The Boston Red Sox raised their first Commissioner’s Trophy in 86 years in 2004. Many remember the big names, but few recall the unsung heroes.
While we wait for the season to hopefully sort itself out in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we here at BoSox Injection are taking the time to look back through Red Sox history. This will be the first stop in a four-part series that will look back at some of the unsung heroes of our recent World Series winning squads.
Our first stop brings us back to the fall of 2004 and the breaking of the curse. For that team, many will look right at Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Pedro Martinez, and rightfully so. Those four were the pillars of that team not only in the postseason but during the regular season as well. However, they didn’t earn the Commissioner’s Trophy on their own, they needed some help.
I combed over the postseason roster and looked at the stats but since this trip down memory lane is focused on the World Series, that’s where my eyes went. Several players had strong showings during the Fall Classic but my attention was brought to the stats of two veterans in the lineup. The first being longtime Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon, and the other was journeyman infielder Bill Mueller.
Nixon was drafted by the Red Sox in the 1993 June amateur draft, he would go on to spend ten of his 12 Major League seasons in Boston. Mueller was signed as a free agent in the winter of 2003 after spending the first part of his career in San Francisco and Chicago. Anyone that knows anything about the 2004 teams knows just how important these two men were to raising that banner at Fenway Park.
In 2004, Nixon only played in 48 games but he made each and every at-bat matter. His regular-season totals capped off at .315/.377/.510/.887 with six homers and 23 RBI. Considering his incredibly shortened season, these are some seriously good numbers. This would be the shortest season of Trot’s career since 1998 and he would bounce back in 2005, playing in 124 games.
Mueller’s 2004 was actually a bit of a down year for the third baseman. Just the season prior he would be a Silver Slugger and win the batting title, while the Red Sox would be ousted in the ALCS by the Yankees.
That’s ok though, he and the Sox would get their chance at revenge in a rematch with the Yankees. With Boston down 3-0 in the series, Mueller would hit a momentum-shifting single that would tie the game and begin their comeback to defeat New York 4-3 to advance.
Remember, we’re not here to talk about the regular season, this is all about the World Series. With Nixon coming off of a shortened season and Mueller looking to redeem himself in October, both shined under the bright lights. Just look at the numbers they put up against St Louis:
Trot Nixon: .357/.400/.571/.971/5H/3RBI/1BB
Bill Mueller: .429/.556/.571/1.127/6H/2RBI/4BB
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It may have been Manny and Papi getting all of the attention for the offense but these two were off the damn charts. Teams can always succeed with superstars but they also need the guys that are getting their jerseys dirty every night.
Red Sox Nation will always have fond memories of Trot’s helmet covered in pine tar and Mueller always covered in dirt from turning singles into doubles. The hustle is what got these two to the levels they reached and it’s the hustle that got them on my list.
Seeing the Red Sox finally win the World Series after 86 years will forever be one of my most cherished memories. Seeing my father’s eyes well up with tears after he had been through so many heartbreaks. Getting to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy after vanquishing their most heated of rivals. You couldn’t write a better story than that of Boston’s first championship win in nearly a century.
The 2004 Red Sox not only had superstars but a gang of unsung heroes that all played their roles in the greatest of wins. Trot Nixon and Bill Mueller are the dictionary definitions of the word “professional.” It didn’t matter to them whether they were in the starting lineup or coming off of the bench, they were there to do a job when called upon. They’ve more than earned their right to be immortalized for their efforts in that championship campaign.