Few Red Sox All-Stars have elicited as much controversy as Mo Vaughn. An MVP, Vaughn was either loved or hated in New England. There didn’t seem to be an in-between.
Mo Vaughn played collegiate ball at Seton Hall with Craig Biggio and John Valentin, helping the Pirates to an SEC championship. He blossomed in the Boston organization, especially after hitting coach Mike Easler arrived. Known as “The Hit Man,” Easler mentored Vaughn to inch closer to the plate and feast on pitches on the outside half of the strike zone. Vaughn batted .304 as a member of the Red Sox and won the MVP Award in 1995 when he clubbed 39 homers and drove in a league-best 126 runs. The following year, “The Hit Dog” had an even better season, hitting .326 with 207 hits, 44 homers, and 143 RBI.
No one in a Boston uniform had been as beloved as Vaughn since Luis Tiant. As his stature grew with the Red Sox, Vaughn immersed himself in charity work in Boston, and flexed his muscles as a leader in the clubhouse. Not everyone in the organization liked to be reminded of Mo’s opinions, however, and when his reputation was sullied by a fight outside a strip club and a drunk driving arrest, the Sox let him flee as a free agent. He inked a six-year, $80 million deal with the Angels in 1999, the most expensive contract in baseball history at that time. He averaged 34 homers and 112 RBI in Anaheim but missed the entire 2001 season with back and knee injuries. The Halos traded him to the Mets for pitcher Kevin Appier, and immediately felt it was addition by subtraction.
“We may miss Mo’s bat, but we won’t miss his leadership,” Angels reliever Troy Percival said, “Darin Erstad is our leader.” Vaughn’s sharp tongue had alienated many in the clubhouse. The year after the trade, the Angels won the World Series. Mo played one full season for the Mets before his bulking body wore down, and he retired at the age of 35.