Nomar Garciaparra will be honored by the Red Sox in a pregame ceremony on Wednesday.
Garciaparra signed a one-day contract with the Red Sox in spring training before officially retiring, bringing an end to the career of possibly Boston's greatest shortstop of all time.
Yes, the final moments of Nomar's Red Sox playing days weren't what anyone wanted, but the six-time All-Star (five with Boston) was crucial even in his departure at the 2004 trading deadline. Without Garciaparra, the Red Sox don't have an anchor to build the team around leading up to 2004 and don't have the pieces necessary to get Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, who helped Boston win its first World Series in 86 years.
"Nomahhh" burst on the scene late in 1996, grabbing a handful of at-bats before opening 1997 as the starting shortstop. He went on to win Rookie of the Year, set a rookie record for a hitting streak at 30 games, a rookie shortstop record for home runs with 30 and a baseball record for RBIs by a leadoff hitter with 98.
Garciaparra had his fair share of moments during that year and the years that followed in Boston. Here is just a sampling:
On May 10, 1999, Nomar became just one of 13 (and at the time, one of 11) to crank two grand slams in one game. He is the only player to do it in front of his home crowd, knocking in an insane 10 RBIs because two grand slams weren't enough — he had to have an additional home run.
Against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on July 23, 2002, Nomar cranked three home runs on his birthday.
No. 5 appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2001 with the title "A Cut Above." The image quickly became a staple of teenage girls' bedrooms.
"Boy, I’m looking at someone who is going to be as good as anyone who has ever played this game. I say that, and boy, I believe it, too." That's the legendary Ted Williams praising the shortstop. Words one would remember for a long time. Alex Rodriguez also had nothing but great things to say about Nomar, once remarking that "I’m the youngest, Derek [Jeter]’s the richest and Garciaparra’s the best."
Nomar finished second in MVP voting in 1998, but his best seasons were on the way. He posted a batting average of .357 in 1999 before outdoing himself a year later with a .372 line. His consecutive batting titles were the first since Joe DiMaggio pulled off the feat.
Garciaparra was a pop culture idol, repeatedly referenced on Saturday Night Live's "The Boston Teens" sketch with Jimmy Fallon. Nomar later made a cameo on a "The Boston Teens" skit, introduced as the boyfriend of guest host Kate Hudson.
Nomar's 56 doubles in the 2002 season led the American League while posting 120 RBIs. It was his first season back from wrist surgery that ultimately derailed his career. At least for a brief moment, Nomar was back on top of the world.
After Garciaparra victimized Indians pitching in the 1998 and 1999 playoffs, he was intentionally walked in the third inning of the 1999 ALDS in Game 5, the final game of the series. Troy O'Leary went on to crank a grand slam, a moment that lives in Red Sox history. It was the same game Pedro Martinez came out of the bullpen to throw six innings for the victory.
What is your favorite Nomar memory? What do you think was his greatest moment in a Red Sox uniform?
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