By Contributor | Devon POV Mason
The Boston Red Sox franchise is known for popular personalities as a staple over the years, and “The Hit Dog” aka Mo Vaughn reigned supreme in the mid-1990s.
The Red Sox and left-handed hitters have been joined at the hip for years. From Tris Speaker and Babe Ruth (a pitcher who belted 49 homers while in Beantown) to Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski to Fred Lynn. Wade Boggs and Mike Greenwell were southpaw forces as well, but none of them brought the power and wallop that the compact, 6-1, 275-pound rocket launcher did.
The power-hitting Vaughn spent eight seasons at first base for the Red Sox and in the process, he had 230 home runs and 753 RBI’s during his career. While also batting .304 and accumulating 199 doubles.
Vaughn finished his career with 328 home runs while playing for three franchises over 12 seasons. He also finished with a .293 career batting average and 1064 career RBI’s.
The pressure to win in Boston and end the “Curse of the Bambino” fell heavily on multiple players in the 90s, with Vaughn being one of them. Vaughn put up All-Star numbers but wasn’t able to shatter the curse as he and the Red Sox only made two playoff appearances during his tenure.
Through his first couple seasons beginning in 1991, he was productive in spots. The third season is where the light really came on and he drove in 101 runs. But 1995-98 is when Vaughn really took off as a complete hitter.
He was named an All-Star three times during this span and even took home the AL MVP in 1995. Vaughn went yard 39 times, while driving in 126 runs, beating out Albert Belle and Edgar Martinez for his first and only MVP.
He only got better in 1996, and although the Red Sox missed the postseason his numbers were better than his MVP year prior. He hit 44 home runs and drove in 143 runs while batting a sizzling .346 at the plate. Despite this incredible season, he finished fifth in the MVP race. Vaughn also finished fourth in the 1998 MVP voting.
Boston might’ve been more successful during Vaughn’s years if not for their arch-nemesis New York Yankees returning to power those same exact years. A lot of the reason behind Boston’s just two playoff appearances stem from their division rival being so good as well.
Both playoff appearances ended in lopsided losses to the Uber-talented Cleveland Indians. Vaughn went a forgettable 0-14 in the 1995 playoff series. He fared much better in the 1998 series loss going 7-17 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI’s.
Consistency was always the strength of Vaughn’s game, albeit hitting for average or power, his bat was a formidable one for the Red Sox. He has 16-game hitting streaks in both 1995 and 1998. His 6 RBI game against the Royals in 1995 is still memorable. Or how bout his 3 home run day against the hated Yankees in 1997. Even with the 1998 season being his final one in Boston he started it off with a walk-off grand slam on opening day against the Mariners.
Vaughn had some run-ins with management, coupled with some off-the-field trouble and several run-ins with the media helped usher Vaughn out of “Beantown” in free agency after the 1998 season.
But prior to leaving, Big Mo spent almost a decade as a fan fave, while helping to keep those Red Sox teams competitive in a tough AL East where Derek Jeter and Joe Torre’s Yankees Dynasty was in full swing.
He was named to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2008 and became eligible for Cooperstown in 2009. He only received a paltry 1.1 percent of the votes, meaning he’d no longer be eligible for possible induction.
Despite the ups and downs, including his non-graceful exit from Boston, he’ll always be considered a franchise great. He is easily one of the top-ten-left-handed hitters in Boston Red Sox franchise history.