This is my ode about the time I spent with my grandfather on Cape Cod. I hope to honor the summers we shared and the teams we rooted for by reuniting a game used bat for every Red Sox position player from 1975 to 1986. This is for you Gus!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ted Cox

There were great expectations for Ted Cox when he was drafted in the first round of the 1973 amateur draft, and for a brief period he lived up to them. In 1977, Cox was named the Topps Minor League Player of the Year as well as International League MVP. His efforts that year earned him a September call-up, where he promptly set a Major League record for most consecutive at bats with a hit to start a career, with six. Despite his auspicious beginning, Cox had trouble breaking into an outfield already being patrolled by Red Sox legends Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans. Aware of Cox's trade value, the Sox used him to sweeten the pot in a deal that brought future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley to Boston before the start of the 1978 season.
The Ted Cox bat in my collection is of particular interest, as it was from the very earliest days of his professional career. Ordered some time between 1973 and 1975 while Cox was still in "A ball", where he was young, had momentum and his potential seemed limitless. Sadly, that is not how things turned out for the big outfielder as he played just four seasons with three different teams after he was traded away from Boston.

27 bats down 56 to go.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Steve Lyons

Baseball Reference lists the career of Steve Lyons as being statistically most similar to the careers of Thurman Tucker and Tuck Steinback, however most baseball fans associate Wally Moon and Heine Manush as being more reminiscent of Steve Lyons' on the field legacy. This is due to Lyons' actions in a 1990 game between the White Sox and Tigers where he dropped trou after sliding head first into first base, becoming the butt-end of countless jokes and living up to his nickname; "Physco."

Lyons was taken 19th overall by the Red Sox in the 1981 draft and debuted for the Sox on April 15, 1985. Lyons spent the next year and half platooning in center field before being shipped off to the White Sox for future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Lyons played seven more season and returned to the Red Sox on two more occasions, where he was warmly received by the Fenway faithful. Lyons hung them up at the end of the 1993 season and tried his hand at acting, appearing in Arli$$, Major League II and For the Love of the Game. More recently Lyons has found a home in Fenway's announcer's booth, where he has filled in as color man since the 2014 season.

26 bats down 57 to go.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pat Dodson

The one thing I have learned during my thirty plus years of collecting, is that there are as many reasons to collect as there are collectors. There are also stages of collecting and those who are in it for the long haul tend to become helpers and educators to new collectors. I was fortunate enough to meet one such person.

When I first started assembling my collection I advertised on several popular collecting forums. One of the first responses I received was an encouraging email from a gentleman named Jeff, and shortly after, I found a package on my doorstep from the same collector. Inside was a game used Pat Dodson bat to help get my collection started. In the months that followed we emailed back and forth and I discovered that Jeff was not just any game used bat collector, but the owner of what must be the finest collection of Red Sox gamers in existence.

Now in his forth decade of collecting, Jeff is just four bats short of meeting his goal of finding a game used bat for every Red Sox position player who suited up since the 1960 season. The bats that have eluded him are: Carmen Fanzone, Ken Poulsen, George Smith and Bobby Thompson. If you have one of these bats or know where one is hiding, please contact me so I can help a fellow bat collector and friend finish his set.

25 bats down 58 to go.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bobby Darwin

There is a small fraternity of big leaguers who started their careers as pitchers and transitioned into position players. Bobby Darwin was one of those players. Originally signed as a pitcher by the Los Angeles Angels in 1962, Bobby made his major league debut on the final day of that same season. After three innings, eight hits and six runs he was promptly designated for assignment in the Angel's minor league system.

Nine years later Darwin was back in the show, this time as an Dodgers outfielder. Between 1972 and 1974 Darwin led the American League in strikeouts and tape measure home runs. His most prolific blast occurred on May 26, 1974, when he became just the second player ever to reach the second deck at Metropolitan Stadium, some 515 feet from home plate.

By the time Darwin was traded to the Red Sox for Bernie Carbo there was no magic left in his bat. He hit just .183 with 3 home runs in 47 games for the Sox. In May of 1977 he was traded to the Cubs where he would play just eleven more games before hanging them up.

24 bats down 59 to go.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rick Burleson

For the better part of the 1970's Rick Burleson strutted around the middle infield of Fenway Park. Known as the "Rooster", Burleson had a fiery nature and the look of a man who came to fight. Despite an obvious lack of range and experience, by an act of sheer will Burleson was able to take the starting shortstop job away from Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. In his first start Burleson committed three errors, a record that stands to this day for a Major League debut. Ever confident, Burleson quickly turned things around and in 1979 won a Gold Glove award and the following year led all American League shortstops in putouts, assists and double plays.

Despite becoming a defensive stalwart and playing in four All Star games, when I think of Rick Burleson I am reminded of Craig, my sandlot teammate and dyed in the wool Burleson fan. Before 24 hour sports coverage, when catching a Sox game on TV38 was a special occasion, all we knew of the hometown team was found in well read yearbooks and on the backs of baseball cards. Ironically, in a time when we knew less about the players, they somehow seemed more accessible. Every time we took the field to play, a litany was said. Started by Craig with, "I'm Rick Burleson," the roll call continued until everyone had chosen a player and usually ended with, "I'm Reggie Jackson." This coming from some kid from New York or New Jersey visiting their grandparents on the Cape.

It's been over 30 years since we last played on the sandlot. The warped bench, the chicken wire backstop and the rusty fence in left field that guarded an overgrown tennis court are all gone. To satisfy the hunger for summer homes and retirement condos, a complex was placed there. Like most buildings that spring from rapid fire expansion, it is soulless. Aluminum sided, box shaped buildings and landscaped grounds with automatic sprinkler systems now ensure that any trace of the tall tufts of grass, rocks and sand we called a field will never return. Despite the depressing reality of "progress", I can count on this; every day when I head to work and open the door to my office, a tiny voice inside me still says, "I'm Carlton Fisk."

23 bats down 60 to go.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Mike O'Berry

Anyone who knew me as a preteen had no doubts that my allegiance belonged to Carlton Fisk. I was obsessed. In Little League I strolled up to the plate, put my right foot in the box, held my bat up in front of me and inspected the barrel just as I had seen him do so many times before. Once satisfied that I had copied every one of his mannerisms, I got into the same closed stance Fisk employed while he was still with the Sox. Besides occupying center stage on the pedestal of my youth, Carlton Fisk also played talent blocker and dream crusher for a slew of talented young backstops in the Red Sox organization during the 1970's. Mike O'Berry was one such victim.

A native Alabamian, Mike O'Berry attended the University of Southern Alabama where he was spotted by Milt Bolling and picked by the Sox in the second round of the 1975 draft. Once in the Red Sox farm system O'Berry joined Tim Blackwell, Andy Merchant, Ernie Whitt, Bo Diaz and Gary Allenson in a frustrating game of waiting and wishing. Besides Allenson, O'Berry and the rest of the bunch found that the only path to the show was to move on from the organization. And move on he did! After exiting Boston, O'Berry suited up for the Cubs, Reds, Angels, Yankees and Expos. Five years later and out of options, O'Berry hung them up and gave coaching a try, first in the Orioles' farm system and then back home in Alabama at Pelham High School. It was as a high school coach that O'Berry experienced his greatest baseball success, turning a struggling program into a nationally ranked team.

22 bats down 61 to go.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bob Montgomery

Bob Montgomery possessed two traits that kept him employed with the Red Sox organization. First, he was steady. He could be relied upon not to embarrass the team on the rare occasion he saw playing time. Second, he was able to accept his station in life; perennial back-up to Carlton Fisk. When Fisk went down during spring training in '75 and it looked as though Montgomery might  finally crack the starting line-up, Sox management split the catching duties between Montgomery and several rookie catchers and he ended up watching 100 games from the bench. Poor guy couldn't catch a break.

Although Montgomery was steady and dependable, he also had a bit of a wild side, having earned his pilot's license while playing for the Sox and having the distinction of being the last Major League player to enter the batter's box without a batting helmet. The era in which he chose to do these things makes it even more remarkable. It was not long after Yankee's backstop Thurman Munson demonstrated that ball players should think twice before entering a cockpit, that Montgomery could be found buzzing around Winter Haven, Florida. Even scarier, Montgomery willing went to bat without a helmet in an era when the likes of Nolan Ryan prowled the mound and took special pride in throwing high and inside to batters just to remind them who rightfully owned the inner half of the plate.

21 bats down 62 to go.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Gary Allenson

Looking back, I feel bad for Gary Allenson. However, when I was eleven, I could not stand the sight of him. Through no fault of his own Allenson had the misfortune of taking over for one of the most beloved of Yawkey's heroes, Carlton Fisk. It didn't help Allenson that the only thing the two men shared were the tools of ignorance. Allenson was squat and utilitarian while Fisk was tall an buttery smooth behind the dish. But more than anything, fans were upset that a Californian was taking the place of one of our own. How could Fisk, the product of Charlestown, New Hampshire be suiting up for Sox of another color in some place far from of the six states we call home?

At some point between junior high, braces and pimples and becoming a mortgage paying, minivan driving suburban schlub, my stance on Allenson softened. I can't imagine the pressure he faced following in the footsteps of a local legend and future Hall of Famer. Sadly, that seems to have been the least of his problems. It is no secret that during Allenson's time in Boston, Haywood Sullivan was doing everything in his power to promote the career of another catcher in the organization, his son Marc. Mercifully, Allenson was able to escape the cauldron at Fenway park for the calmer waters of Toronto. Allenson finished out his career North of the border in the same way he played the game; quietly, professionally and with little fanfare.

20 bats down 63 to go.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tom Poquette

"I remember seeing the pool of blood on the ground. I tried to get up, but I couldn't," is how Tom Poquette recalls a game against the White Sox on June 22, 1976. During that game Poquette chased a deep fly ball off the bat of Kevin Bell and crashed into the wall a split second before being able to make the play. Poquette's effort resulted in a broken cheekbone for him and an in the park grand slam for his opponent. In his words, "I played hard because I had to. I had to work for everything because it did not come easy." I am sure the 18,125 fans at the park that night would agree with him.

Hustling in the field may make you a suitable outfielder, but you can't hide from the truth inside the batter's box. After being pulled for a reliever in 1977, Mike Torrez summed it up when he said, "If I can't get Tom Poquette out I should quit this game." Of course Torrez didn't quit the game and a couple seasons later the two were teammates in Boston. Poquette did his best to turn things around after being traded, but a rotator cuff injury injury mid way through the 1979 campaign sidelined him until the 1981 season. The Sox were deep in outfield talent in 1981 and released Poquette after only 3 games. Poquette was quickly picked up by Texas before being moved again, this time back to Kansas City, where he retired after the 1982 season.

19 bats down 64 to go.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tony Perez

You can blame pork and beans for my distrust of certain statistics, namely runs batted in. Pork and beans you say?  Stokely-Van Camps pork and beans to be precise. It was in a guard shack located on the grounds of their Kansas cannery that an unknown statistical genius named Bill James plied his craft and changed the landscape of baseball as we know it. To some James is a hero; a lone voice calling for logical interpretation of a complex game. To others he is a gratuitous hack; disputer of a simpler game and time. Regardless of how we see him, he changed how we see the game.

To Bill James, players like Tony Perez were overrated and overpaid.  Great "rbi men" as they were called, were held up on a pedestal for driving runners across the plate. James saw something different. James was the first to go on record saying that rbi's are the result of a high on base percentage by the players preceding the player credited with an rbi. Seems logical now, but by 1980's baseball standards it was positively heretical. When Tony Perez joined the Red Sox in 1980 the words of Bill James were greatly ignored by those who ran the game and Boston celebrated the arrival of their new rbi king. Three seasons and 175 rbi's later, having failed to reach the postseason even once, the Sox released Perez.

18 bats down 65 to go.