Ellsbury Is Latest Star To Swap Red Socks For Pinstripes

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After helping the Boston Red Sox to a 2013 World Series title, Jacoby Ellsbury is headed to arch-nemesis the New York Yankees. (Elise Amendola/AP)

It worked out splendidly for Wade Boggs, who won multiple batting titles with the Red Sox but had to join the Yankees to win a World Series, after which he was free to return to his home in Florida and finish his Hall of Fame career in relative obscurity with Tampa Bay.

It worked out well for Roger Clemens, too. Like Boggs, with the Red Sox he won everything he was eligible to win except a World Series. Then, after a brief but impressive stint with the Blue Jays, he became a champion in New York. Or sort of a champion. Kind of depends on whether you believe that the guy who visited his home with a bag full of steroids was only there to inject Mrs. Clemens in preparation for a photo shoot, or something like that.

It worked out okay for Luis Tiant. He joined the Yankees a year too late to win a ring, but he won 21 games for them over two years after winning 121 more games than that for the Sox.

Of those three, Tiant always seemed to me the most inappropriately dressed when he was wearing pinstripes.

Boggs and Clemens, both great players, seemed to me comfortable products of the age in which ballplayers had become transients and only children failed to understand that even heroes were commodities subject to the whims of speculators known as general managers.

There was more to Luis Tiant than that, or at least I chose to see it that way. Clemens was an attraction as a pitcher. Boggs was an attraction as a hitter. Luis Tiant was an attraction as a winner, and as a personality as well. When his teammates hung their heads, Tiant shouted for the ball. When his father, once a star pitcher himself, was finally allowed out of Cuba to visit his son at Fenway Park, Luis Tiant wept unselfconsciously. When he was stopped for exceeding the speed limit and asked what he thought he was doing, he explained to the officer that he was "bringing some heat." His windup was a curious contraption cobbled together out of parts that didn't look as if they should fit. His triumph was illusions: the illusion that he could still throw hard, the illusion that after cocking his hip nearly to the point of dislocation and turning his back on the plate, apparently in order to say something to a friend  in the bleachers, he might not ever actually let go of the ball.

Will Red Sox fans have cause to rue the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury, now with the Yankees? Who knows? It's December. For me the news caused barely a ripple. Regarding transactions, that's kind of the way it's been since they let Luis Tiant get away in 1978.

This program aired on December 4, 2013.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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