There could hardly have been a busier year than 2002. For the first time since 1933, the Yawkey Era had ended. On January 16, with only the New York Yankees abstaining, Major League Baseball approved the sale of the Red Sox to a group headed by John W. Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino. MLB agreed to let Henry sell the Florida Marlins, and his 1% stake in the Yankees. It appeared that perhaps for a moment in time, he owned parts of three franchises. The deal was consummated on February 27. Almost the first act the triumvirate took was to relieve Dan Duquette of his job as GM, and name Mike Port as interim GM. Duquette’s last three signings had been Johnny Damon, Rickey Henderson, and first baseman Tony Clark. He’d added pitcher Dustin Hermanson in a December trade with the Cardinals. Clark’s first game was about his only good game; he was 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs. He only hit two more homers all year long, and 26 more RBIs, batting a paltry .207. Managing the Red Sox was four-time Minor League Manager of the Year Grady Little, who had coached for Boston from 1997-99. He was a popular choice with the players. When the announcement was made to the team, reporters outside the closed-door session heard a “thunderous ovation” from within. For the second year in a row, there was another April no-hitter, this time on the 27th, by Derek Lowe at Fenway Park, the first by any team in Boston since 1965. Lowe, Boston’s primary reliever in 2001, was converted to a starter and led the team in wins (21-8, with an ERA of 2.58). Pedro Martinez was clearly back on track: 20-4, with a 2.26 ERA. The last time the Red Sox had two 20-game winners on the same team had been in 1949. But on a rainy April 3, Dustin Hermanson had gone down in the second inning he pitched for the Red Sox, with a serious groin pull that kept him out almost all year. He only threw 22 innings and was 1-1. Before that evening’s game, Red Sox ownership thought it would be nice to have Red Sox players in uniform greet arriving fans at the gates – but neglected to provide enough security to keep traffic flowing and there was an unmoving crush as fans just stayed put, gawking at or talking with the players and not moving on. The John Harrington regime had argued unequivocally that a new ballpark was essential if the Red Sox were to remain competitive and that Fenway (built in 1912) was structurally unsound. On June 12, new ownership said they highly prized venerable Fenway Park and that there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed and made to last another 30 or 40 years. After the season, they began extensive renovations to improve conditions and to add some 5,000 new seats, at a cost over time running well above $250 million – all privately funded, though with some tax breaks after they had Fenway Park declared a historic landmark. On July 17, they unveiled plans that would open close off Yawkey Way during game time and allow fans to spill out onto the sidewalk, providing much-needed breathing room. They built ties with the neighborhood and the city, and the plans were approved. On September 5, the new exterior concourse first opened. Red Sox legend Ted Williams, 83, died in Florida on July 5. A tribute to Ted’s life drew over 20,000 people to Fenway Park on July 22, including his Marine Corps squadron mate John Glenn. The next day, veteran Sox broadcaster Ned Martin suffered a heart attack and died on an airport shuttle bus after he had arrived at Raleigh-Durham airport while returning to his home in Virginia. That same day, July 23, Nomar’s 29th birthday. He hit three home runs – two of them in the 10-run third inning, and won the game over Tampa Bay, 22-4. One of the new features in the forthcoming year, 2003, was the very popular installation of seats atop the Green Monster. The last batter to hit a home run into the net which used to be affixed to the top of the wall was Jason Varitek, on September 29, 2002. The Red Sox finished in second place for the fifth year in a row, 10 ½ games behind the Yankees, but the Angels had a much better record and they won the Wild Card (and the World Series). A Red Sox player won another batting title - Manny Ramirez, with a .349 average, won it for the only time in his career. He added another 33 homers and 107 RBIs. Nomar drove in 120 to lead the club. Trot Nixon and Nomar tied for second, to Manny, with 24 homers each. In November, the Red Sox announced the signing of Oakland’s Billy Beane as their new general manager, but 24 hours later, Beane changed his mind and reneged on the deal. Two weeks later, the Red Sox promoted Theo Epstein to the job, and 24 months after that, the Red Sox were world champions for the first time since 1918.By Bill Nowlin
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- Billy Beane, Derek Lowe, Dustin Hermanson, Fenway Park, Grady Little, Jason Varitek, John Glenn, John Harrington, Johnny Damon, Larry Lucchino, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Rickey Henderson, Ted Williams, Tom Werner, Tony Clark, Trot Nixon