For Red Sox fans the 1970s presented dual points of frustration and exhilaration. The 1975 World Series was epic in its presentation and may have been one of the best fall classics. The collapse of the 1977 and 1978 teams was among my personal top five of Red Sox disappointments. Just the thought is enough for a visit to baseball rehab.
The 1970s teams had a smorgasbord of star players that still resonate after four decades. George Scott, returning in 1977 for one last hurrah, Dwight Evans and his mastery of right field, Carl Yastrzemski in pursuit of Hall of Fame numbers, the “Gold Dust Twins” of Jim Rice and Fred Lynn and Carlton Fisk on his way to the HOF.
Then there was one player that Red Sox fans universally worshiped for his skill, grittiness, competitiveness and fiery personality – Rick Burleson or “The Rooster.” A shortstop who for three years teamed with Denny Doyle to form one slick double-play duo. Later Jerry Remy join as Rooster’s DP partner.
"“one winnin’ sonavagun.” Red Sox Manager Darrell Johnson."
With Boston, Rooster made three All-Star teams and won a Gold Glove. With the Angels it was a Silver Slugger and another All-Star nod. The Boston stat line was .274/.328/.361 with some punch in his seven Red Sox seasons hitting 38 home runs and 380 RBI from mostly his number two slot in the batting order.
Rooster was not Alex Gonzalez or Jose Iglesias with the glove, but a smooth defensive player capable of turning two and covering his right and left with equal precision. What stood out was the arm. The 5’ 10” 165 pound Rooster possessed and absolute howitzer. To this observer his arm was as strong as any infielder I have seen.
The Red Sox in the late 70s and into the early 80s were in disarray. Tom Yawkey was long gone and management turmoil and the Yawkey Trust where the sad song being sung. Burleson wanted to be paid an GM Haywood Sullivan stalled and eventually shipped Rooster to the Angels along with Butch Hobson for Mark Clear, Rick Miller and Carney Lansford. Burleson the inked a contract making him the highest paid shortstop in baseball history.
The deal actually was beneficial for Boston as Burleson had one great year with the Angels before injuries slowly finished his career. Hobson did nothing, but on the Boston end Lansford won a batting title, Clear played five seasons (35-23, 4.27) and Miller put in five seasons as a decent backup.
Watching Xander Bogaerts play at short, it is somewhat reminiscent of Burleson without, of course, the cannon arm. However, the real match is Dustin Pedroia. Playing style and certainly personality both are very similar. Pedey has a bit more pop in his bat, but both had that great instinctive defensive quality that cannot be taught. What a great DP combo they would have made.
Sources: “Zim: A baseball life.”
“The Wrong Stuff.”
My own fading memory.
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