Former Boston Red Sox infielder Marty Barrett: second baseman recalls 1986 season when he captured MVP honors in the American League Championship Series against the California Angels

Former Boston Red Sox infielder Marty Barrett: second baseman recalls 1986 season when he captured MVP honors in the American League Championship Series against the California Angels – Statistical Data Included

Al Doyle

FOR DECADES, THE NUMBER TWO HITTER WAS SOMEONE who struck out seldomly, bunted well, consistently executed the hit-and-run, and slapped the ball to all fields.

As a fundamentally sound player, the man in the two-hole often took pitches to allow leadoff hitters to steal bases. With a teammate in scoring position and less than two out, the number two hitter knew that a grounder to the right side would advance or score the runner even though it wouldn’t help his batting average.

When the bases were empty, the number two hitter did whatever it took to get on base for the heart of the order. Finding the right person to fill this unglamorous (but crucial) role can be a real challenge.

With the current emphasis on home runs, this breed of player has become something of an endangered species. Former Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett was a prototypical number two hitter during much of the 1980s, and he was well suited for the job.

“I sure felt comfortable hitting second,” Barrett said. “I was fortunate to have a guy like Wade Boggs hitting ahead of me. Those Red Sox teams were full of good players. With so much talent, I felt like I could kind of lay in the weeds and be overlooked by the other teams.”

Drafted out of Arizona State in the first round of the 1980 secondary draft, Barrett had 62 at-bats with Boston in 1982 and 1983 before establishing himself as an everyday player at the major league level.

“I started the ’84 season backing up (Jerry) Remy,” Barrett said. “He injured his knee about 10 games into the season, and his career was over.”

The right-handed hitting Barrett made the most of the opportunity, as he came through with a career-high .303 average.

With just 25 strikeouts in 475 at-bats, Barrett quickly established himself as an ideal number two hitter. Unlike many other players, his early role model was a contact hitter.

“I liked Tim Foli when I was younger,” Barrett recalls. “He choked up and seldom struck out. I hated striking out even in high school.”

The Barrett and Boggs duo could work opposing pitchers, wearing them down and allowing the rest of the lineup to get a good look at what they could expect when they came to bat.

“Between Boggs and me, the pitcher might throw 15 or 20 pitches to the two us at the start of the game,” Barrett recalls.

After tailing off to .266 in 1985, Barrett rebounded to hit .286 with 39 doubles, 60 RBI and 15 stolen bases for the pennant-winning 1986 Bosox.

In 625 at-bats, Barrett whiffed just 31 times in back of. Boggs, who batted .357 with 207 hits for his fourth American League batting rifle.

That season is still vividly remembered in New England, as the Red Sox rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to win the American League Championship Series against the Angels.

The fifth game was played in Anaheim, where Boston trailed 54 in the top of the ninth. The Red Sox were one strike from elimination when Dave Henderson smashed a two-run homer off Donnie Moore. The Angels rallied for a run to send the game into extra innings.

An 11th inning sacrifice fly by Henderson sent the series back to Fenway, where the Red Sox won the final two games to advance to the World Series against the Mets.

Barrett hit .367 (11-for-30) in the ALCS and was named the Most Valuable Player in the seven-game showdown. He scored four runs with five RBI.

For both Barrett and the Red Sox, the hard-fought playoff triumph led to an equally exciting World Series, where Boston was edged out in the seventh game by the Mets.

As in the ALCS, the sixth game was pivotal, but in favor of the Mets.

Down 5-3 in the bottom of the tenth inning at Shea Stadium, the Mets were a strike away from elimination.

A trio of singles, a wild pitch by relief pitcher Bob Stanley and Bill Buckner’s infamous error on a routine grounder were enough to give New York a 6-5 victory.

The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 7, but eight Mets runs late in the game killed off Boston’s hopes for their first world championship since 1917.

With 13 hits in 30 at-bats (.433) and five walks against a tough Mets staff, Barrett’s on-base percentage was a sizzling .514 in his only World Series. He played errorless defense in the post-season, handling 78 chances in 14 games that included three extra-inning contests.

“You never know when you’re going to be hot, and I was on fire in the play-offs and Series,” Barrett remarked. “The other guys were saying `Marty’s in a bubble.'”

Even the Mets noticed Barrett’s performance.

“Lenny Dykstra came up to me and said `Marty, you’re in a zone. You’re hitting the ball wherever they pitch it,'” Barrett remembers. “During the Series, I felt I could hit even the good strikes.”

He continued, “I came up in the minors with Bobby Ojeda (then a Mets pitcher), and I knew him well. He said, `Marry, you were just phenomenal.’ It’s the ultimate, to get a compliment from an opposing player.”

Barrett’s performance was largely wasted, as he scored just once during the World Series. Run producers Buckner and Jim Rice combined for a single RBI in 59 Series at-bats.

“That’s an amazing statistic,” Barrett said. “It shocks me. The only time I scored was in the last game. Buckner was batting behind me. He hit the ball solidly throughout the Series, but he was hitting the ball right at people.”

Winning the American League in dramatic fashion and losing the World Series in a heartbreaking manner meant experiencing both emotional extremes in a short time.

“Ten days before we lost the Series, we came back from being down 3-1 against the Angels,” Barrett said. “We were all the way up and all the way down the rollercoaster.”

Barrett continued as a solid number two hirer and second baseman in 1987 and 1988. He remained as one of baseball’s toughest strikeouts and hit .293 and .283 in those seasons.

“I’d say ’88 was probably my best overall season,” Barrett remarked. “I had 65 RBI with just one homer.”

Unlike many righty hitters, Barrett was able to resist swinging for home runs at the “Green Monster”, the famed 37-foot high fence that is just 310 feet down the left field line.

“It definitely tempted me,” Barrett admits, “but Walt Hriniak (the Red Sox hitting coach) wouldn’t allow it. He wanted the smaller guys to hit hard grounders and line drives.”

That philosophy was perfect for Barrett.

“The fun thing about Fenway is that it has such a huge right field,” he said. “I went the other way a lot, and it helped me. I also tried to hit doubles in the gaps.”

Barrett signed a guaranteed three-year contract in 1989 just before his career went into a tailspin.

“I had the day off three days after I signed a guaranteed contract,” he recalls. “We were beating the Blue Jays 10-0, and they came back.

“They sent me up to pinch-hit. I fouled off a bunch of pitches and hit a grounder to Kelly Gruber at third. He threw wildly to (Fred) McGriff at first. I turned to avoid him, and my knee went out.

Barrett continued: “It was the beginning of the end for me. I could still hit, but I couldn’t move the same in the field. At that level, losing a little range makes all the difference in the world.”

His average fell to .256 in 86 games, with just 12 strikeouts in 336 at-bats. Barrett hit just .226 as a part-timer (62 games, 159 ABs) in 1990, his last season in Boston.

“I asked for my release, because Jody Reed had become the regular second baseman, and I was going to be a role player.” Barrett said. “I thought I could play every day somewhere else.”

He signed with the San Diego Padres, but Barrett played just seven games in the National League.

“I had a pretty good spring training, but they moved Bip Roberts from left to start at second,” Barrett said.

His N.L. debut was somewhat out of character. “I came in to pinch-hit against Dave Righetti and hit a homer on a 3-2 pitch,” Barrett remarked. It was one of just 18 career round-trippers in 3,378 at-bats.

It was a second knee injury that ended Barrett’s playing career.

“I didn’t play for a couple of weeks, and then I got a start at second,” he said. “John Kruk took me out on a double play, and the knee was torn again.”

A minor league rehabilitation assignment proved to be enjoyable, as Barrett played for his hometown Las Vegas Stars of the Pacific Coast League. “I hit well, and it was nice to come home,” he said. “My doctor told me that the ACL had to be reconstructed, so my career was over.”

Wanting to stay in baseball, Barrett worked as a coach for the Stars from 1992 to 1994. He then tried his hand at minor league managing.

“I managed Rancho Cucamonga in the California League, and I loved it,” Barrett said. “It was really fun.”

Barrett planned to stay in baseball until he decided to spend more time with his family.

“There are lots of Mondays off in the California League, so I would come home for the day,” Barrett explained.

“I was going back to the airport with my youngest son. He had all my baseball cards out, and he was looking at them. I asked him why he was doing that, and he said `I look at the cards when I forget what your face looks like.’ That killed me.”

That led to an immediate career change. “I had already agreed to manage with the Padres in AA the next season, but I told them I couldn’t do it,” Barrett said.

“Once my kids grow up, there’s a very good chance I’ll get back in baseball.”

For now, Barrett earns a living in the red-hot Las Vegas real estate market.

“I build a few custom homes, invest in real estate, and play a lot of golf,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”

Barrett retains an affection for Boston more than a decade after his last game for the Red Sox.

“I love that city,” he declared. “The Red Sox have the greatest fans. They’re all like managers there. They can see the little things like moving runners up.”

The scrappy infielder is still remembered during his occasional visits to Boston.

“I go back to Boston once a year for a golf tournament on Cape Cod,” Barrett said. “I fly into Boston, and people see me and still shout `Hey, Marty! Nice season in ’86! They’re crazy about baseball.”

MOST HITS, WORLD SERIES

Player, Team Year Opponent G AB H BA

Bobby Richardson, Yankees 1964 Cardinals 7 32 13 .406

Lou Brock, Cardinals 1968 Tigers 7 28 13 .464

Marty Barrett, Red Sox 1986 Mets 7 30 13 .433

Billy Martin, Yankees 1953 Dodgers 6 24 12 .500

Paul Molitor, Blue Jays 1993 Phillies 6 24 12 .500

Roberto Alomar, Blue Jays 1993 Phillies 6 25 12 .480

Marquis Grissom, Braves 1996 Yankees 6 27 12 .444

Buck Herzog, Giants 1912 Red Sox 8 30 12 .400

Joe Jackson, White Sox 1919 Reds 8 32 12 .375

MOST HITS, CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Player, Team Year Opponent G AB H BA

Will Clark, Giants 1989 Cubs 5 20 13 .650

Javy Lopez, Braves 1996 Cardinals 7 24 13 .542

Mark Lemke, Braves 1996 Cardinals 7 27 12 .444

Devon White, Blue Jays 1993 White Sox 6 27 12 .444

Tim Raines, White Sox 1993 Blue Jays 6 27 12 .444

Jay Bell, Pirates 1991 Braves 7 29 12 .414

Mark Grace, Cubs 1989 Giants 5 17 11 .647

Fred Lynn, Angels 1982 Brewers 5 18 11 .611

Chris Chambliss, Yankees 1976 Royals 5 21 11 .524

Kenny Lofton, Indians 1995 Mariners 6 24 11 .458

Jose Offerman, Red Sox 1999 Yankees 5 24 11 .458

Harold Baines, A’s 1992 Blue Jays 6 25 11 .440

Chipper Jones, Braves 1996 Cardinals 7 25 11 .440

Omar Vizquel, Indians 1998 Yankees 6 25 11 .440

Roberto Alomar, Blue Jays 1992 A’s 6 26 11 .423

Marty Barrett, Red Sox 1986 Angels 7 30 11 .367

COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group