The Night New England Fell In Love With Fred Lynn

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June 18th, 1975.  It was a Wednesday night like any other in the middle of a long baseball season.  The Red Sox were in Detroit in the middle of a 12 game, four city road trip that had already taken them to Chicago and Kansas City, with a stop in Baltimore still on the travel itinerary.  What followed was a watershed moment in the memorable 1975 Red Sox season, and the coming out party for a young Red Sox rookie center fielder.  It became the night New England fell in love with Fred Lynn.


A second round draft choice by the Red Sox in the 1973 MLB Draft out of the University of Southern California, where he won three NCAA Championships with the Trojans, Lynn made his major league debut as a September call-up in 1974.  He played in 15 games to finish the season, batting a lofty .419 with two homers and 10 RBI.  There were high hopes for Lynn and fellow rookie Jim Rice going into the ’75 season.  Lynn won the center field job in Spring Training after beating out incumbents Juan Beniquez and Rick Miller, a job he would hold on to for the next six years.

Lynn got off to a fast start to the ’75 season.  Coming into the game June 18th Lynn was batting .337 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI in 57 games.  New England was buzzing about his bat and his glove, as Lynn turned in several spectacular plays in center.  But it was his breakout game on June 18th that forever etched Lynn’s stature in the hearts of Red Sox fans.

Red Sox Ace Luis Tiant was slated to take on Detroit’s Veteran Joe Coleman in the finale of a three game series with the Tigers, with the Red Sox looking to sweep the series after winning the first two games by scores of 6-2 and 7-6.  The Red Sox jumped on Coleman quickly, scoring four runs in the top of the first, with Lynn slugging a two-run homer into the upped deck in the old Tiger Stadium.  The Sox added three more runs in the top of the second, with Lynn accounting for all three with a two-out three run homer which hit the roof above the upper deck in right field to give the Sox a 5-1 lead.

The Red Sox turned the game into a laugher in the third inning.  Coleman had been replaced by reliever Lerrin LaGrow to start the third, but that did nothing to cool off the hot Boston bats.  They added five more runs in the frame, with Lynn again in the middle of everything, this time clubbing a two-out, two run triple which barely missed going out by inches for his third home run in as many innings.  The triple came off reliever Bob Reynolds, who had replaced LaGrow only one batter before.  When the dust settled the Red Sox enjoyed a 12-1 lead.

Reynolds was able to settle Lynn and the other Boston batters down over the next few innings, holding the Red Sox scoreless over the next four innings.  He even got Lynn to make an out, though the ball was well struck on a lineout to second base.  Tom Walker replaced Reynolds to start the eighth inning, and Lynn promptly greeted him into the game with a single, and after eventually making it to third, Lynn was erased on a fielders choice at the plate.  However, Lynn would have one more chance for a crack at Red Sox history.

In the top of the ninth, after Juan Beniquez led off the inning with a flyout to right, Doug Griffin and Cecil Cooper stroked back to back singles to put runners on first and third with one out, setting up Lynn for one more at bat.  Lynn capped his night with yet another three run homer, his third home run of the game, giving the Red Sox a 15-1 lead, which would be the eventual finals score.  The clout gave Lynn a 5/6 night with three home runs, a triple, and 10 RBIs, and it made Lynn the golden boy of New England sports for the Summer of ’75 and beyond.

Lynn went on to become the first player in Major League history to win both the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.  This feat has only been duplicated by Ichiro Suzuki, who had been a professional player in Japan for years prior to coming to play in the United States.  Lynn finished the ’75 season with .331 average with 21 HRs and 105 RBI.  He also led the American League with 103 runs scored, and led all of the MLB with 47 doubles, .566 slugging percentage, and a 0.967 OPS.  He was also named to the American League All-Star Team as a reserve, and added a Gold Glove to his trophy case.

The emergence of Lynn and Rice (who were dubbed the Gold Dust Twins) propelled the Red Sox to their first American League East title, and they upset the defending 3-time World Champion Oakland A’s in a three game sweep to advance to the World Series against the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds, winners of 108 games in the regular season.  The Red Sox pushed the Reds to a full seven games in the series before succumbing, and Game 6 became legendary in Boston sports lore.

Lynn spent five more seasons with the Red Sox before being traded to the California Angles after the 1980 season.  In his Red Sox career Lynn batted .308, with 24 home runs, 521 RBI, was a nine-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves.  His best season with the Red Sox came in 1979 when he won the AL batting title with a .333 average, adding 39 HRs and 122 RBI.  He also stole 42 bases and posted a 1.059 OPS.  In his 17 year career with Boston, California, Detroit and San Diego, Lynn batted .283 with 306 HRs and 1111 RBI.  He was a nine-time All Star and four-time Gold Glove winner.

Controversy swirled around Lynn later in his Red Sox career concerning his long-term contract status.  He, along with other Sox stars of his time like Carlton Fisk and Rick Burleson, could not come to an agreement with the team and were either traded or allowed to leave via free agency.  While Lynn had a very productive career, he never reached the heights offensive he enjoyed with the Red Sox.  Lynn attributed his success at Fenway to the left field wall and his ability to go the other way and use the short porch to his advantage.  Lynn never batted above .300 and only recorded more than 30 doubles in a season once after leaving Boston.  He has openly expressed his regret that he did not play for the Red Sox for his entire career.

The passage of time has been kind to Lynn in the minds of Red Sox fans who witnessed his playing days with the team and fondly remember his accomplishments in a Red Sox uniform, and not the events which lead to his departure.  In 2002 Lynn was inducted in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.  He is also a frequent occupant of the Red Sox Legends Box at Fenway.  And it all began on that June night 45  years ago when a kid from California won the hearts of New England baseball fans.


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BLOGGER: 1
  1. Stop it with these reminiscing articles. You are making us realize we are not kids anymore and are actually old farts.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Night New England Fell In Love With Fred Lynn
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