Red Sox Fellowship of the Miserable: Outfielder Jim Rice
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox curse may have been broken 30 years earlier if a late season injury to Jim Rice had been avoided. Another chapter of the Fellowship of the Miserable.
Just what is The Fellowship of the Miserable? The original term was coined by former (thankfully) Celtic coach Rick Pitino to describe the perpetually angry Boston fans who mount continual assaults via talk radio. The tactic has also migrated into the realm of the media that quite naturally supports and encourages such activities – face it, folks, it does boost ratings.
The Red Sox have a long and illustrious history of contributions to the Fellowship with displays over the years that brought forward a crescendo of negativity. I will focus on the Red Sox and it is both an oral and written history passed down from generation to generation.
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Why is Jim Rice on the Fellowship? Rice is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, played 16 seasons for the Red Sox, led the American League in home runs three times, won a Most Valuable Player Award and may have been the most feared right-handed hitters in the game for at least a decade.
Rice’s honor comes as many have in franchise history via an injury and not performance. The injury was ill-timed and happened in his first full season – 1975. That was the year of the Gold Dust Twins of Fred Lynn and Rice, who led Boston to the American League pennant. Rice did nothing in the playoffs and World Series, but it was the result of a broken hand.
On September 21, 1975, Detroit Tigers pitcher Vern Ruhle hit Rice and the result was a broken hand. Just think of Xander Bogaerts recent hand injury. The Red Sox won the game 6-5, but a core piece of their lineup was now gone. Rice played 100 games, batting fifth and 40 games, batting fourth so his importance was well-recognized. Rice hit .309 for the season with 22 home runs and 102 RBI.
The Red Sox went on to play the Cincinnati Reds in the dynamic 1975 World Series. A series that had Carlton Fisk hit a game-winning home run in Game Six. The remarkably gritty pitching of Luis Tiant and the ultimate let down with a 4-3 game seven loss.
The Red Sox did a mix and match with left field for the series with Juan Beniquez starting two games and Carl Yastrzemski, who had only played eight games in left during the season forced from first base to left. Even Game Two hero Bernie Carbo got a start. When Yaz played left that forced Cecil Cooper to play first. Cooper hit only .093 in the series, going 1-for-19.
With Rice in his usual left field position, Boston would have had their best lineup allowing Yastrzemski – who hit .310 in the World Series – to remain at first and putting Rice and his power threat into the fray. As a Red Sox fan, I am convinced that Rice not being out would have been the difference. The curse ending almost 30 years early.
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Rice remains a legend among Red Sox fans. A former coach for the team, post-game analyst and now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rice was in his day one of the most fearsome hitters I have every seen.