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.

June 8 – Happy Birthday Pete Magrini

magriniOnly three members of the Red Sox all-time roster were born on July 8th and none of them appeared in any more than a handful of games for Boston. One of them was a pitcher named Pete Magrini, a Santa Rosa, California-born right-hander, who made his big league debut as a Red Sox with two relief appearances and a start during the 1966 season. It was not an impressive one. He lost his only decision and his ERA was just a shade south of eight when he was sent back to Boston’s International League affiliate in Toronto that May. Magrini would never again appear in a big league ball game but he did make a contribution to the 1967 Red Sox Impossible Dream pennant-winning team. The manager of that club, the late Dick Williams, always pointed to Boston’s late-season acquisition of veteran Yankee catcher Elston Howard as a key to the team’s successful stretch run. Magrini was one of two Boston pitchers sent to New York for Howard. The other was Ron Klimkowski.

June 7 – Happy Birthday Heathcliff Slocumb

slocumbHe will always be remembered by Red Sox Nation as the guy who was traded to bring Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to Boston. It was the deal that eventually broke the curse of the Bambino and hung a championship banner again in Fenway after over an eighty year drought. It was Dan Duquette’s finest hour, even though the former Red Sox GM was actually trying to get a prospect named Ken Cloude from the Mariners and only “settled” for Varitek and Lowe after Seattle refused to give up on their young power pitcher.

Heathcliff Slocumb’s record was 0-5 at the time of the trade and his ERA was in the high five’s but he was actually in a very nice groove for Boston, having successfully converted 11 of his last 12 save opportunities. That hot streak and an impressive appearance against the Mariners just before the deal went down were the only reasons the Seattle brain trust, who were desperate for a closer, made the trade for the right-handed native of Jamaica, NY at the 1997 trading deadline. As we all know now, Slocumb’s career propelled downward from that point, but not before he registered 10 saves during the second half of that ’97 season to help the Mariners reach the postseason.

Slocumb had come to Boston in a trade with the Phillies in a 1996 preseason deal. He was coming off a breakout 32-save season with Philadelphia just one year after his 27-year-old high school sweetheart wife had died from cancer, leaving him with two young daughters. The pitcher used his grief and parental responsibility as a motivator and became one of the more effective closers in baseball. When he saved 31 more games during his first season in Boston, it did look as if he was on the cusp of a great career. Than a horrible start to the ’96 season combined with Seattle’s refusal to part with a pitcher who never made it, changed the course of baseball history for fans in Boston and maybe those in Seattle too.

June 6 – Happy Birthday Junichi Tazawa

junichiWhy Boston signed Junichi Tazawa as an amateur free agent in December 2008 was pretty easy to figure out. Its how they signed him that was sort of unusual. At the time, the Red Sox were getting pretty good results from another right-handed pitcher from Japan. Daisuke Matsuzaka had already helped Boston win a World Series in 2007 and had gone 18-3 in ’08. The two pitchers both played their high school ball in Yokahama, but unlike Dice K, Tazawa decided he would not start his professional career in Japan. Instead, he intended to shop his services to the highest bidding MLB franchise in the United States.

That turned out to be Boston, who gave Tazawa a 3-year deal for $3 million, hoping that he would give them a second roll of the “Dice” to throw at opponents. He became just the third native of Japan to bypass Nippon Professional Baseball and sign directly with an MLB team.

After getting off to a good start in Double A ball the Red Sox brought him up in August of ’09 and put him in their rotation. He did fine until his fourth start against the White Sox, during which he was shelled for 10 hits and 9 runs in four innings. That got him demoted to the bullpen and in his next appearance a week later, those same White Sox jumped on him for five more runs in 3.2 innings. He also injured his pitching arm and was forced to undergo surgery and sit out the entire 2010 season.

So Tazawa proved he was not another Dice K, but over the past three seasons, he has shown his fastball, curve and forkball are good enough to get big leaguers out consistently as a middle reliever and set-up man. In 2012, he was one of the few bright spots on a bad Boston pitching staff, producing a 1.43 ERA in 37 games. He appeared in 71 regular season games during Boston’s 2013 Division-winning regular season and then performed close-to-brillantly in their postseason run to a World Championship.

Pinstripe Birthdays

Did you know that on almost every day of the year, at least one member of the New York Yankee's all-time roster celebrates a birthday? The posts of the Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrate those birthdays and offer personal recollections, career highlights, and trivia questions that will bring back memories and test your knowledge of the storied history of the Bronx Bombers.

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