Friday, March 13, 2009

The top 100 Red Sox: 91-95

Onward we go with our trip through the top 100 Red Sox players in history; here's the list so far:

100. Keith Foulke
99. Hugh "O" Bedient
98. Rick Ferrell
97. Butch Hobson
96. Lee Smith

Let's keep moving:

95. Jesse Tannehill
Here's the first name that might make even diehard Red Sox fans go, "Who?"

Tannehill had gone 15-15 with a 3.27 ERA for the Yankees in 1903 -- the season the Red Sox won the first World Series in history -- but was traded to Boston for a 20-game winner named Long Tom Hughes. (In this day and age, I don't think you can get away with "Long Tom" as a nickname for a guy you share a locker room with.)

Tannehill didn't look the part -- he stood 5-foot-8 and weighed just 150 pounds -- but he'd shown remarkable endurance early in his career. In 1898, his first full season, he threw 326 2/3 innings -- including 34 complete games -- for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He then threw 313 innings the year after that.

In his first season with the Red Sox, Tannehill threw a measly 281 2/3 innings in going 21-11 with a 2.04 ERA for a team that won the American League title but was deprived of a chance to play in a second straight World Series. (The New York Giants of the National League refused to give credibility to the upstart Americans by playing them in a championship series.)

A year later, the 30-year-old Tannehill was the only Red Sox pitcher to finish with a record above .500 -- even Cy Young, despite a 1.82 ERA, went 18-19 -- as the Red Sox sank to fourth in the league. A year after that, the Red Sox lost 20 games in a row in April and May; Tannehill snapped the losing streak with a complete-game shutout and finished the season with a 13-11 record, again the best mark on the team. The entire pitching staff was getting old -- even Young was old -- and the early run of glory was over.

94. Mike Timlin
Mike Timlin was almost 37 years old and had almost 800 innings in 664 career appearances when he signed with the Red Sox before the 2003 season. He had two World Series titles under his belt; he'd pitched in the playoffs with the Blue Jays, the Mariners and the Cardinals.

As it turns out, he was just getting started.

Timlin tossed 9 2/3 scoreless innings in eight appearances in the 2003 postseason -- as the beat-your-head-against-the-wall mantra went, "Timlin in the eighth, Williamson in the ninth." A year later, he ran into trouble in the postseason (his ERA was 6.17 ERA 11 2/3 innings) but came up big in a couple of big spots -- including 1 2/3 scoreless innings to give the Red Sox a chance to rally in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Yankees. He then pitched a shutout inning of relief in Game 3 of the World Series against the Cardinals.

His best season, actually, might have been 2005, when he led the American League in appearances (with 81, a Red Sox record) and finished the year with a 2.24 ERA. But his age started to catch up with him at that point; his ERA jumped to 4.36 in 2006 and 5.66 in 2008.

In just six seasons, he vaulted himself into third place in Red Sox history in appearances (394, behind only Bob Stanley and Tim Wakefield).

93. Herb Pennock
If not for Harry Frazee -- whose name is sure to reappear in other capsules on this list -- Pennock would be far higher on this list. The lefthander finished his career with 240 wins and three times finished among the American League's top three in ERA; he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1948. Most of his success, though, came with the New York Yankees after Frazee dealt him away for three fringe players and $50,000 cash.

Pennock did have his share of success before his departure, though. He won two World Series titles as a bit contributor with the Red Sox in 1915 and 1916; the 21- and 22-year-old made a grand total of 14 appearances for the Red Sox in those two seasons. He then missed the 1918 season while serving in the Navy in World War I.

But when he came back, he rounded into the form that would take him to the Hall of Fame. He went 16-8 with a 2.71 ERA and five complete-game shutouts in 1919; he followed that with a 16-13 record and a 3.68 ERA in 1920. By then, though, the Red Sox were a shell of the team that had won three World Series titles in four years. Pennock began to scuffle in what should have been the prime of his career; he went 10-17 with a 4.32 ERA for the eighth-place Red Sox in 1922, making it a little more palatable for Frazee to ship him to the Yankees.

In his first two seasons in New York, of course, Pennock went 19-7 and 21-9 and pitched the Yankees to their first World Series title. But by then, his Red Sox days already were over.

92. Dick Stuart
They called him "Dr. Strangeglove," and not in a good way -- he made 29 errors at first base in 1963 and 24 errors at first base in 1964.

"You're losing more ballgames through the middle of your legs than you're winning with your bat," one manager told him.

But the Red Sox weren't paying him for his defense. They were paying him to hit.

(They weren't paying him to be a play-to-win teammate, either. As the story goes, Stuart once was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded but argued successfully that he hadn't been hit and thus should be allowed to stay at the plate and hit. He then struck out.)

Hit he did, though, to the tune of 42 home runs in 1963 and 33 home runs in 1964. His 75 home runs in those two seasons rank him 35th in club history, ahead of Kevin Youkilis and Tom Brunansky but behind Dom DiMaggio, Brian Daubach and Wade Boggs.

"I get paid to do one thing for this ballclub, and I do it very well, and that is to hit the ball out of the ballpark," Stuart told manager Johnny Pesky in one dugout showdown.

He wasn't the best defensive player, and he wasn't the best guy in the clubhouse. But he could hit the snot out of the baseball.

91. Sammy White
One of the staples of the mediocre 1950s Red Sox, White finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1952 and earned an All-Star nod in 1953. At the same time, he was the catcher behind the plate for the glory years of Mel Parnell and Ellis Kinder and the early years in the career of Bill Monbouquette. (Monbouquette held hitters to a .252 batting average with White behind the plate, lower than his mark with any other catcher who caught him for more than 25 games.)

"White steals more strikes from umpires than anyone else," Casey Stengel once said. "I'm not being critical. I'm just bowing to his skill."

At the same time, White still had a little pop in his bat. He hit 13 home runs and 34 doubles in 1953; he hit 11 home runs and 30 doubles in 1955.

One thing Red Sox fans should love: When the team tried to trade him to Cleveland in 1960, he refused to go; the Indians had to void the trade and send him back to the Red Sox. After White sat out the 1960 season, he accepted his sale to the Milwaukee Braves in 1961 and played out the string before retiring.

Coming up: Could it be... the RemDawg?

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