched through his glossary of terms and didn’t find it, but it’s a real thing. Mine was the summer of 1995 and the Boston Red Sox and perhaps Drew Bledsoe mixed in towards the fall. For the sake of this column however I’ll stick to the 1995 American League East Champion Boston Red Sox, lead by Most Valuable Player, Maurice Samuel Vaughn.
This team had man things that just made them unique. This team had a potential Hall of Fame pitcher in the Texas Con-Man and a project that came out of no where to win 16 games and post an ERA of 2.95, Tim Wakefield. The other three men in the rotation are definitely answers to the toughest trivia questions you’ve ever heard: Erik Hanson (the only other Sox player besides Mo Vaughn that made the All-Star team), Vaughn Eshelman and Zane Smith. All of which joined the Con-Man in posting and ERA above 4. In the wings but not quite ready to make the jump (must really not have been ready to not take a job away from those last 3) was Aaron Sele who managed to start 6 games and go 3-1.
This team wasn’t based around pitching though; they were built around power and pretty much a home run or nothing mantra. The middle of the line up was a murder’s row, Mo Vaughn and Jose Canseco. Before and after that the line up wasn’t that great but they got it done. Tim Naehring at 3rd, Johnny Valentin at shortstop, Luis Alicea at 2nd , Mike Macfarlane at catcher, and an outfield that consisted mainly of Mike Greenwell, Troy O’Leary (his breakout season) and a weird mixture of Lee Tinsley and Willie McGee( more on Willie later).
To say that this team was built precisely to win the division that year would be a drastic over statement. This team almost did it by accident now looking back on it. Mo Vaughn was the 5th highest paid player on the team. Ahead of him were Canseco, Clemens, Aguilera and Greenwell, and immediately behind “the Hit Dog” (still a great nickname) was Mike Macfarlane. Are you kidding me? The league MVP was making just a million and a half more than the catcher who swings like a slow motion Jorge Posada.
This team was made up of bad trades on top of bad trades that somehow worked for just the right amount of time and ignoring talent for the future. This team’s bench consisted at points with current major leaguers Matt Stairs, Ron Mahay and the respectable major leaguer Dave Hollins. The problem with this is the fact that Hollins came over from the Phillies in a trade for “Hard Hittin” Mark Whiten and then only played 2 games. Whiten is his own column as well, was supposed to be the second coming of Jim Rice and ended up becoming the second coming of Rob Deer. Stairs who still plays for the Blue Jays and routinely kills the Red Sox was in the organization the whole year, but only played in 39 games because Lee Tinsley had center field locked down for the next 15 years. Ron Mahay is a completely other situation all together in terms of judging talent. He is not only still a big league set up man some 12 years later; he wasn’t used as such for the Red Sox in 1995. That’s right the Red Sox used him as an outfielder for 5 games in 1995.
They did strike oil a few times in 1995 however. You have to right? They stole Rick Aguilera from the Twins for our Pawtucket “Phenom” Frankie Rodriguez and a player to be named later. Aguilera saved 20 games in 1995 before completed imploding in the playoffs against the Indians. None of this is the point however, this team is about memories. I can still remember the day the Red Sox made the Aguilera trade and my best friend, Zach trying to help me pronounce: Aguilera.
I can still picture the 1995 Boston Red Sox team yearbook from that season, the cover featured Mo Vaughn and Jose Canseco just looking HUGE. I looked through it so many times, that it’s probably more dog-eared than any journalist’s copy I’m sure. I’d listen to the games on the radio while I was at camp and then even made my maiden voyage to Fenway Park on August 14 against the New York Yankees.
Before even entering the ballpark I had a player citing, Willie McGee. Now some 13 years later I would say that this didn’t actually happen and that it was just some random dude, but look at Willie McGee and tell me that there is another human being that I could have confused him with, even when I was 9. The game itself was great and no box score does it proper justice. Wade Boggs and Don Mattingley were playing for the Yankees and Mo Vaughn jacked a homer in the first inning off Scott Kamieniecki. Kamieniecki later in the game drilled Luis Alicea in the head and started a bench clearing brawl. Naehring added a homer later in the game and the Sox behind Erik Hanson cruised to a 9-3 victory.
I think I’m ready for Spring Training now, but if they try to say that Kevin Kennedy was video taping Kamieniecki during his bullpen session, I WILL SNAP!
~Sterling Pingree

1 comment:

melanie said...

really really really really really really long.