Monday, July 28, 2014

Box Score Stories: Alex Rodriguez Makes His Debut

Twenty years ago this month, my father and I took our annual trip to Fenway Park. I was 19 years old and just finished up my freshman year at the University of South Carolina. I was home for the summer and the next summer would be the last time my father and I would take out annual trip to Boston together to watch the Sox play. The annual trip started in 1988 when we caught a three game series between the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. 
This trip in 1994 was all about the Red Sox of course, but also the Seattle Mariners and the great Ken Griffey Jr. He was having a monster season and the Griffey jerseys were out in full force at Fenway. Junior would also get a very warm reception each time he came to the plate. He was a star and the Fenway faithful knew it. 
My father, who grew up a Willie Mays fan was a bit more skeptical of The Kid. After all, he was being compared to his hero and he did not like it. A deep ball was hit to center and it hit the wall behind Griffey and my father muttered, "they should take that 24 off his back right now, he is no Willie". I wrote about my father's love and bias of Willie Mays in this post.
Griffey would go 3-4 on this night.
Twenty years later this game stands out not because of Griffey but because of an 18 year old rookie shortstop who was making his debut. His name was Alex Rodriguez. He was skinny and just a year younger than I was.
My father, who read the Boston Globe sports section as soon as we arrived in Boston, told me he was someone to watch. He was supposed to be real good. He would not get a hit in the game but I remember watching his every move in the field wondering if he would become as good as his hype. It is hard to believe how different things would be just ten years later when on the same field he would spark off a bench clearing brawl as a member of the New York Yankees. He would become public enemy number one. Jason Varitek became an even bigger hero when he punched AROD. Of course, later in that 2004 season AROD would be center stage as the Red Sox would complete the greatest comeback in baseball history and beat the Yankees in the ALCS. 
Ten years after the brawl, Alex would be sitting out the season due to a league ban. He has become a punchline. Twenty years ago he was a young phenom and I was there to see his interesting career begin. I even explored what would have happened if Rodriguez was traded to the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2004 season. I blogged about that alternative reality here.
As for the game, a pretty mediocre Red Sox team got the win thanks to a Tom Brunansky home run. Bruno was and is one of my all time favorite Red Sox players thanks to the incredible 1990 season. Most fans remember the division clinching catch but they forget about the unreal weekend he had late in the season against the Blue Jays. He put the Sox on his back. The Sox would win the 1990 AL East. It is one of my favorite Red Sox teams because they won the division when they clearly had inferior talent to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox would play just 31 more games in 1994 before a work stoppage would wipe out the rest of the regular season and post season. Below is the actual box score from that Friday night in Fenway, the night AROD began his career.

Friday, July 8, 1994, 8:08
Attendance: 33,355, Time of Game: 2:51

                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Mariners        0  0  1   0  1  0   0  0  1    3  8  1
Red Sox         0  0  0   0  0  4   0  0  X    4  9  1
W: Chris Nabholz (1-2)
L: Bill Risley (6-5)
S: Ken Ryan (7)

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