Red Sox Memories: Sifting through memories of past players

Centerfielder Carl Everett of the Boston Red Sox tackles the ball in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves 09 July 2000 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. AFP PHOTO/John MOTTERN (Photo by JOHN MOTTERN / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MOTTERN/AFP via Getty Images)
Centerfielder Carl Everett of the Boston Red Sox tackles the ball in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves 09 July 2000 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. AFP PHOTO/John MOTTERN (Photo by JOHN MOTTERN / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MOTTERN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Memories of past Red Sox players – the good, bad, and ugly

The Boston Red Sox roster has had quite a few memorable baseball players and if you live long enough you can create quite a list. Most are rather easy since they are the best of the best. Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz, Jim Rice, Dustin Pedroia, and a fleet of others. But then there is the second batch of lesser-known players so here are a few of my personal favorites from the past. A few stars but most are not.

If you needed a doubles machine it was shortstop/second baseman Jody Reed. Despite his small size, Reed could turn on the ball and three straight seasons topped 40+ doubles. Reed – an 8th round pick (1984) – hit .280 over six Boston seasons.

In 1992, baseball expansion was taking place and the Red Sox left Reed out to be picked. The Rockies did just that and then traded Reed to the Dodgers. Reed bounced around a few more teams before calling it a career. Just loved to see Reed up at Fenway eyeing that wall.

More from Red Sox History

In 1991, I thought Boston had a future batting champion in left-hand hitting Phil Plantier. Plantier earned his way to Boston after hitting over .300 in Pawtucket and hit .331 for the Red Sox with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in just 53 games. He had been on the I-95 shuttle that season before settling in and going on a tear.

What happened? The next season, Plantier didn’t hit bombs but bombed. The power and average sunk and Plantier was sent to San Diego for a pitcher who did nothing. Plantier had some statistical revenge, hitting 34 bombs and bagging 100 RBI. After that, Plantier did little and was shopped around with multiple teams before calling it a career in 1997.

Plantier had a sweet and compact swing and hit some rockets. I was surprised the Red Sox gave up so quickly on him, but they were not alone. Platier never came close to duplicating his rookie Boston season or first season with the Friars. Loved to watch him in BP.

Pete Runnels was just a pure hitter and especially at Fenway Park. A second baseman who switched over to first base. Runnels arrived in Boston via trade in which Albie Pearson – all 5’5” – and right-hand power hitter (occasionally) Norm Zauchin.

Runnels played five seasons for the Red Sox hitting .320, winning two batting titles, and making three All-Star squads. The lefty hitter had limited power but a nice left-field stroke. Defensively Runnels was lacking at second.

In 1962, Runnels won a batting title and was rewarded by being traded to Houston for outfielder Roman Mejias who had bashed 24 home runs for Houston. Both players failed in their new homes and were both released after the 1964 season. Runnels came back to Boston as a coach for 1965 and 1966 and briefly served as interim manager. I just remember his line drives and battling Williams for a batting title in 1958.

One of the least known star players Boston had was Jackie Jensen. Jensen played in both a Rose Bowl and a World Series. An incredible two-sport player. A right-hand hitter who won a quite possibly undeserved MVP in 1958. Jensen was a five-tool player and a whiz defensively in right-field.

As a hitter, Jensen was an RBI machine three times leading the AL in RBI. In 1954 when Jensen first arrived in a trade with Washinton, he demonstrated a real Rice-like specialty – leading the league in DPs. Jensen also led in sacrifice flies and stolen bases. I can’t find any player accomplishing that in one season.

The downside for Jensen was the airplane. Jensen was terrorized by the thought of flying and quit for one season before returning to the game. Jensen didn’t have it any longer and quit again after the 1961 season. This guy had a running-back build and speed. His arm was a cannon from right field. A career .298 hitter at Fenway Park.

Playing ten seasons with the Red Sox and appearing in just 387 games. How? As a backup catcher behind Carlton Fisk is the answer and Bob Montgomery is the player. A long-time broadcaster for the Red Sox who still does some minor league games. Monty’s claim to baseball fame is as the last player to bat without a helmet.

Montgomery was a surprisingly capable hitter with a .258 career average. He had some pop and would bang out the occasional home run or extra-base hit. Defensively the righty was solid and was quite possibly the perfect fit for a backup catcher. Respectable hitting and sturdy defense.

The batting champion who never was – Reggie Jefferson hit .347 in 1996 for the Red Sox. Just not enough at-bats. Boston had taken the left-hand hitter via a trade with Cleveland and he could hit. But hit comes with an asterisk for the “Miracle Man.” Reggie hit a career .219 against lefties. Jefferson retired in somewhat of a snit after being left off the playoff roster. Jefferson never played MLB again, but retired with a .300 career average.

Jefferson was a tall guy who had limited foot speed. Defensively his best position was DH and that should give you a clue on his defensive capabilities, but he could hit as long as you had a right-hander on the hill. Fun to watch against a righty.

Controversy followed Dr. Evil wherever he went. Highly opinionated on homosexuality, the false moon landing, and dinosaur bones were man-made. Carl Everett also was lugged $5,000 and ten games for physicality against an umpire. Everett was also a good player for the Red Sox, but in center field, he was an adventurer.

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Everett’s career year was with Boston in 2000 when he slugged 34 home runs, notched 108 RBI, hit .300, and made the All-Star team. Just two years in Boston for the switch-hitter and probably a 100 columns by Dan Shaunessey on Everett’s latest topic of choice. Traded off to the Rangers after the Red Sox tired of his behavior. Even in retirement, Everett had “issues.”