Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Requiem for an away jersey

I like the Red Sox new away jerseys. I like the simple black letters on the front but I also like it isn't the block "BOSTON" letters that the Red Sox had from 1979 to 1989.

For those of you unfamiliar with that particular road uni, please watch any clip of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

And watch those clips at your own peril.

While I like the new unis (and I like them a Hell of a lot more than those new hideous caps) I felt that the old road uniforms shouldn't just be tossed into the closet without a proper farewell.

Before the 1990 season, the Red Sox introduced new road uniforms.

They had red letters on the front in the Red Sox font.

And, breaking from tradition they also had names on the back.

It's a shame that Carl Yastrzemski never had his name go from one arm pit to the other...

But Red Sox fans did see Garciaparra, VanLandingham and Matsuzaka crowd the back of the uni.

And as silly as it may sound to salute a uniform, we Red Sox fans should never forget the number of franchise changing moments (both good and bad) took place with players wearing this specific uniform.

I am willing to bet almost every Red Sox fan has had a screen saver with a player wearing these uniforms.

Let's count down the 20 Best Red Sox Moments in the Red lettered Road Jerseys.

On August 24th, 1990, the Blue Jays and Red Sox faced off a day after a thrilling bottom of the 9th Toronto win. The Jays had pulled to within a single game. Rookie Dana Kiecker and Jimmy Key exchanged zeroes throughout the game. In the 9th, the Red Sox got back to back RBI singles from mid season acquisitions Mike Marshall and Tom Brunansky.

Jeff Gray (appropriately in his road grays) got the Blue Jays in order for the save. This would start a 10 game winning streak for the Sox... and they would need every win as they clinched on the final day of the season.

On September 17, 1998, the Red Sox were closing in on a Wild Card berth, but faced Mike Mussina in Camden Yards.

Mussina was throwing a shutout with 2 outs in the 7th inning when reserve infielder Donnie Sadler hit a game tying two run homer.

Mussina pitched 9 innings but the Sox kept the Orioles off the board as well. Armando Benitez came in and did what he does best... blow games in the fall. He let two on and Arthur Rhodes came in to face Mo Vaughn, who drove in Darren Lewis.

The Red Sox won, giving Dennis Eckersley his 197th and final victory.

On the second game of the 2001 season, the Red Sox were trying to rebound from an extra inning loss in the opener.

Hideo Nomo took the hill for his Red Sox debut wearing his road grays in Baltimore. Nobody could have prayed for a better start.

He let up a walk in the first but settled down. And when Brian Daubach homered in the 3rd and again in the 8th, he had a 3-0 lead to work with.

In the 9th inning, Nomo retired Brady Anderson, Mike Bordick and Delino Deshields in order for his second career no hitter. Quite a debut!

It was also the first no hitter caught by Jason Varitek. He would catch three more.

The 1995 Red Sox needed reinforcements in the rotation in late May. Manager Kevin Kennedy turned to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who hadn't pitched a big league game since 1993.

In his first game on May 27th in Anaheim, he pitched 7 innings letting up 1 run as the Red Sox cruised to a 12-1 win.

Three days later, again on the road, Kennedy had to turn to Wakefield again. He let up a first inning single to Geronimo Berroa, but kept the A's hitless for the next 6 innings. The Red Sox gave him only a 1-0 lead, but there was no reason to take him out.

Finally in the 8th, the A's got on base and the bullpen preserved the 1-0 win. Wakefield would throw a complete game 4 days later at Fenway and the eventual '95 Division Champs had stumbled upon a work horse!

Pedro Martinez plunked Devil Rays lead off hitter Gerald Williams to start the game on August 29th, 2000 in the Trop.

Williams paused a moment and then charged the mound. Punches were thrown. Benches were cleared and when the dust settled, Williams was ejected and Pedro was still on the mound.

He retired the next three hitters in the first. Then he threw a 1-2-3 second... and third... and fourth... and fifth... and sixth... and seventh... and eighth.

He let up a lead off single in the 9th to John Flaherty but finished the shutout with 1 hit, no walks, 13 strikeouts... and one ticked off Gerald Williams.

The Red Sox, retooled after the Aaron Boone debacle, wore their road grays into Yankee Stadium in late April of 2004. 

The first game was an 11-2 Red Sox blow out. The second game was a 12 inning thriller squeaked out by the Sox.

In the finale, Pedro Martinez and Javy Vasquez locked up in a pitchers duel. Manny Ramirez homered in the 4th inning to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

Pedro and Scott Williamson (remember him?) made it stick. The Red Sox left town in first place and while they didn't win the Division, they didn't seem intimidated by Yankee Stadium. They certainly weren't in October!

What better venue to begin the 2008 season than The Tokyo Dome? Such tradition for an A's/Red Sox match up.

Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn't sharp early as the Sox fell behind 2-0 but Manny Ramirez and Brandon Moss (remember him?) each drove in a run in the 6th to tie the game. 

Hideki Okajima wiggled out of trouble in the 9th and in the top of the 10th, Manny drove in another run to give the Sox the lead. As Red Sox nation slept, the title defense began with a win. 

Why the A's were the home team is anyone's guess!

There was no one dramatic moment to signal the great comeback for the 2007 Red Sox. There was no Dave Henderson homer... no Trot Nixon walk off blast... no Dave Roberts stolen base...

Just the prescience of Josh Beckett.

I remember my friend Kevin Hench predicting doom and gloom as the Sox fell 3-1 in the 2007 ALCS and faced C. C. Sabathia in Cleveland.

I said "Beckett is going to win and the Sox will win the next two in Fenway." He thought I was a Pollyanna. When Grady Sizemore hit a bloop double and scored in the first, Hench was predicting an ending that made Revelations seem like a trip to the spa.

Beckett was calm, worked out of trouble, and wasn't even fazed when Kenny Lofton tried to charge the mound. 

He didn't even care that his ex girlfriend sang God Bless America.

Beckett pitched 8 solid innings, giving up only the first inning run, walking 1 and striking out 11. The American Bad Ass would win the series MVP, mainly on the strength of his calm season series win in his road grays.

In a critical late season showdown for the 2003 Wild Card, the Red Sox and A's met in Oakland on August 14th.

Ted Lilly had out pitched Tim Wakefield and the A's handed the ball over to Keith Foulke to close the game.

Manny led off the 10th, fouled off 4 two strike pitches and smacked a game tying homer.

Bill Mueller drove in the go ahead run in the 10th and the Sox tacked on an insurance run for good measure. The Red Sox were off and running and would meet the A's again in the Division Series.

On June 7, 2007 the Red Sox were playing in Oakland. I was living across the Bay in Mountain View... and the game wasn't on TV and I could barely find it on the radio.

And what I barely heard crackling on my radio was 40 year old Curt Schilling mowing down the A's and come within 2 outs of a no hitter before allowing a Shannon Stewart single in the 9th.

He completed the game (in those road grays) which was a 1-0 Sox win.

You wouldn't want THAT shown on TV, would you A's?

You read that right. The Yankees weren't always Pedro's daddy. On September 10th, 1999, the Red Sox still had some hope they might catch the Yankees for the Division.

Pedro and Andy Pettitte locked up in a great pitchers duel. Chili Davis homered in the second inning. AND THAT WAS IT for the Yankees.

No other hits. No other walks. The other 27 at bats were outs. 17 of those were strikeouts thrown by Pedro... clad in his beautiful road grays.

2008 was supposed to be different in the playoffs. Sure the Red Sox and Angels were squaring off for the third time in five seasons...

But the Angels were retooled, healthy, fresh off of 100 wins and were the class of the American League.

But 2008 seemed a lot like 2004 and 2007 when the Red Sox came to town in the their gray unis. Lester and Bay beat the Angels in Game 1 and J.D. Drew stunned K-Rod with a 9th inning homer to give the Red Sox a 2-0 series lead which they would ultimately clinch in Boston.

I will never forget watching the Red Sox and Yankees square off on May 28, 2000. I watched the game with my dad and with Ritchie Duncan... and it couldn't have been more riveting if it were a playoff game.

Clemens had a 3 hit shutout and 13 strikeouts with two outs in the top of the 9th.
Pedro matched him zero for zero with 8 shutout innings.

Jeff Frye singled with two outs and nobody on off of Clemens and Trot Nixon hit a two run homer to give the Sox the lead.

Pedro came out to pitch the 9th. He let up two quick base runners and let up a deep fly ball to Bernie Williams that looked like a walk off three run jack. Instead Nixon caught it.

Pedro got Tino Martinez out to end the game and get the complete game shutout. To this day, I think it is the greatest pitched regular season game by two pitchers I have ever seen.

The guy in the road jersey won it!

There was a time when Roger Clemens looked like a Hall of Famer and the following words weren't associated with him:

Mysteriously bulky, Brian McNamee, underaged country singers, steroids, appearing in George Steinbrenner's box to the amazement of Suzyn Waldman, throwing a bat at Mike Piazza.

Back then he was a hot headed but brilliantly talented (and trim) pitcher for the Red Sox whose crowning achievement (along with three Cy Young Awards) was a 20 strikeout masterpiece in 1986.

As the 1996 season was winding down and an ugly contract dispute was brewing, Clemens amazingly reached back and matched it. He struck out 20 Tigers on September 19, 1996 and walked none. When he returned to Boston, the Red Sox put a replica of the two uniforms Clemens wore in his 20 strikeout games on the centerfield wall.

One was a home jersey... the other was a road gray.

With Game 5 of the Division Series getting out of hand into a wild slug fest, Pedro came out of the bullpen to establish order.

He did so with 6 innings out of the pen... 6 innings of no hit baseball.

If his marvelous 1999 season wasn't enough to make him a Boston legend, his carrying the Sox into the ALCS by sheer will clinched it... literally... in the road unis.

The 2003 Division Series with Oakland was a jaw droppingly tense and competitive series. A 12 inning come from behind Game 1 win for the A's. The Red Sox winning in 11 (during my wedding) to stay alive in game 4. The Red Sox came back with 2 in the 8th to win game 4. But the Game 5 finale was sublime.

Pedro pitched into the 8th, Varitek hit a game tying homer. Manny styled at home with his go ahead bomb and Grady Little had to bring in Derek Lowe to get out of a "two on, nobody out, series on the line jam."

He struck out Terrence Long with the bags full and did an innnnteresting hand gesture to the A's dugout.

Another away jersey memory!

In case anyone wondered if 2004 was a once in a lifetime fluke... we get to see another World Series celebration!

Now we can be greedy. Now we can say "Hey, I want to see maybe a few more!"

Red Sox fans dared not even THINK of more than one World Series title before 2004. Thanks to 2007 we can now say "Hey. We can get used to this."

As with 2004... the celebration was done in the road unis.

But wait a minute. How can this be only #4? How can three other games trump a World Series title?

Remember we are Red Sox fans...

We are a petty petty lot. It's not just that we win. Our enemies must lose... which brings us to #3...

No not the Fisk one...

No not the Buckner one...

The NEW Game Six!

When Schilling bled through his sock... he was wearing the red lettered road uni.

When A-Rod slapped the ball out of Arroyo's glove, guess which uniform Bronson was wearing.

When Foulke struck out Clark to force Game 7... you get the picture.

Usually the phrase "beyond my wildest dreams" is bogus. People dream wild things and as a Red Sox fan living in New York during the Torre years, I had many wild dreams of how the Red Sox could beat the Yankees.

And I can honestly say I never imagined being down 3-0 in the series with Rivera on the mound in the 9th of Game 4... and making the Yankees the first baseball team to ever cough up a 3-0 lead.

Game 7 was basically a blowout (save for the bizarre relief appearance by Pedro) but perhaps that's what made it so sweet. The Yankees didn't even show up. And the Yankees haven't won a post season series since... and Red Sox fans have something we never thought we'd have:

Ammo against Yankee fans!

Petty? Sure. But so so fun. And they were wearing the red lettered road jerseys!

The grand daddy moment. The event we thought we'd never see happen. The event that we made bargains with the devil to see.

We finally saw that moment... and they were wearing the road uniforms.

Admit it... you still think about that Game. And if you do admit that... then you must also admit that you will always be imagining those road uniforms.

That reason above all makes me believe the old road uniforms deserve a proper farewell.

Jerry Seinfeld once said that sports fans root for laundry.
I'll take it one better... I will HONOR laundry!


  1. I was at 3 of those games...the 2003 ALDS in Oakland...Schill's near no-hitter, and game 4 of the '07 WS. Great memories, but I'm with you on liking the new away uniforms.\

  2. Terrific post, Sully. I like the new road uniforms, but I'll always have a lot of affection for those road unis...

  3. Peter Collery6:36 PM

    Exhaustively researched! I can't think of a moment you missed.

  4. Oh Joy, Thanks for the memories, I am going back to bed and cry for my mommy now.

  5. Great post. Thanks for it, and for starting this debate:

    I still say 1989 was the last year of the old jersey, not 1988. Everything I read says the new ones were announced after '88, but not actually worn till '90.

    If anybody can come up with proof that the ones with the red letters/numbers/names were worn at any point before 1990, well, I'll be able to sleep at night!

  6. What a fantastic post, thanks for alerting me to it! I too like the new jerseys but reliving all of those memories (well, not all of them, I was a little too young in 1990 to have any significant Red Sox-attached memories) was wonderful. Especially Mo!

  7. From Dick Bresciani, Red Sox vice president/team historian:

    "Jere – 1990 was the year of new road uniforms with name on the back."

    You're welcome to email him yourself to ask about specific things: brescianid@redsox.com.

  8. Hello my friend, i think that your post is ok i love sports but you should add some images like:
    Invertir en oro