After coming up short in 1996 and losing Roger Clemens in the ensuing offseason, the Red Sox badly needed some new blood to kickstart their quest to become contenders in 1997.
Enter rookie Nomar Garciaparra.
Now a household name, the six-time All-Star shortstop was relatively unknown in '97 — he played in only 24 games with the Sox in '96. But he quickly changed that with one of the best rookie seasons in Red Sox and major league history.
Garciaparra won the AL Rookie of the Year unanimously thanks to an unbelievable stat line: 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, a .306 batting average and 22 stolen bases.
But the rest of the Sox lineup had a hard time keeping up with the young leadoff hitter and, without Clemens, the rotation struggled, leading to a 78-84 finish.
Clemens made his return to Fenway Park in July with his new team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and he struck out 16 batters en route to a 3-1 Blue Jays win.
While the Sox struggled on the field, management made moves off the field to ensure future success, acquiring the likes of future Sox captain Jason Varitek and pitcher Derek Lowe before the July 31 trade deadline.
In April, Jackie Robinson's No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball. The Sox honored the number by placing it alongside the team's retired numbers on the right-field facade.