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In 1999 and 2000, the Red Sox and their fans witnessed back-to-back years embracing perhaps greatest pitching performances in the history of baseball. Pedro Martinez’s 23-4 record in 1999, built on a 2.07 ERA, and balancing 313 strikeouts with only 37 walks ranks as one of the finest years ever. In Red Sox history, it is right up there with Smoky Joe Wood’s 34-5 in 1912 and Roger Clemens 24-4 in 1986. The team itself went into the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since 1956-16 (though admittedly that’s a lot easier to do when four teams from each league make the postseason). The Red Sox won every one of their first five games, lost one, and then came home. With a home opener win as Bret Saberhagen shut out Chicago, 6-0, and Boston was off to a 6-1 start on the year – though early euphoria was tempered when they lost “Flash” Gordon to a strained elbow on April 17; Gordon had registered 46 consecutive saves but couldn’t return to the bullpen for three weeks and when he did, he was ineffective and only pitched a total of 14 scattered innings for the rest of the year. The team was 8-8 on April 23. Nomar Garciaparra tied the team’s single-game record of runs batted in during one game (held by Jimmie Foxx and Fred Lynn) on May 10. He hit a grand slam in the first, a two-run homer in the third, and another grand slam in the eighth, tying Fred Lynn’s club record of 10 RBIs in one game, easily beating the Mariners, 12-4. On May 15, the grand plan for a new Fenway Park was revealed. It would be built on the opposite side of Yawkey Way and in many ways – from the Green Monster to the Pesky Pole – replicate the look of the “real” Fenway, but seat 45,000 fans and have more luxury boxes for additional revenue. Many in the media supported the new ballpark, but a number of preservationist groups, including one named Save Fenway Park! came out in opposition. It was not at all clear how (or if) the new park could be financed. Three days after that, on May 18, the Red Sox reached first place again, and stayed there for 20 days, but then pretty much settled into second place for the remainder of the season.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Bret Saberhagen, Fred Lynn, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Wood, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Tom Gordon

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