Two home runs, including a grand slam, in Game 7 of the ALCS. That will forever be my highlight memory of Johnny Damon, but there was significantly more to his Red Sox career that lasted just four seasons, including a memorable three hits in one inning against the Marlins in 2003.
In 2002 Damon made the All-Star team as a centerfielder and also finished the season leading the AL in triples. In 2005 he made his second All-Star appearance and tallied a league-leading 35 infield hits. During his Red Sox tenure, Damon was almost exclusively a lead-off hitter with a .295 average and impressive .362 OBP. Damon could motor and registered 98 steals as a member of the Red Sox, scoring over 100 runs in each season in Boston.
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Damon displayed a very questionable arm but was excellent at charging a ball and covering the gaps. A fearless defender who most notable suffered a concussion via an on-field collision with Damien Jackson. Damon felt every ball was a potential out and would pursue with reckless abandon.
Damon presented a flamboyant appearance with his long hair, infectious smile, and hard style of play. Damon was certainly a fan favorite with the female members of Red Sox Nation. And, of course, Damon was probably the most symbolic member of the self-proclaimed “Idiots” who led the Red Sox to the exorcism of “The Curse.” A game was never without Damon’s acolytes dressed in robes and sporting long hair in honor of their hero.
Damon departed the Red Sox when the New York Yankees were willing to go to four years on a contract instead of the three years the Red Sox were holding firm on. But the legacy of that 2004 team and Damon’s four years of quality production will always have his contract as a free agent bargain.
Next: John Lackey