June 15 – Happy Birthday Wade Boggs

boggs-87tOnly Ted Williams has a higher Red Sox lifetime batting average than the .338 figure Boggs hit during his 11-seasons playing in Beantown. Wade won five batting titles as a Red Sox and had seven straight 100-run, 200-hit seasons. Although he had some notorious extra marital exploits off the field, nobody was more focused or more driven on a baseball field than Boggs. The thought of him in a Yankee uniform was literally beyond the realm of anyone’s imagination, but in 1992, Boggs hit just .259 in the final year of his Red Sox contract. That was the first time in the eleven seasons he’d been in the big leagues that he failed to hit .300. The fall-off was just enough to dissuade the Red Sox front office from going all-out to re-sign their All Star third baseman. The angry Boggs signed with the Yankees instead. He proceeded to win his first two Gold Gloves plus his one and only World Series ring, while averaging .313 during his four seasons in pinstripes. After finishing his career and getting his 3,000th hit as a Devil Ray, Boggs was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.

Boggsy was born in Omaha, NE on June 15, 1958.

June 14 – Happy Birthday Luis Aponte

515+Z33jqvL._SY300_This Venezuelan reliever and an obscure outfielder from the late 1950’s named Herb Plews are the only two players we could find on the Red Sox All-Time roster who were born on Flag Day. Luis Eduardo Yuripe Aponte was signed by Boston in 1973. He spent the next four years trying to make it up the ladder of the Red Sox farm system but couldn’t, so he “retired.” But instead of quitting all together, this right-hander began pitching in the Inter-American League where he developed a new pitch in the form of a very effective fork ball. That fork ball not only got him re-signed by Boston, it got him to the Major Leagues.

After two short but successful trials with the parent club in 1980 and  ’81, Aponte became a regular part of manager, Ralph Houk’s Red Sox bullpen in ’82 and ’83. He appeared in 40 games during his first full season in the big leagues, going 2-2 with 3 saves. He then went 5-4 in 1983 with 3 more saves and a decent 3.63 ERA. His Red Sox career ended during the 1984 spring training season, when he was traded to Cleveland for two minor leaguers. After pitching in 25 games for the Indians that year, his big league career was over. He eventually became a scout for the Cleveland organization. Aponte was born in El Tigre, Venezuela in 1953.

June 13 – Happy Birthday Mel Parnell

tumblr_m1a6owGyqX1qcw9y0o1_400“Dusty” was the ace left-hander of the Red Sox pitching staff from 1948 to 1953 when a sore elbow began slowing him down. He used his great fastball and a self-taught slider to go 109-56 during those six seasons, winning 20 games twice and throwing 20 shutouts. While Fenway’s Green Monster destroyed the careers of many Boston lefties, Parnell thrived in Boston’s home park. Only Roger Clemens and Cy Young won more games in a Red Sox uniform. He retired after the 1956 season. Longtime Red Sox fans can remember “Marvelous Mel” broadcasting Boston games during the team’s miraculous drive to the 1967 World Series. Parnell was born in New Orleans on this date in 1922.

June 12 – Happy Birthday Damon Buford

1308-374FrBoston got Buford and catcher Jim Leyritz in the 1997 trade with Texas for Aaron Sele. Buford impressed Boston fans his first season, hitting .282 and smacking 10 home runs in just 86 games. But he slumped to .242 the following year and was then traded to the Cubs for Manny Alexander. Buford was born on this date in 1970, in Baltimore, where his Dad Don was an outfielder for the Orioles.

June 11 – Happy Birthday Brock Holt

UnknownBoston Super-Sub, Brock Holt was originally a ninth-round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2009 MLB Draft. He came to Boston as part of the six-player deal that sent reliever Mark Melancon to the Pirates in December of 2012. After spending most of his first season as a Red Sox with Pawtucket, Holt became Manager John Farrell’s super-sub in 2014, appearing in every position on the field except pitcher and catcher.

A native of Texas, Holt played one year of college ball at Rice before being drafted. He currently is leading the Red Sox in batting average and has become a Fenway fan favorite because of his hustle and willingness to play anywhere.

 

June 10 – Happy Birthday Pokey Reese

reeseBack in 2000, Pokey Reese was one of the most sought-after middle infielders in the game of baseball. He was the Gold Glove-winning second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds and he was coming off a season in which he had just hit a career-high .285 and stole 38 bases. It was his third year in the big leagues and he was also beginning to produce some pop in his swing, reaching the ten-homer mark for the first time. But it was his glove work that set him apart. Reese could get to balls and make throws few others could.

No doubt, his value was at its peak, which is why the Reds offered the then 26-year-old native of Columbia, SC a four year deal worth about $21 million after the 2000 season. Reese turned it down, a certain indication to Cincinnati’s front office that he was planning on testing free agency. A rumor than began to circulate that Reese wanted $10 million a year, an intimidating number for most teams to swallow at the time, especially for a middle infielder. That number became even more intimidating, when Reese’s offense began to disappear.

His agent denied that he nor his client ever made the demand and Reese himself blamed Reds’ GM Jim Bowden for planting the story but Bowden also denied doing it. Wherever it came from, that rumor and Reese’s .224 batting average in 2001 did huge damage to his acquisition appeal around the league. That’s why the Reds could only get a couple of pretty ordinary pitching prospects for the two-time Gold Glove winner when they traded him to The Rockies in December of 2001. Colorado didn’t even actually want Reese either. A day later they traded him to the Red Sox for Scott Hatteberg. Two days later, Boston released him and he ended up signing with the Pirates.

He did pretty well his first year in Pittsburgh, horribly his second and then just before Christmas in 2003, he was again acquired by the Red Sox, this time as a free agent. At the time, Boston’s front office and the team’s star shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra were locked in one of the bitterest contract feuds in franchise history. When Boston traded the disgruntled Garciaparra to the Cubs during the ’04 regular season, it was Reese who took his place for a while. By the end of that year however, he had lost the job to Orlando Cabrera, and had become the team’s utility infielder. He was the second baseman who cleanly fielded the ground ball off of Ruben Sierra’s bat that ended Game Seven of the dramatic 2004 ALCS versus the Yankees. Then, after winning his first and only World Series Ring, reese never again played in a big league ball game.

It really was remarkable that Reese made it as far as he did in baseball. His childhood back in South Carolina had been one of abject poverty. He then fathered two children out of wedlock and before he reached the big leagues, his daughter was killed in a car accident and his young son witnessed the bloody murder of his own mother.

June 9 – Happy Birthday Mike Ryba

rybaAt first glance, I thought the only member of the all-time Red Sox roster to celebrate a birthday on June 9 might have had an identity problem. His real name was Dominic Joseph Ryba, but everyone knew him as Mike. He won a minor league batting title as an all star catcher in 1933 and two seasons later, he was a 20-game-winning pitcher. That’s when the Cardinals brought him up for his big league debut at the end of the ’35 season. Ryba was already 32-years-old by then and he spent the next five years bouncing up and down between St Louis and the clubs top farm teams. In 1940, he went 24-8 for the Cardinals double A affiliate in Rochester, NY. Even though he was 37 years-old by then, the Red Sox traded for him that September and he spent the next six seasons, including all of the WWII years pitching mostly in relief for Boston. He did pretty well.

Overall, Ryba went 36-25 in Beantown, including an impressive 12-7 1944 season. In 1945 he compiled a career low 2.49 ERA. The right-handed native of DeLancey, PA also got all of his 16 career saves while wearing a Red Sox uniform. By the time all of the big league players returned from service in the War, Ryba was 43-years-old and ready for his next career as a minor league coach and big league scout. He died in 1971 at the age of 68.