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For Red Sox fans, any year when the Red Sox finish first and the Yankees finish last is a good year. It’s only happened twice, once in 1912 and once in 1990. But the year started and ended with sadness. Tony Conigliaro, 45, died on February 24. And the postseason was – like 1988 – a frustrating exercise of futility. The team only won 88 games, often not quite enough to make October, but this year sufficient to take first place in the East, edging Toronto by two games. They were 15 games over .500 (88-73), the same number of wins Clemens was over .500. Clemens led the league with a 1.93 earned run average (only for the 2005 Astros did he do better). His 21-6 mark alone might have normally seen him a shoe-in for the Cy Young, but Bob Welch of the A’s put up a 27-6 season, with a 2.95 ERA. Oakland won 15 more games than the Red Sox and finished comfortably first in the West. It was an anomalous season for Welch; in no other year did he ever win more than 17. But Clemens finished second in the Cy Young voting, and third for MVP. Second to the Rocket on the mound was Mike Boddicker (17-8, 3.36). Ambidextrous Greg Harris, who rode the T to the ballpark but manager Joe Morgan never allowed him to pitch left-handed during his time in Boston, was third at 13-9, with an even 4.00 ERA). Red Sox fans became able to listen to the games in another language, as Hector Martinez and Bobby Serrano began broadcasting in Spanish on the Carter Radio Network. There were two uncommon games of particular note. The Red Sox grounded into two triple plays, both of them 5-4-3 plays started by Minnesota’s Gary Gaetti. Most fans have never seen one. When the second one happened, it left the Fenway faithful in dead silence and disbelief, before responding with a round of applause at the unprecedented feat. The Red Sox themselves, though stunned, still won the game, 1-0. And on September 1, Mike Greenwell hit an inside-the-park grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning, against the Yankees – part of a convincing 15-1 pounding. It was Gator’s second inside-the-park home run – the other one was on July 7, 1989 – also against the Yankees and even off the same pitcher, Greg Cadaret. This was a year, however, when no one on the Red Sox even reached 90 runs batted in; Ellis Burks led the club with 89 (as he did with his 21 homers). Only one regular hit over .300, and that just barely – Wade Boggs, hitting an uncharacteristically low .302. The season came down to the last six games of the year. Boston was tied with Toronto at 84-72 each, and hosted the Jays for three. In the first game, Toronto scored two runs in the top of the ninth to take a 6-5 lead. Boston won the game on a single by Jeff Stone off Tom Henke in the bottom of the ninth. It was the only hit Stone ever had as a Red Sox, and it turned out to be the last hit of his career. Boston took two of the three from the Jays. When Mike Greenwell hit into a double play in the eighth inning of the last game of the year, October 3 at Fenway against the White Sox, it was DP #174 of the season – a record for the most committed by any major-league team. The Red Sox held a 3-1 lead going into the ninth inning. Jeff Reardon was going for his 21st save, but had two men on base with outs when Ozzie Guillen drove a ball deep into the right-field corner. Tom Brunansky raced for the ball, but a good part of the crowd (and everyone watching on television) was unable to see the catch, forced to gauge the reaction of fans who could see, and the Red Sox players who began to celebrate clinching the East.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Bob Welch, Gary Gaetti, Greg Harris, Jeff Reardon, Joe Morgan, Mike Boddicker, Mike Greenwell, Ozzie Guillen, Roger Clemens, Tom Brunansky, Tony Conigliaro, Wade Boggs

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