This video was played on the big board at Fenway Park during Fred Lynn’s visit on May 17, 2014.
If the video does not work for you, Go here
This video was played on the big board at Fenway Park during Fred Lynn’s visit on May 17, 2014.
If the video does not work for you, Go here
Watch Fred Lynn & Eric Davis at the premiere of Million Dollar Arm. They discuss the movie and baseball. Enjoy these two amazing centerfielders!
By Jeff Blout, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Posted here
By Dan Shaughnessy | Globe Staff | March 30, 2014
Originally posted on Boston Globe.com here, http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/03/29/gold-dust-twins-made-landmark-year-for-red-sox/uKLUWuH8zEkFHICiMZw2fK/story.html
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have a 21-year-old rookie shortstop. They have another rookie hoping to someday take over in center field. They have a 25-year-old third baseman who has never played a full season in the bigs.
Just like 1975, when the Sox turned over the middle of their batting order to rookies Jim Rice and Fred Lynn . . . right?
There will never be another season like ’75, when the Gold Dust Twins (so named by then-Globe beat reporter Peter Gammons) took over the Boston baseball scene and pushed the Sox all the way to the seventh game of the World Series.
Baby Boomer New England fans can recite the Lynn-Rice deeds of 1975 the same way they know “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
Lynn hit .331 with 21 homers and 105 RBIs. He won a Gold Glove and was named American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player. He led the league in runs, slugging, runs produced, and doubles. He remains the only player to win both in the same season, unless you count Ichiro Suzuki, who had already played nine professional seasons in Japan before bringing his talents to Seattle.
Rice hit .309 with 22 homers and 102 RBIs in 1975. He was eliminated from postseason play Sept. 22 when a Vern Ruhle fastball broke his left wrist.
Bolstered by the infusion of Lynn and Rice to a cast of young players including Dwight Evans, Rick Burleson, and Carlton Fisk, the Sox won the American League East, swept the three-time defending world champion Oakland A’s, then engaged the Cincinnati Reds in one of the greatest World Series ever played.
Fast-forward 39 years, and the Sox have Xander Bogaerts starting at short, Jackie Bradley Jr. pushing to play in center, and Will Middlebrooks (not a rookie) holding down third base as they prepare for Opening Day in Baltimore Monday.
“It was harder back then because the Sox hadn’t won a World Series,’’ said Rice, now a spring training coach and NESN commentator. “Now you’ve won three World Series, so it’s a little easier. It has a lot to do with the younger generation. Back when we came up, the Red Sox hadn’t won and everybody would say, ‘Hey, what’s wrong?’ Now the Red Sox have won, so you don’t have that.’’
“The big difference now is that this club is coming off a World Series championship,’’ echoed Lynn, who plans to be at Fenway Friday when the Sox play the Brewers in the home opener.
“We were coming off a disaster. I don’t think anybody expected us to contend for the pennant.
“In those days, there was no ESPN and you didn’t really know about new players. Even though my résumé was pretty darned good, it wasn’t like there were great expectations.
“But it was unusual for two rookies to be hitting third and fourth in the lineup. I can’t remember that happening. Maybe one guy, but not two.’’
A high school legend, a college star
Indeed, the differences are striking. In the spring of 1975, the Red Sox were trying to win the franchise’s first championship since 1918 and hoping to make fans forget an epic fold in the autumn of 1974.
On Aug. 23, 1974, the first-place Sox were seven games ahead of the Orioles. They went 14-24 the rest of the way. When the season ended, the Sox were in third place, seven games behind Baltimore. Lynn and Rice were both called to the bigs during the collapse. Lynn hit .419 in 15 games. Rice hit .269 with 1 homer and 13 RBIs in 24 games.
They had credentials when they took over as starters in 1975. Lynn, a Southern California native, starred at the University of Southern California, and played on three teams representing the US in international competition.
Rice, a high school legend from Anderson, S.C., (folklore held that a school district line was altered to include Rice’s home) was the reigning Minor League Player of the Year after winning the Triple Crown in the International League.
Their images were quickly painted by a local media hungry for new stars. Lynn was portrayed as the cool Californian, carefree and loose. Rice was the brooder, silent and somewhat scary.
Boston was a racially charged city in 1975 (controversial school desegregation was in full bloom), and there’s an inescapable notion that life in the Hub was more comfortable for Lynn than Rice. Both rookies were having spectacular seasons, but veteran sports scribes clearly were more comfortable with Lynn.
“Maybe Freddie liked it that way,’’ said Rice, smiling. “He got the attention. I think, overall, I wish he and Fisk and Burleson had stayed and we might have had a dynasty, but there was nothing you could do about it. Maybe Freddie didn’t like the attention. He wanted to get out of Boston eventually. It didn’t bother me, I hope it didn’t bother him.’’
“Jimmy signed out of high school from South Carolina,’’ recalled Lynn. “That’s a big difference from coming out of USC. He was a shy kid. At least I had some exposure to it. Jimmy had no exposure whatsoever to that sort of thing.
“He was a great high school athlete down in the South. Coming to Boston can be overwhelming. Nobody tells you anything about that. There’s no symposium. The NFL has one for rookies. Baseball doesn’t have that. It should be something that they think about.
“The veterans helped us out. They’d say, ‘Watch out for this guy,’ or ‘This guy’s a good guy,’ or whatever. That’s all passed on down.’’
Ready for the majors
It would be difficult to replicate the experience of Lynn and Rice in that first year in Boston. They were carrying a team that hadn’t won a World Series in 57 years, and they were holding up the heart of the order on a team with future Hall of Famers in Carl Yastrzemski and Fisk. Both Lynn and Rice got off to good starts, but everything changed when Lynn hit three home runs and knocked in 10 runs in a single game in Detroit on June 18.
Third base coach Don Zimmer said, “In all of my 27 years in the game . . . I’ve never seen anyone do everything — hit, hit with power, field, throw — like this kid. Unbelievable.’’
There were comparisons to Joe DiMaggio. That’s how good Lynn was in his rookie season.
Lynn explains his easy assimilation to the majors, saying, “When I was a kid, I always played with older kids.
“When I was 15, I played on a team called the Pasadena Yankees. It was sponsored by the Yankees. We played near the Rose Bowl. The players were college players or minor league players. They were 24, 25 years old.
“So that part of the game was OK for me. Moving up just came naturally. The conditions in Pawtucket and some of the places we played in the minors were atrocious. When I got to the big leagues, everything was so good. The lights were great. The fields were great. Pitchers threw strikes.
“It just seemed like it was easier. I never felt intimidated by the whole thing.’’
Rice also was ready for the majors.
“I had been in big league camps for two years,’’ he said. “I had a pretty good high school coach and American Legion coach, and my dad was strong. It’s your upbringing. If you had a strong upbringing, you’re going to carry it on.
“I was taught at an early age to be a leader, not a follower, and I was lucky enough to be able to play high school ball when I was in the seventh grade.
“In ’75, they saw what I had done the previous year. I won the International League Triple Crown. Every level that I went, I had better production. I enjoy working. I don’t enjoy sitting around. That’s me.’’
They had help from the veterans.
“When Freddie and I came up, we were told to sit and listen,’’ said Rice. “Yaz was a very quiet guy. The things you heard about him — that he was a tough guy to get along with — were not true.
“He kept to himself. He read his paper and played the game of baseball. He never said anything harsh to us. I think he thought that some day the Boston Red Sox would be our team, me and Freddie. I guess he thought we could carry the torch that he and Ted Williams did.’’
The next generation
All these years later, Rice works with the next generation of Sox stars. He sees Bogaerts, Bradley, and Middlebrooks up close, in the batting cage.
“You’ve got to do fundamentals,’’ he said. “They’ve got to think about one thing: line drives. It’s not any different than when Freddie and I came up. I think now it’s even better.
“Players are not the same. I think you have to go back and look at how much time they spend in the minor leagues. They’re not spending that much time in the minor leagues. Have they learned to play the game the right way? No. Agents tell them to hit home runs, and it doesn’t matter if you hit .230.
“It’s hard to put them in the same category as Freddie and I. I just want them to work on the things they are not as good at. They know they’ve made the team, so they have to ask themselves, ‘What is my role?’ They have to learn how to advance the runners, things like that.’’
“I saw them last year,’’ said Lynn. “I saw Bogaerts in Portland a couple of years ago while I was doing a promotion. You saw last year that he can hit right away. He had that approach. They’ve all got their feet wet at the big league level. They all know what it’s about. It think they’re going to do quite well.’’
Bradley someday soon could be walking on the ground Lynn patrolled.
“Center field at Fenway is really difficult,’’ said Lynn. “There’s so many things to think about. Now that scoreboard goes all the way to center field and you’ve got to play those dents off there. All those little angles.
“You have to be fast. I think it’s important for a center fielder in Boston to be fast. Right-center is a long way, and you’ve got to keep that guy off third base and keep the double plays in order. Those things are overlooked in today’s game, but it really helps to have a guy who can throw.
“I saw Bradley a few times. It’s hard to get a read on what kind of a hitter he will be. If they put him in the 8 or 9 spot, there’s not as much pressure. He can just get on base, move guys over, make contact, don’t strike out.
“And help your team in center field. In Fenway, you’re a defender first and a hitter second.’’
ESPN ranks Bogaerts as the second-best prospect in baseball. He could be a Rookie of the Year after winning a World Series. But he is not likely to be Rookie of the Year and MVP.
“I didn’t appreciate it until many years later,’’ said Lynn. “When you’re an athlete, you’re always looking forward. I’m not looking in the rear-view mirror. Yesterday’s gone.
“In ’75, there was just an avalanche of things happening, on and off the field. Everything was new.
“I appreciate what we did as a team more now. It was pretty doggone special what we did as a team and without Jimmy in the playoffs. It was really special to me and I appreciate it much more now than I did. If you start thinking about it while you’re doing it, you get overwhelmed.’’
Bogaerts, Bradley, and Middlebrooks have already been part of a championship team. Along with the 1967 Impossible Dreamers and the 2004 “Why Not Us?” curse-breakers, the 2013 Red Sox will always be remembered as one of the special teams in Boston sports history.
But 1975 was special. Because of the epic World Series. And because of the Gold Dust Twins.
“When you are 13, 14 years old, that’s when you form these impressions about just about everything in your life,’’ said Lynn. “It can be music or sports, everything.
“So when you’re looking at somebody 21, 22 years old, you can identify more with that than with a guy who is 37 or 38. And we had a whole team of those guys. Expectations were low, and then you had this magic happening. It’s pretty doggone special.
“I think a lot of people identified with the youth of that team. And that’s what’s going to happen this year.’’
Published July 18, 2013
By George Castle, CBM Historian, Posted Monday, July 15, 2013
A couple of homeboys put their heads together on a memorable July night on the South Side in 1983. The end result was the only grandslam homer in All-Star Game history, fittingly at old Comiskey Park on the 50th anniversary of the first MidSummer Classic in the same ballpark. The ad-libbed scouting report Ron Kittle, the pride of Gary, Ind., gave in the dugout about lefty Atlee Hammaker to Chicago native Fred Lynn is a littleknown nugget of history that is being brought to light on the 30th anniversary of Lynn’s bases-loaded blast. Interestingly, Lynn came back to throw out the first pitch 20 years later when the AllStar Game returned to Chicago, this time to U.S. Cellular Field. But on another anniversary date in 2013, none of the three games, including the inaugural 1933 gala that featured Babe Ruth’s memorable homer, is being commemorated in town.
Giants lefty Hammaker was already on the ropes when Lynn came to bat in the third inning on July 6, 1983. Hammaker already had allowed a leadoff homer to left by Jim Rice. The American League line was moving and two more runs had scored. Manny Trillo and Rod Carew were on third and second, respectively. Hammaker then intentionally walked Robin Yount to load the bases for Lynn. Getting the ‘book’ on Hammaker Interleague play was still 14 years into the future. Angels outfielder Lynn wasn’t too familiar with Hammaker, other than the occasional spring-training appearance. But White Sox rookie Kittle, who had played against Hammaker in the minors, was eager to help.
“He asked anybody, ‘Know who this guy was?’” Kittle recalled. “I told him breaking balls to left-handers. He was in the minor-leagues against us. I faced him two years in a row.” Said Lynn: “You didn’t see these guys. You ask what’s he’s got. Running fastball, good
sink, pretty good breaking ball.”
But as Hammaker threw his four balls to Yount, Lynn had to grit his teeth. He balanced his emotions of facing the bases drunk vs. the semi-insult of a man being passed to get to him. “There aren’t too many times when somebody walks the guy in front of me, to get to me,” said Lynn. “It happened once (while he played for Southern Cal) in the College World Series against the University of Texas. Same scenario, first open, guy on second.
Bring in a lefty. I hit a three-run homer, we knock them out of the series and we go on to win the championship. “It’s hard to control your emotions, because you’re pissed off. I understand the strategy because Robin Yount was reigning MVP, so you walk him to load the bases. Still what am I, chopped liver? It gets my full attention. I get fully focused. The crowd is no longer there. It’s just me and Atlee. “He actually threw two good breaking balls, and I missed them both early in the count. Then I ran the count to 2-2. This is the pitch he’s got to make because he doesn’t want to go 3-2. He’s got to go to the breaking ball, because it’s his best pitch. I was looking for it. Had he threw his fastball, he probably would have struck me out. But he threw
his breaking ball again and I hit it out.”
Breaking the NL’s win streak
The only way Lynn could have enjoyed the homer any more was if it was a pennantclincher. The pride as he rounded the bases in triumph, as the AL grabbed a 9-1 lead, was shared by everyone in his dugout. The NL had beaten the AL 11 in a row and 19 of the past 20 All-Star Games. League identification was still strong in the young free-agency era with the NL and AL also run by separate presidents and officiated by different umpiring crews.
“We had a pretty good group of American Leaguers who had played in numerous AllStar Games,” Lynn said. “They (NL) put a pretty big hurt on us as a league. That was in the back of our minds. “I knew we couldn’t blow this lead. We squandered some leads against the NL. It was a big deal. We finally broke the string. The AL dominated the NL from that point.” Lynn got another bit of great news when he made his circuit and returned to the AL dugout.
“Bob Fishel was in the dugout from Major League Baseball, this little guy in a suit from New York,” he said. “He said it’s the first grand slam ever hit (in All-Star history). I’m incredulous. After that, you’re your career is over, you (realize) might go three, four years before there’s even a bases-loaded situation. Today, if that happens, you’re facing somebody’s closer. “The best chance I thought it would happen again would have been in Colorado (in
1998). You don’t have to hit them very well in Colorado. Mark McGwire is up, he’s a (Southern Cal) Trojan just like me. I thought, this would be cool, have two Trojans hit grand slams. And he popped up. Bases loaded doesn’t happen that often. And I never had any as a Red Sox. I had eight or nine in my career. Just a freak of nature kind of thing.”
Lynn also was proud he beat the Babe when the tape measure was concerned. “Actually, I hit it in almost the same spot,” he said. “But mine was further. He had me
by 50 pounds.” The grand-slammer was the cherry on the sundae for both Lynn and Kittle, reveling in the experience of the anniversary game in Chicago.
Lynn’s memorable summers in Chicago The All-Star Game had never gotten old for Lynn, who had been a staple in the contest since winning both AL Rookie of the Year and MVP with the Red Sox in 1975. And this one was special. Although he had grown up in southern California, his roots were firmly in Chicago. Much of his family still lived on the North Side. Lynn still has fond memories of spending summers in Chicago, making the short trip to Wrigley Field and at age 9 in 1961
watching George Altman’s own dream All-Star season unfold (see accompanying story). Eight years later, Lynn also avidly watched from the rightfield bleachers the spectacle of the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente unleashing one of his laser throws during visitors’ batting practice. “It was the 50th, and Babe Ruth played
in the first one and hit a home run there,” Lynn said. “It had a lot of significance to me because it was my home town.
“Fifty years was not that long ago when you think of it when I was playing. Babe Ruth was on this field. I was fortunate to play in the era when you played in the same stadiums as some of those great players. The ghost of those players past were swarming around in the stadium.” Lynn was charged up to play in old Comiskey whenever the Red Sox and Angels came through town. “You think of Bill Veeck and the exploding scoreboard and midgets and balls that come
up out of the ground,” he said. “All those things, belly dancers in center field, (outfield) showers. I loved doing well there so they couldn’t do all that stuff (Nancy Faust organplaying of ‘Na na na, hey hey, good-bye’). I was there right after Disco Demolition Night. I saw it first-hand. I wish I had documented everything I saw in my patch of dirt. It was mud.” He didn’t mention spotting what Sox “sodfather” Roger Bossard would soon see: marijuana plants, apparently seeded by the Disco Demolition crowd, growing in nine places on the field. “It wouldn’t have surprised me,” said Lynn.
Pleasing the home folks
The thrill of performing before family and friends was a motivation to both Lynn and
Kittle. “All my cousins were around uncle, my dad’s brother six kids,” said Lynn. “Some of them begrudgingly went to Sox Park, they’re North Siders.”
“I was probably more happy for my family coming to see me than for myself,” said Kittle, strangely the only White Sox All-Star on a team that featured Carlton Fisk, Greg Luzinski and Harold Baines. He would go on to win AL Rookie of the Year honors for his 35-homer season that included rooftop shots. “I was like the media darling,” Kittle said. “I tried to do everything (interview) possible. That probably took more of a toll on me because I tried to accommodate everybody. “5 a.m. (interview), doing Johnny Morris, Jeannie Morris (segments).” Kittle the starry-eyed kid watching the big boys play now was their teammate and opponent on July 6, 1983.
“I was a fan of those guys,” he said. “I watched those guys play. It couldn’t been a bigger thrill. I got a couple of my game bats autographed by all the players and all the Hall of Famers. I was a kid in a candy store. I didn’t even care if I played or not. “I was in left field, Rickey Henderson was in right. Rickey said I can’t play right field, I’m left-handed. So I went to right field. I’m out there, it was all fun. The fan ovation I got was overwhelming.”
Kittle collected an infield single, a big comedown from his Ruth-ian shots of ’83 at Comiskey. Then it was time for country hardball with Cubs closer Lee Arthur Smith. “My second time up, I batted against Lee,” he said. “He threw the ball like 110 mph. I couldn’t hit 95, let alone 110. We both had a smile on our faces. We’re still friends, and I talked to him two weeks ago at an alumni event. He said, ‘Kitty, I gave you the best I ever threw and you just missed it.’”
Twenty years later at U.S. Cellular Field, Lynn discovered the Hall of Fame somehow had forgotten to bring back his grand-slam bat from ’83. He was then tabbed to throw out the first pitch. “One of my cousins gave me a Clincher (softball),” Lynn said. “He said, throw this out on the first pitch and everyone in Chicago will love it. I played 16-inch softball in the summers in Chicago. I had it with me, but I said, nah, Major League Baseball will not like that.” Ah, but at least half of MLB sure liked Lynn’s sweet swing, helped by “scout” Ron Kittle, as the momentum changer on a memorable night in the famed “Winning Ugly” season.
Even today, in this fast-paced, multitasking, optimize-production, if-you’re-not-first-you’re-last day and age, it’s nice to see that at least one sport continues to be slow and steady. It’s also nice to know that even today, in our multiplatform, surf-the-Web-with-your-phone, call-your-mom-with-your-tablet, take-a-picture-with-just-about-anything society, a simple game of catch with your mom or dad is still the most satisfying activity.
Professional sports seem to be in constant flux. The rules always seem to be getting tweaked, the players always seem to be changing shape, the fans always seem to be pushing the envelope of proper stadium/arena etiquette. Baseball’s not completely impervious to these athletic agitations, but they are decidedly less pronounced in America’s pastime. Perhaps it’s because the game is played at a slower pace. Or maybe it’s because in baseball, the fans and the players — especially in the post-steroid era — are so thoroughly committed to preserving the sport as a true bastion of American culture and recreation that trivial problems are not as amplified. Or maybe it’s because, regardless of the congressional-testimony steroid sideshow, baseball was, is, and will always be, the perfect game.
That’s my thesis, and I’m sticking to it. But I don’t just want to privately think that baseball is the greatest game ever invented. I want to proselytize it; and I want you to believe me. To make my case, I checked in with two individuals who not only have definitive knowledge of the game, but who also can offer two perspectives that the casual fan can’t: the sage professor and the former player.
Leading off is Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism professor Michael Shapiro, author of Bottom of the Ninth and The Last Good Season. Shapiro is a baseball historian, which also makes him a truly dedicated, passionate fan. I start with a simple question: Is baseball still our national pastime? In true professorial fashion, Shapiro begins his lecture with a measurement:
In 1960, Gallup conducted a survey to determine the most popular spectator sports in the country. Baseball was No. 1. Ten years later, baseball was second to the NFL. Back then, people said that baseball was finished — that its golden years were behind it. “Absolute nonsense,” Shapiro says. “Attendance around the league is higher now than it’s ever been. Look at Wrigley, for example.”
The Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field (“Home-Field Advantage“), the second-oldest ballpark in baseball (1914), routinely attracted fewer than 12,000 people for home games in the mid-1950s, mid-’60s, mid-’70s and early ’80s. To wit, the Cubbies ranked either worst or close to worst in National League attendance during baseball’s “golden years.” These days, home games regularly are sold out, and the Cubs aren’t exactly doing any better than they were back then. They finished the 2012 season 61-101, second-worst in MLB. Yet they’re selling out home games.
“My theory is that baseball, which is different than any other American sport because there’s a game virtually every day of the season, is always giving you something to talk about,” Shapiro says. “What we love about baseball is the conversation. It’s never a stale conversation. You can talk about yesterday’s game; you can talk about your favorite player from the night before; you can talk statistics until you’re blue in the face. It offers a chance for strangers to talk about something that matters to them.”
Shapiro points out that everything about the rules of professional baseball, which are virtually unchanged after more than a century, is elegant. For instance, when a ground ball is hit to an infielder, he has to field it cleanly, and he’ll generally get the runner out by a step. Every time. One step. That’s not a lot of time. “It turns out that 90 feet is the perfect distance,” he says. “If it was 91 feet between the bases instead of 90, it’s a different game. Look at pitching: A curveball will break at 60 feet, 6 inches. It’s elegant and it’s scientific. Forget about fathers and sons playing catch. That’s a beautiful thing. But baseball is about the conversation, and that conversation helps define who we are as a society. It’s the perfect game.”
The perfect game. For a spectator, it certainly is. What’s better than spending a lazy summer afternoon at the ballpark, wearing the jersey of your favorite player (for me, these days, it’s Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers), eating some gourmet food (“The World’s Best: Ballpark Food“) and producing a consistently high energy level with 42,000 like-minded fans? Or what’s better than buying a plane ticket and flying to, say, Los Angeles to watch Ian Kinsler play against former teammates Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson, and AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout of the Angels (“League of Champion“)?
But it’s also the perfect game from the player’s perspective, says nine-time All–Star and four-time Gold Glove winner Fred Lynn, who played center field for five major league teams from 1974 to 1990.
“Baseball is more personal than any other sport because you can see the players up close,” says Lynn, who was also the first player in history to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same year (1975). “In fact, if you want to, you can watch your favorite guy for nine innings and not miss the rest of the game. You can’t do that in football or basketball. This creates a bond with the fans, which is why you hear some fans say, ‘My guy had a good game today.’ There is no place to hide on a baseball field. We are very exposed, and I think that’s just the way the fans like it. I know that’s the way I liked it when I was playing.
“I loved playing in front of the hometown fans, especially when I was with the Red Sox. And I loved playing against the hostile New York fans at Yankee Stadium. In baseball, you can feel the ebb and flow of the game. It’s not a sudden rush. When we’re down by three in the eighth inning, and the first guy gets on, and then the second guy, and the fans get involved, you can feel the emotion start to factor in. It makes you a better player. That’s a strong force.
“On the other side, when I’m playing center field, I can hear individual fans cheering me on, or in New York, heckling me. Do you know how many times I have heard, ‘Come on! I could have caught that ball! What were you doing out there?’
Welcome to the first baseball issue of American Way in our 47-year history. We take you around the league like no other magazine, highlighting the best players, stadiums, food … even one of the best announcers in the game (“For the Love of the Game“). And we have Harrison Ford on the cover, playing one of the toughest roles of his storied acting career (“Passionate Man“). We think it’s the perfect read to get you ready for the 2013 season of the perfect game.
Adam Pitluk Editor
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. — He has yet to see him play, but the best Red Sox center fielder in the past half-century is hearing and reading the same things about Jackie Bradley Jr. that you’ve been hearing and reading.
And for Fred Lynn, who was the same age as Bradley in 1975 when he was named American League MVP and Rookie of the Year, there really should be no debate about where Bradley begins the 2013 season.
“There’s no erring on the side of caution,” he said by phone Monday night. “The kid’s got some ability. Throw him in there.”
Lynn laughed. “Throw him in there. He’ll do fine.”
The parallels are striking. Lynn turned 23 in February 1975. Bradley turns 23 on April 19. Lynn was the 41st player taken overall in the 1973 draft, a second-rounder. Bradley was the 40th player taken overall in the 2011 draft, a first-round sandwich pick.
Lynn went to USC, the one in Los Angeles. Bradley went to USC, the one in Columbia, Sotuh Carolina. While there, Bradley played on Gamecocks teams that won two College World Series. “One less than me,” said Lynn, who won all three years he played for the Trojans.
“The kid came from a big program and is used to winning,” Lynn said. “That’s all good stuff. That may not sound like much when you play in the pros and all, but it is a big deal. At that level and at your age, you’re playing the best people, and you won, and you know how to win. You’ve seen it done. You want guys like that on your club. Guys who have had winning backgrounds, I think that’s very important.”
Lynn made a dazzling first impression when he was called up by the Sox in September 1974, hitting .419 in 15 games and playing superb defense in center field.
“That little cup of coffee meant a lot to me,” Lynn said, “not only because I got to the big leagues, but I was there with older guys and I learned a lot in a month. I also learned I could hit. I said, ‘You know what, I can do this. I can hang with these guys.’
“Spring training came around. I said all the right things and everything, but I knew I was going to make the club. I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to make the club.”
Bradley has made an equally dazzling first impression in his first big league camp, leading the team in batting average (.444), on-base percentage (.523), slugging percentage (.667), hits (24) and walks (8). And his defensive skills have been a source of wonderment for manager John Farrell, who says Bradley seems to be on the move even before the hitter makes contact.
Bradley did not make a single appearance in left field until sliding over from center in the seventh inning last Friday. He made a terrific catch and also threw out a runner at the plate.
“That’s nice to hear,” said Lynn, who won the first of his four Gold Gloves as a rookie and glided to balls with elegant, loping strides. “I love to hear about guys coming up who really can pick it. That’s an undervalued skill. And I really, really appreciate the guys who can catch the ball and throw it. There are some guys who can catch it, but to have a guy who can catch the ball and throw, that’s the combination I haven’t seen for a long time.
“If I’m the GM, I want to build for the future and I want to make sure I’m not top-heavy on old dudes, but I want to win right now. Right now. If this kid can help me, bring him in. Pretty simple. That’s how I would run it.
”– Fred Lynn, on how Red Sox should handle Jackie Bradley Jr.
“Center field in Boston, you got a chance to throw people out. You got a chance to throw them out off the wall, and everybody wants to run on you from right-center especially, going first to third, and that’s what’s important keeping that guy off third base. Ellsbury doesn’t do that. He can run them down but he isn’t going to throw anyone out. You’ve got to keep that guy off third base. If you’ve got a guy who can do that, boy, he’s really important.”
It’s regrettable, Lynn remarked, how few homegrown center fielders the Sox have had since he broke in. There is Ellis Burks and Jacoby Ellsbury, but anyone else who lasted for more than a couple of years was an import, such as Johnny Damon and Carl Everett and Darren Lewis.
Lynn said he first heard about Bradley last summer in Portland, where Bradley had just been called up and Lynn was in town for a promotion. That also was the first he’d heard of another top prospect, shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
He knows that Bradley has not had the benefit of playing a year in Triple-A, the way he did. He knows he had 679 plate appearances to 615 for Bradley, only 271 of Bradley’s coming at a level as high as Double-A.
“I know where you’re going with this,” Lynn said to his caller. “Bradley’s age and lack of experience. Do you need experience to be better or is your talent going to push you to the forefront? I think it’s talent.
“He’s already got experience down below. Does he have major league experience? It’s the same game, just older guys doing it. Home plate’s the same; it’s not any bigger or smaller. If anything, conditions are easier in the big leagues because the parks are better.
“He’s already done well down below, and he’s risen up like a meteor. He knows how to play. I guarantee you, this kid knows how to play, and if he goes 0 for 8, OK, don’t worry, it’ll work out.”
Even after the passage of so many years, Lynn recalled a moment in spring training of his rookie season in which he delivered a powerful message.
As all eyes turn to Fort Myers to watch the Red Sox prepare for the season, we have you covered. Red Sox blog »
“I forget where we were playing,” Lynn said, “but this right-hander was just bringing it. I had no idea who he was.
“People were still trying to figure me out — where are we going to hit him, what’s he going to do, where will we play him in the lineup? They knew I could play center, but they didn’t know what else to do with me.
“Well this guy threw one, to me it was 100 miles an hour, and I hit a rocket out of the park, off the top of the center-field brick wall and bounced back almost all the way to second base. I was standing on second base and guys were looking at me like, ‘Dude, who are you?’
“Things like that stick out in your mind when you’re trying to make the club and you’re trying to impress people.”
On Sunday, in his first start in left field, Bradley faced Cliff Lee, one of the best left-handers in the game, and homered.
“It doesn’t take too many things like that,” Lynn said, “to say, ‘Hey wait a minute, maybe this kid’s got something.”’
Lynn is acquainted with the argument that the Sox should not only send Bradley back to the minors for more seasoning, but to delay the clock on his potential free agency. If Bradley begins the season with the team and sticks the entire year, he would become a free agent after the 2018 season. If the Red Sox don’t call him up until April 12, or if Bradley spends 20 total days in the minor leagues this season, he doesn’t become a free agent until 2019.
That argument doesn’t hold for Lynn.
“I’m kind of like a ‘live for today’ kind of deal,” he said. “I want to win now, I guess. If I’m the GM, I want to build for the future and I want to make sure I’m not top-heavy on old dudes, but I want to win right now. Right now. If this kid can help me, bring him in. Pretty simple. That’s how I would run it.”
Lynn, who lives outside of San Diego with his wife, Natalie, makes about three visits a season to Fenway Park, making sure to catch at least one series against the Yankees. He and Natalie will be here in mid-April to see the Rays. He likes to get an early read on the team, he said, especially this year, when the club has undergone so many changes.
He hopes that means laying eyes on Jackie Bradley Jr.
“I think it’s wide-open for this kid,” he said. “Someone just needs to pull the trigger and say, ‘Let’s go do it.’
“Tell this kid when you see him, I told him, ‘Just keep your head down.’ Tell him I said, ‘You can play. You’ve proved it to yourself. Now go prove it to everybody else.”’
originally posted on ComcastSportsnet
Like many baseball fans, Fred Lynn will be tuned in later today when the MVP awards for both the American and National Leagues will be announced on national TV, followed immediately by interviews by satellite, texts, cellphone calls, and postings on social media. It’s a far different scenario than when Lynn won 37 years ago.
“To be honest with you, it was a non-issue,” Lynn said Thursday morning by phone from his home in Southern California. “Because after the season was over I was so crushed that we lost the World Series that nothing really mattered to me as far as awards. And there was no ballyhoo. No one talked to me about it. It was really a non-issue.
“In fact, I don’t even remember when they gave me the Rookie of the Year award. When the MVP came down, I was driving across the country and I learned about by either seeing it on TV or reading about it in the newspaper and no one could even get hold of me to talk to me because I was en route from Boston to California in a car.
“It’s so different than it is now. You hear ‘You’re an MVP’ and I thought ‘That’s great’. There’s no interviews, there was none of that kind of stuff.”
Lynn, the 1975 Red Sox center fielder on the team that suffered a crushing loss to the Reds in the World Series, made baseball history that season becoming the first player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season. He won both in landslides. He beat out teammate Jim Rice for the Rookie of the Year, with 23.5 first place votes. In MVP balloting, Lynn took 22 of 24 first place votes, beating Royals first baseman John Mayberry, 326-157 – the 169-point margin of victory was the largest ever in either league.
A lot of things from that season stand out – playing in the World Series, coming up with Rice, playing with Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Carlton Fisk. His three-home run, 10-RBI game on June 18 in Detroit. But as a rookie, Lynn, who played 17 seasons, was just trying to keep his head down and do his job.
But he wasn’t thinking about postseason awards at the time.
“No,” he said. “No one talked about it. [Not even] the media. We were so intent in getting to the playoffs. And you have to understand as rookies in those days you were seen but not heard. No one was going to ask our opinion about anything. They went to the veterans. It’s not like now.”
Lynn’s accomplishment didn’t really sink in until much later.
“For the first couple years after I had done that, we’d play on the road and they’d have a quiz for the fans, ‘What player was the first to win both?’” he said. “And my name would come up. And then I really didn’t understand what I had accomplished until my career was over. And you look back on it and you say ‘You know what, that was pretty groundbreaking.’ Because rookies in those days, we were second-class citizens, even on your own club. You had to prove yourself not only to fans and the media but to your own teammates. So it was much more difficult for rookies to do anything because a lot of times rookies didn’t even make the club.”
Thursday’s MVP announcements, especially that of AL MVP, will be accompanied by a great deal of national – and international — attention, along with much debate, discussion, dissection, and analysis over whether the right player won. Angels center fielder Mike Trout, who was named the AL Rookie of the Year earlier this week, has a chance to join Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki as the only players to win both awards in the same season. Trout’s strongest opposition will come from Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who etched his name in the history books this season, becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat.
Although Lynn lives in Southern California, and has ties to the Angels from his four seasons playing for the club, he hasn’t seen much of Trout. Lynn got a chance to see the Angels phenom in August, when the Angels and Lynn visited Fenway Park at the same time.
“I always watch centerfielders, anyway,” Lynn said. “And I just said, ‘Wow, this is a big kid.’ He looks like he’s about 220. I played football. He looks like a fullback, almost like a middle linebacker, and with speed. So that’s a really, really rare combination. You don’t see it that often. You see one or the other, the size or the speed. He kind of reminds me of when Bo Jackson came into the league.
“He’s a fun player to watch. I watch defense. I don’t watch offense, because a lot of guys can swing the bat. And guys that size it’s no surprise that he can hit home runs. But I watch guys defensively. That’s what I’m noted for and that’s what I watch in other guys, and that’s pretty much how I judge centerfielders, not with their bat but with their glove. So he’s fun to watch, there’s no question about it.”
Asked if there was anything about Trout’s game that reminds Lynn of himself, he laughs and quickly replies, “No!”
“No, because of our size differential. At the end of the ’75 season, I was wearing down. There was no weightlifting in those days, you have to remember, and I was barely 6-feet tall and by the end of the season I bet I was about 170 pounds. This kid hits about 225.”
So, who does Lynn think should win the 2012 AL MVP?
“From what I’m hearing it’s going to be closer than I think it should be. But it’s Cabrera all the way,” Lynn said.
“Cabrera stepped up big time in September and he carried that club and all of a sudden he’s leading in every category. And you go, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we have a Triple Crown candidate.’ And not only did he carry that weight on his shoulders, he carried his whole team. You look at what he did in September, he hit [.333 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI in 31 games], whatever it was. Men on base, ho got the big hit. Got the home run. He did all these things. And his team won. And they won because of him primarily. So that was the deciding factor. As an ex-player — I played with the last guy to do it, Yastrzemski — so I know how difficult it is to achieve that feat. And to be able to say that you got your team to the playoffs, too. The other guy didn’t? I think it’s a no-brainer.
“In your lifetime you might not see it. And if he doesn’t’ win, it just shows me that these new sets of criteria or statistics have crept into our game that no player was a part of, no player thought of these things. It was a guy from MIT. If he doesn’t win, I’ll just say ‘What? How can you do that to a Triple Crown winner and a guy that got the team to the playoffs?’
“Plus the fact that – here’s another thing I’m not hearing much. He’s a first baseman by trade. So he was willing to move to third base. Obviously he knows he’s not Brooks Robinson. But he’s got pretty soft hands, he catches everything that he can get to, and he’s got a pretty good arm. He knows that their team is better with [Prince] Fielder over at first. So he’s willing to go to a new position. And when you do that, there’s a stress factor that you can’t even imagine. And no one’s talked about that. It’s stressful. Ok, I’m playing third, don’t screw up. These are things he wouldn’t think about if he was playing first. So that tells me he’s a real team-oriented guy. You love to have guys like that on your club. They’re willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. That is points. Trout played better defensively. Well, OK, what if you put him at third base or someplace where he really feels naked out there? So that’s a big deal. This is a real team guy. I just like the guy a lot.”
Recently, I put up a blog about Fred Lynn and his All Star Game grand slam. Here’s a video of the grand slam for those of you who were too young to watch it live on TV. Fred was a great ballplayer on the field and is also very generous off the field, helping in the community, Little League Baseball and children’s causes. Because of all that he has done, I think he deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And if you want to learn more about what Fred is up to, check out his web site. Anyway, he read my blog and he agreed to do aninterview with me. Here’s what he had to say:
Matt: How did it feel to be the first player to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year (ROY) awards in the same year (see picture)?
Fred: I really didn’t think too much about it as there really wasn’t much press coverage in those days. I was more impressed with the feat after my playing days were over. I am proud to be the first person to have accomplished this feat.
Matt: Now that Ichiro Suzuki is also a member of the MVP/ROY in the same year club, are you guys buddies? If Mike Trout joins the club, is there a special handshake you guys will do?
Fred: I have never met Ichiro so we are not buddies. I have not met Trout either, but I love the secrethandshake thing.
Matt: When you were drafted by the Yankees, how come you didn’t sign with them?
Fred: I was going to USC to play football and baseball for them and it was going to take a lot of money to make me change my mind. No one in my family had gone to college so that was important to my father and me. The Yankees didn’t offer what I wanted so I went to college and had a great time while I was there.
Matt: Why didn’t you try to go to the NFL after USC?
Fred: I played football my first year at USC and then committed full time to baseball. It was obvious to many that my future was going to be in baseball and not the NFL.
Matt: Are you in touch with any of your former teammates like Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk or Rod Carew?
Fred: I see Jim Rice all of the time when I go back to Boston. The rest of the guys I see on occasion, but it’s usually at a golf tournament or a function of MLB.
Matt: I read that you are the main chef in your house. What’s your signature dish?
Fred: I am a cook, but not a chef. Like most guys, I’m pretty good on the grill, but my wife, Natalie, likes a pastadish that I make with garlic shrimp and broccoli florets. It’s pretty tasty.
Matt: On June 18, 1975, you had one of the greatest single game performances ever. Can you please tell me a little about it?
Fred: I had a 20-game hitting streak stopped the night before and went to the park early the next day for some extra batting practice. Its seemed to work pretty good as I hit two homers and a triple in my first three at bats. I lined out to second the next time and got an infield single the next trip and then homered again in my last at bat. We squeaked out a victory by 15-1. I drove in 10 runs and that was the most ever by a rookie at that time.
Matt: Since this is a baseball history blog, if you could have used a time machine when you played, which pitcher in history would you have liked to have faced? And which team would you have liked to have been on?
Fred: I would have been a Giant and would have wanted to face Sandy Koufax. He was the best lefty I ever saw and I would have loved to have battled him with the pennant on the line.
Matt: You are very involved with kids, charity and little league. How should MLB address the issue of teaching kids today about baseball history? Also, what would you advise kids today interested in becoming pro baseball players?
Fred: I root for the team that wins!
Thanks again to Fred for being such a great sport and for agreeing to answer all of my questions!! And if Fred needs some secret handshake suggestions, I am happy to help him.
And if there are any current or retired professional baseball players out there who want me to interview them, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Lynn played for the University of Southern California 1970-73 and on three National Championship teams.