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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Boston Red Sox History Tidbits

Baseball is fun as much for the trivia, stories and tidbits of knowledge that accumulate as for the actual action that takes place on the field. The Boston Red Sox are one of the most storied franchises in the sport, and as such have a rich trove of factoids. Here is a sampling.

Much has been made this season about the “Red Sox flu,” which sent a number of players, and even a broadcaster, to the sidelines.  Heading into the season, the team has a troubling trend of player sick days, racking up a total of 85 between 2011-16. This represents $3.9 million in salaries during those days missed, and the most in the majors since during that time.

In 1967, rookie southpaw Billy Rohr began his career with two complete game victories (including a one-hitter in his debut) against the New York Yankees. He went 0-3 with an 8.51 ERA in his next eight games (six starts), and pitched his final major league games the next year at the age of 22.

Although the Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets in heart-breaking fashion, it truly was a magical season for the team. As a sign of the special things to come, Dwight Evans hit the very first pitch of the season (for the Sox and all of MLB), off the Detroit Tigers’ Jack Morris, for a lead off home run on Opening Day (The Tigers went on to win the game 6-5).

In 2009, Boston signed promising 17-year-old pitching prospect Carlos Matias out of the Dominican Republic for $140,000. However, Major League Baseball discovered that he was born with a different last name and voided the contract on the grounds of identity fraud. He went on to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, adopted his birth name of Carlos Martinez and is now an annual Cy Young contender at the age of 25 for the Red Birds.

Right-handed pitcher John Dopson pitched parts of five perfectly average seasons with the Red Sox (1989-93), going 26-30 with a 4.29 ERA. He does hold one interesting team record, as his 21 balks during that time are more than runner up Roger Clemens’ 18 for the most in team history. 15 of Dopson’s balks came in 1989, which ironically was the year after “the year of the balk,” when baseball had more balk calls than any other year in history.

Entering, the 2017 season, All Star outfielder Mookie Betts last struck out during a regular season game on September 12, 2016 against the Baltimore Orioles and Oliver Drake before next whiffing against the Toronto Blue Jays’ Francisco Liriano on April 17, 2017—a streak of 129 plate appearances. Given the age of power pitching and free swinging hitters, this is a truly amazing feat.

Bobby Sprowl was a highly touted pitching prospect in 1978. The left-hander was the team’s second-round selection the year before and had posted a 2.10 ERA in his first season in the minors. Unfortunately, during spring training he was accidentally shot in the (right) arm while inside his Winter Haven, Florida apartment after his neighbor’s gun accidentally discharged and a bullet went through the wall. He recovered quickly and went on to win 16 minor league games that year before appearing in three Boston games at the end of the season. Unfortunately, that was his only season in Boston and he never recorded a major league win in parts of four years as a big leaguer.

Jack Rothrock played parts of eight seasons (1925-32) in a Red Sox uniform. Besides hitting .300 in 1929, he is perhaps best known for playing a different position for five consecutive Opening Days with the team.  Between 1928 and 1932, he manned shortstop, center field, right field, third base and left field on successive first games of the year.

Current Boston closer Craig Kimbrel has a fastball he consistently throws in the upper 90s. He credits this ability in part to a broken foot he suffered at the age of 18 when a panel of sheet-rock was accidentally dropped on his foot at a construction site he was working with his father. He went off to Wallace Community College that and performed a training regimen that included throwing from his knees while he was forced to be off his feet. This added to his arm strength and helped make him one of the most dominant pitchers in the game today.

The number worn most often on the Boston Red Sox has been 28 (worn by 56 different players). Most recently, reliever Robbie Ross has had 28 on the back of his uniform.

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