BOSTON -- It was a year filled with many great moments in Red Sox history. Third baseman Wade Boggs won his fifth batting title, the team retired Hall of Fame second baseman Bobby Doerr’s number (1) and the Red Sox won the American League East.
It was how they did it, though, that captured the most attention.
On Tuesday night, the Red Sox celebrated the 25th anniversary of “Morgan Magic,” the incredible run in 1988 that saw replacement manager Joe Morgan lead the Red Sox from 43-42 and fourth place in the division at the All-Star break to an 89-73 record and a first-place finish.
Following the hiring of Morgan, a Walpole, Mass., native and team's third-base coach at the time, to take the place of John McNamara on July 14, the Red Sox won 12 straight and 19 of 20 to put themselves back in contention. After Tuesday’s ceremony, Morgan reflected on how unbelievable the team’s run was.
“You think about third place and when you get there you go onto second and that’s the way I kind of looked at it. I never even thought of first place,” Morgan said.
The idea of a division title didn’t seem impossible to a couple of Morgan’s former players though.
“I think that when you have a manager change in the middle of the season, I think it lit a fire under all of us,” pitcher Roger Clemens said. “As a player, you feel responsible when you lose a manager [based] on how you’re performing. It sparked us all to play better and to pay attention.”
“A new face, a new style of doing things really made a difference,” fellow pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd said. “When Joe came in, he did a really good job and we ended up winning a lot of ballgames that put us back into first place.”
Clemens and Boyd weren’t the only players from the ’88 team in attendance for Tuesday night’s pregame ceremony. Mike Smithson, Spike Owen, Tom Bolton, Lee Smith and Dwight Evans also were at Fenway to show their support for Morgan. Bruce Hurst, Marty Barrett and Jody Reed had messages displayed on the video board during the ceremony while Boggs also sent his regards.
The ceremony ended with the presentation of a collage to Morgan that featured a scorecard from his first game among other mementos, and two seats from Fenway Park, one numbered 19 and the other 88. Morgan threw out the first pitch to current Red Sox manager John Farrell, who he had kind words for after the ceremony.
“He’s done a beautiful job. I like him very much. I just got through telling him he’s done a great job,” Morgan said of Farrell, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians, a division rival at the time, during the ’88 season.
Farrell wasn’t the only current member of the Red Sox that Morgan had praise for.
“I like the right fielder [Shane Victorino], he’s got a lot of [grit] and vinegar,” Morgan said. “And I love [second baseman Dustin] Pedroia. I think in all the years I’ve been around, I would say that Pedroia is the best fielding second baseman I’ve ever seen.”
Despite 25 years having passed since “Morgan Magic,” Morgan doesn't think he's lost his touch. Asked how he would fare if he managed today, Morgan said, “I’d be dynamite. What else would you expect?”