Mike Greenwell

Mike GreenwellThe Boston Red Sox had a nearly uninterrupted string of brilliance in left field for decades. From 1940 to 1960, save for the time that he missed due to two stints in the U.S. Marines, Ted Williams was in left field for Boston, winning six batting titles, three MVPs, and two triple crowns. Then came Carl Yastrzemski for more than a decade until he was switched to first base and designated hitter. He won three batting titles, an MVP, and a triple crown in 1967. Yaz was followed by Jim Rice, who manned left field for 13 seasons through 1987, winning three home run titles and an MVP in 1978. In 1988 Ricehanded the baton to Mike Greenwell, who didn’t stand a chance at following those Hall of Famers. But he still managed a fine career.

At first, Greenwell did a splendid job of carrying the torch: he batted .328 his rookie year and .325 the next season with 119 runs batted in. As a line-drive left-handed hitter, he was well-suited for Fenway Park, where he hit .312 in his 12-year career (869 OPS), as opposed to .294 (794 OPS) on the road. Greenwell spent his entire career in a Boston uniform, hitting .303 through 1996. Then, at the age of 32 he surprisedthe Red Sox when he signed a free agent contract to play baseball in Japan for the largest amount ever paid to an American-born player. But Japan wasn’t lucky for him: he hurt himself in spring training in 1997 and then got injuredagain a week into the season. He played only seven games in the Nippon Baseball League, returned to the United States with his bad back, and never played pro ball again.