Major League Baseball continuing to turn fans away right now has forced seam heads to head to the vault. ESPN gave us “Long Gone Summer” last Sunday and a trip down memory lane for the 1998 baseball season. This Sunday it was MLB Network giving us a documentary called “Junior”. Junior of course is Ken Griffey Junior, an iconic player from the minute he was drafted. For me as a kid Griffey had one of the most fun swings to imitate. The only other swings you can compare it to growing up playing wiffle ball in the 90’s are Barry Bonds or Garry Sheffield. Everyone did the Griffey swing.
This documentary got me thinking about Boston’s larger-than-life hero that year, the Hit Dog. Mo Vaughn had an incredible season that I don’t think gets nearly enough love all these years later.
GRIFFEY’S MARINERS OVERSHADOW MO VAUGHN
Griffey hit 40 home runs by August before the MLB strike hit in 1994. In 95 Griffey helped lead the Mariners to the A.L. West and a win over the Yankees in the ALDS. But, he also missed a ton of time with a broken wrist. At the time he was the most recognizable player in the game in 1995. But around here we had our own superstar.
The ‘Hit Dog’ Mo Vaughn was the 1995 MVP, beating out Albert Belle to win it. Children (me) listed him and Roger Clemens as their favorite players when Warrendale Little League made fake baseball cards for us.
Mo was incredible in 1995. Vaughn hit .300 that season with 39 home runs and 126 RBI. Meanwhile, Griffey played just 72 games due to the injury and hit 17 home runs. However, the Mariners were the hottest story in baseball.
Further proof of that was in the actual MVP voting. Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez both finished in the top five. They were both phenomenal players, but Mo basically carried the Sox on his back that season.
Perhaps the wildest number of all is Mo Vaughn had 11 steals in 1995, while Griffey had just four.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED IN 1995?
The Sox won 86 games and the A.L. East by seven games over the Yankees. Seattle clinched the A.L. West in thrilling fashion over the Angels. Cleveland was a 100-win freight train and won the A.L. Central by an absurd 30 games. It sounds weird, but the Yankees were the Wild Card.
In the National League it was the Braves, Mets, Dodgers and Rockies in the postseason. Eventually the Indians swept the Sox, but the real glaring problem was an 0-for-14 from Vaughn in that series. As a team the Sox only had 21 hits When you’re lineup has Mo Vaughn and Jose Canseco in it you’d expect much better.
The Indians eventually lost the World Series to the Braves, while Mo played here for three more years before.
A NOD TO THE HIT DOG
This piece was mostly just a chance for me to relieve one of my favorite years in baseball. Mo was an absolute icon in this area. Upon seeing the Griffey documentary I thought it’d be cool to relive that special season. I was only seven-years old but it was the first season I truly remember falling in love with the Sox and he was the main reason.
The 1995 Mariners story is a great one and should be celebrated. Young teams should strive to make the postseason push they did. However, as Red Sox fans let’s not forget that dominant summer of the Hit Dog.