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This was the year of “Morgan Magic” – and a year the Red Sox reached the playoffs once again, albeit briefly. Like 1981, the season was broken into two halves, but not by any work stoppage. Like 1986, the Red Sox won first place in the AL East. It didn’t start that way. In fact, the first day all year that the Sox reached first place was August 3, and then only for one day (and only as tied for first). It took until Labor Day (September 5) that they held first place by themselves. Once they grabbed ahold, they never let go. An early six-game winning streak in April helped build to a 14-6 record at the end of the first month, though that was only good enough for third place in the still-young campaign. Then came the losses, never more than four in a row all year long, but they accumulated enough that even winning nine of 11 near the end of June only got them to more or less .500. When the All-Star Break arrived, the Red Sox were 43-42. That’s when the first half of the Sox season ended, with manager John McNamara relieved of his duties and third-base coach Joe Morgan asked to take over as interim manager. Morgan supposedly told team executive John Harrington that “interim” wasn’t a word in his vocabulary. The Red Sox swept a doubleheader on their first day back after the break, and won 12 games in a row, and 19 of the first 20 games under manager Morgan. lmost a week into the first dozen wins, on July 20, Morgan put in Spike Owen to pinch-hit for DH Jim Rice and Owen laid down the requested sacrifice bunt. Rice took exception to what he saw as a slight, and there was a confrontation between slugger and manager that involved a little physical contact, but Morgan stood up to the intimidating Rice, telling him “I’m the manager of this nine” – and then suspended him for three games. Left-fielder Mike Greenwell told Sports Illustrated, "The amazing thing was that Joe didn't back down. If Jimmy wanted to fight, Joe was willing to fight." The 19-1 run put the Red Sox in a tie for first place, but then they lost four road games in a row and slid to four games behind. When Dwight Evans knocked in seven runs in the game at Fenway of August 13, the Red Sox won their 24th home game in a row – a new American League record. Even though they lost six of their last seven games, they still finished the year one game ahead of second-place Detroit. For the fourth year in a row, third baseman Wade Boggs won the batting crown. His 214 hits and 125 walks gave him a .366 batting average (and a league-leading .476 on-base percentage) and ample margin as he became the first batter in the 20th century to pass 200 hits for six straight years. Only Lou Gehrig had had as many as three consecutive seasons of 200 hits and 100 walks. Boggs’ job was to get on base; it was left to others to drive him in. He only had 58 runs batted in, but he scored 128 times, leading the A.L. Mike Greenwell led the team in both RBIs (119) and homers (22), batting .325. His third-inning single in the September 29 game drove in that game’s winning hit. It was his 23rd game-winning hit in 1988. Greenie holds the American League record – remarkably, he earned credit for more than 25% of the 89 games the Red Sox won in ‘88. Evans drove in 111 and hit 21 home runs, second in both categories. Center fielder Ellis Burks was third with 18 homers and 92 RBIs. The Red Sox had two 18-game winners and two nine-game winners. Roger Clemens led the staff (18-12, 2.93) and Bruce Hurst was the #2 man (18-6, 3.66). Both Boyd and Mike Smithson had high ERAs, but contributed: Oil Can was 9-7 (5.34) and Smithson was 9-6 (5.97). Mike Boddicker was 7-3, 2.97, but had only started 14 games. For the second time in three seasons, the Red Sox finished first and went on to the postseason.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Bruce Hurst, Ellis Burks, Jim Rice, Joe Morgan, John McNamara, Mike Boddicker, Mike Greenwell, Mike Smithson, Oil Can Boyd, Roger Clemens, Spike Owen, Wade Boggs

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