After four seasons as Red Sox skipper, Ralph Houk wasn’t fired. He retired. GM Gorman selected 13-year veteran John McNamara. He’d managed the A’s, the Padres, the Reds, and just wrapped up his 1983-84 contract with the Angels with an 81-81 season, and was enticed to Boston – where he finished 81-81 again in 1985.
The first three starters were Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, Bruce Hurst, and Roger Clemens and they swept the Yankees to kick off the year. And Boyd beat the White Sox in the fourth game of the year. Those were the only four days they were in first place. There was only one pitcher who had 10 or more wins and also had a winning record, and that was The Can - 15-13 (3.70). Bruce Hurst won 11 but he lost 13. No other pitcher won more than nine games, and the two who did (Nipper and Ojeda) both had losing records. Roger Clemens was 6-4 by the end of May, but only appeared in five more games due to shoulder surgery. He was 7-5, and after two seasons with the Red Sox was 16-9. There wasn’t a strong indication that he’d win 24 games in 1986.
The one player that everyone wanted to see was Wade Boggs, who almost seemed to be able to hit at will. Boggs ended the 1985 season with 240 base hits - a new Red Sox record which still stands. A 28-game hitting streak from June 24 to July 25 helped him to lead the league in batting at .368, winning his second title.
There were a few games of note. On July 7, second baseman Marty Barrett pulled off the hidden ball trick. Teams were still talking about it when he executed another one on July 21.
There was another player strike on August 6, though this one lasted two days instead of the two months lost in the 1981 strike. There was a twist to this one, when one of the Red Sox owners, Haywood Sullivan, saw his son go on strike – Red Sox catcher Marc Sullivan.
And on September 18, quite improbably, regular catcher Rich Gedman hit for the cycle – with six RBIs. His single was an infield hit, and his triple was (equally unlikely) down the left-field line at Fenway Park. The feat made it four times in the past six seasons that a Red Sox player had hit for a cycle.
Other than winning 14 out of 15 in June, the team never got on a roll and finished fifth with the aforementioned 81-81 record.By Bill Nowlin
- Al Nipper, Bob Ojeda, Bruce Hurst, Haywood Sullivan, John McNamara, Marc Sullivan, Marty Barrett, Oil Can Boyd, Ralph Houk, Rich Gedman, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs