Don Baylor wasn’t a Hall of Famer, and in fact, he made just one All-Star team.
But as news spread Monday of his passing at age 68, it was clear Baylor’s impact transcended all he did on the baseball field.
But it’s not like Baylor, considered one of the kindest men in the baseball, didn’t do anything between the lines.
And he made a lasting impact in his short time with the Boston Red Sox. Few players added as much value to the 1986 pennant-winning Sox club as Baylor did.
His impact was even more apparent in the playoffs, especially in the American League Championship against the California Angels. Baylor had a strong series, capped by an enormous two-run home run in the ninth inning of Game 5. With the Red Sox trailing 5-2, he hit a two-run homer to get Boston within one.
Ultimately, however, it was Dave Henderson’s two-run home run later in the inning that everyone remembers from that game, making Baylor’s round-tripper one of the most overlooked dingers in Red Sox history.
Here are some others.
Bernie Carbo — Game 6, 1975 World Series
There is no Carlton Fisk waving it fair if not for Bernie Carbo. His pinch-hit home run tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning and set the stage for Fisk to hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history in the 12th inning.
Don Baylor — Game 5, 1986 American League Championship Series
Down to their final two outs in the season, Baylor kept the magical ’86 campaign alive by taking Mike Witt deep to get Boston within one run.
Troy O’Leary (twice) — Game 5, 1999 American League Division Series
Pedro Martinez was the star of Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. But the only reason the Red Sox were still in the game when Martinez entered — it was 8-7 at the time — was O’Leary’s grand slam in the third inning. He did it again in the seventh, breaking an 8-8 tie with a three-run home run and giving Martinez more than enough run support.
Trot Nixon — Game 3, 2003 ALDS
The Red Sox lost the first two games of the series and had scored just two runs in the last 24 innings against Oakland’s vaunted pitching staff when Nixon came to the plate in the 11th inning of Game 3. Nixon went deep to center for the walk-off, kicking off the comeback and setting the stage for an epic Game 5 win a few days later.
Bill Mueller — Walk-off home run vs. Yankees on July 24, 2004
In late July of 2004, the Red Sox needed a spark. They’d get the necessary overhaul at the deadline with the shocking trade of Nomar Garciaparra, but a week earlier, they played arguably their most important game of the season. The Red Sox fought the Yankees early, but they still needed to win the game to really make an impact. Enter Mueller, who capped the wild day at the Fens with a walk-off home run. The Red Sox went 45-20 the rest of the way.
David Ortiz — Game 7, 2004 ALCS
The Red Sox fought like hell to force a Game 7 after losing the first three games of the series, but Game 7 is a crapshoot. With two outs in the first inning, Kevin Brown looked like he might get out of the inning unscathed, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Not on Ortiz’s watch. Ortiz slammed a two-run homer to right, taking any early pressure off the Red Sox and allowing them to continue their momentum from the previous four games en route to a 10-3 laugher to seal the deal.
Mark Bellhorn — Game 4, 2004 World Series
Who knows how the 2004 World Series turns out if the Red Sox don’t win Game 1? Bellhorn, in general, is an overlooked player in Red Sox history, hitting clutch home runs in Games 6 and 7 of the 2004 ALCS. But the biggest blast came in Game 1 of the World Series when he broke the tie with this shot off Pesky’s Pole.
Bobby Kielty — Game 4, 2007 World Series
With this swing of the bat, Kielty ensured he’d be one of the most obscure trivia answers in Red Sox history. The August waiver pickup belted this shot to left to pad the Red Sox lead to four, a cushion they’d need as they held on for a 4-3 win to complete the sweep.
Mike Napoli — Game 3, 2013 ALCS
After struggling to find an offensive groove through two games, the Red Sox again found themselves being quieted by the Tigers in a pivotal Game 3. Justin Verlander was dominating, but John Lackey matched him zero for zero. Then, Napoli came to the plate in the seventh and on Verlander’s 100th pitch of the game — a 96-mph offering — Napoli crushed the game-winning home run to deep left. Boston went on to win the game, the series and the World Series, but this shot is forgotten because of David Ortiz’s Game 2 grand slam.
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