When Norfolk manager Gary “Mugsy” Allenson walks into the clubhouse entrance at McCoy Stadium each year, he is greeted by images of his younger self.
Allenson was the International League MVP when he caught for Pawtucket in 1978, and there are several photos of him on the walls outside of the clubhouses. Additionally, one of his autographed balls is part of an exhibit devoted to members of the PawSox “Silver Anniversary Team” which was selected in 1997.
“I walk down that hallway every time we’re here and I get a few chuckles when I see the pictures and stuff,” Allenson told me. “My God, that’s 32 years ago now. Time flies.
“My players say, ‘You were the MVP in this league? How many home runs did you hit?’ But it wasn’t the offense; I believe it was the defense that allowed me to win. I hit 20 home runs but I think we picked off 27 or 28 guys, including 17 off of first base. Our first baseman Wayne Harer – who happened to be the best man at my wedding – had a great awareness of when to look for things and we were very instinctual about looking for plays. It was a special year for me.”
Allenson batted .299 – the only time in his career that he hit better than .266 for a full season. However, he might have topped .300 if he had followed Ted Williams’ 1941 example and played on the final day of the year.
“We went into the last day of the regular season and the playoffs were starting the next day,” Allenson said. “(PawSox manager) Joe Morgan walked up to me and said, ‘Do you need a day off? You’re hitting .302.’ I was tired because I had been catching every day, so for me it was more about getting a break than sitting on .300, but I have to admit . . . .302 sounded pretty nice, so I said, ‘Sure I’ll take a day off.’ A few days later before the second game of the playoffs, the official league stats came out and it turned out that I hit .299. It’s a little more precise nowadays than it was back then.”
Allenson didn’t make his major league debut for Boston until the following season and I’ve always wondered why he didn’t get promoted to the big leagues in September following his MVP season. As it turns out, he did.
“I did go up for the last three weeks of the season, but I didn’t play,” Allenson said. “The Red Sox waited until the Governor’s Cup playoffs were over. I remember being in the clubhouse and (Red Sox Vice President) Ed Kenney Sr. came up to me and said, ‘Sorry about the game Mugsy, but you’re going to the big leagues.’ I honestly did not think about that the whole year – maybe I was that naďve, I don’t know.
“I was there for that incredible finish between the Red Sox and Yankees. Every day we would all be scoreboard watching. That was the amazing thing about Fenway – watching the scoreboard. They would take the number down on the Yankees’ side and we would all go, ‘Make it a small one, make it a small one.’ I remember on that last day of the season, we needed to win and the Yankees needed to lose and their score went up really early – Cleveland waxed the Yankees, I think it was 9-2, so we knew right away that if we won there would be a one game playoff.”
That day, Luis Tiant shutout Toronto 5-0, and the Red Sox and Yankees met the following afternoon to decide the 1978 AL East champion.
You know the rest, and yes, Gary Allenson was in uniform when Bucky “Bleeping” Dent hit his home run.
“It just floated into the net,” Allenson said. “It hung up there forever. But the play of the game was Piniella catching that ball on one hop in right field. He completely lost the ball in the sun – if that ball gets by him we would have been shaking hands instead of those guys. Baseball is a funny game.
“The playoff that day was surreal. There were cops on horses in the bullpens and there were people who were borderline insane near us at the end of that game. If the outcome had been different, it would have been interesting to see if we could have actually made it back to the clubhouse. It was fun.”
It’s a trip down memory lane for Allenson. One he gets to make every time he walks through the halls of McCoy Stadium.
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22-year-old Felix Doubront picked up a loss in his McCoy Stadium debut on Friday night, but was impressive in a 3-0 loss to Norfolk.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Doubront allowed 1 run in 5 innings and recorded 6 strikeouts. His fastball was consistently clocked in the 93-94 mph range, and he got numerous swings-and-misses on his changeup and curve.
Doubront allowed 8 hits, but all of them were singles and 5 of the hits were ground balls that found holes. He did not allow a fly ball until the fifth inning.
Baseball America had Felix ranked as Boston’s #18 prospect going into the season. Our friends at soxprospects.com update their rankings on a regular basis and have Doubront all the way up to #6.
If you would like to check him out, Doubront’s next start at McCoy is scheduled for next Wednesday vs. Charlotte.
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The PawSox face Norfolk on Saturday at 6:05 in Game 3 of their 4-game series. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
And don’t forget “PawSox Insider” on Saturday afternoon from 2:00 – 3:00 on many of our radio affiliates. You can also listen online at http://www.whjjam.com/main.html
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