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There was plenty to talk about during the hot stove season. On January 9, Mo Vaughn banged his pickup into a car parked in the breakdown lane and the pickup flipped over onto its roof. He was on his way home from a strip club, the Foxy Lady, and reportedly failed several sobriety checks. A couple of months later, Vaughn complained that the Red Sox were engaging in a “smear campaign” against him, perhaps in hopes of driving down the money he might command in a re-signing. On Opening Day in Fenway, Randy Johnson had 15 strikeouts through eight innings, and left with Seattle holding a 7-2 lead. Boston never made an out in the last of the ninth, starting their rally against Heathcliff Slocumb, the reliever they’d traded the Mariners just the year before, and ending it with a walk-off grand slam by Mo Vaughn to win the game over Seattle, 9-7. The instant Mo hit the homer, a Fenway soundman put The Standells’ “Love That Dirty Water” on the park’s PA system, and a new tradition was born, with the Red Sox “anthem” played after every home victory, a story told in great detail in the book named after the song. As it happened, Opening Day was also Good Friday and Passover, and in a vestige of Puritanism that really had nothing to do with either religion, the Red Sox decided not to serve beer at Fenway Park - the first beer-less game since Prohibition. For Kids Opening Day the following afternoon, all taps were open. That afternoon, Pedro Martinez pitched in his Fenway Park debut. Pedro threw a complete game two-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts, and a new hero was born in Boston. As the year progressed, one saw Dominican flags brought to Fenway in increasing numbers. Pedro’s starts attracted more Latinos to the ballpark, and the Boston Globe even began to publish game accounts of Pedro’s starts in Spanish. Bret Saberhagen’s rehab was complete (he’d appeared in a few games late in 1997), and he contributed a nice 15-8 season with a 3.96 ERA. Tim Wakefield was even better at 17-8, striking out a second-best 146. Steve Avery won 10 games (10-7). Tom Gordon moved from the rotation to closer, and excelled, with 46 saves on the season. But there’s no question who the ace was – it was Pedro Martinez, 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 251 strikeouts. The Sox played second fiddle to the Yankees pretty much all year long. Every single day from April 30 through the end of the season, the Red Sox were in second place. The Yankees won so many games (114) that even though Boston finished 92-70, they were still a giant 22 games behind the Yankees. Does a team finishing 22 games out of first place deserve to make the playoffs? Yes. Those 92 wins were enough to win the Wild Card, and even placed them ahead of the winners in the other two divisions. A little Grinch spirit infected the team in December, as the Red Sox declared that they would not sign the customary abutters permits to allow pushcart vendors to sell their wares outside the park on game days. Several city councilors blasted the move, and Boston Mayor Menino stepped in and got the Sox to back off. The Red Sox backpedaled, saying their concern had been one of safety issues. CEO John Harrington announced that he hoped to offer plans for a new ballpark in January or February 1999.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Bret Saberhagen, Heathcliff Slocumb, John Harrington, Mo Vaughn, Pedro Martinez, Steve Avery, Tim Wakefield, Tom Gordon

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