A look back at Kevin Youkilis’ time with the Red Sox
|07.16.12 at 4:38 pm ET|
For years, Kevin Youkilis was a fan favorite among the Fenway Faithful, punctuated by his hard play, flair for the dramatic and consistency as a member of the Red Sox. On Monday night, only less than a month after being traded, he’ll make his first appearance at Fenway Park as a visitor.
Drafted by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2001 MLB draft, Youkilis spent three seasons in the minors before getting called up to the Red Sox in 2004. He spent nine seasons with the club, posting numbers of 133 home runs, 564 RBIs, 494 walks with a .287 batting average, .388 on-base percentage and .875 OPS. He was also named an All-Star three times and earned a Gold Glove before being dealt to the White Sox last month.
As Youkilis returns to Fenway for the first time as a visitor, here’s a look at some of his most memorable moments during his time with the Red Sox:
– Youkilis earned the affection of the Red Sox fanbase within the first game that he donned the uniform on May 15, 2004. With regular starting third baseman Bill Mueller placed on the disabled list, Youkilis was immediately called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to take his place in Toronto.
Batting eighth against Blue Jays pitcher and 1996 Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, Youkilis connected in his second at-bat for his first major league hit, a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead that earned him the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout. With the homer, he became the seventh player in club history to hit a home run in his first game. He finished the game 2-for-4.
– Youkilis had always been a poster boy for hard work ethic, whether it was working counts, fouling off pitch after pitch or legging out hits, which earned the admiration of Red Sox Nation. Never was that more apparent than during a game against the Indians on May 28, 2007, when Youkilis smacked a fastball to the triangle in centerfield at Fenway. After the ball made a strange bounce, Youkilis turned on the jets and motored his way around the bases for what turned out to be the first inside the park home run of his career to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.
“It was just funny watching him run,” joked Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia after the game.
– Youkilis turned in his best statistical season with the Red Sox in 2008, when he finished as one of the best hitters in the league. He completed the year batting .312 with 29 home runs, 115 RBIs and a .958 OPS. He earned his first All-Star team selection (starting at first base) in his first year on the ballot, won the Hank Aaron Award – which is annually given to the top hitter in each league as voted by fans and media – and even finished third in AL MVP voting.
The first baseman was also at the top of his class defensively. During his impressive 2008 season, Youkilis broke the major league record for most consecutive games without an error by a first baseman (194 games). He also later set a new record that season when he fielded his 1,701st consecutive defensive chance without an error on April 27, 2008, a record previously held by Stuffy McInnis from 1921 to 1922.
– A sensational Red Sox career wasn’t without controversy for Youkilis, however. On June 5, 2008, tensions rose between Youkilis and Manny Ramirez in the dugout, leading to a scuffle that forced them to be separated. One grainy piece of footage caught by the cameras at NESN revealed Ramirez apparently taking a swing at Youkilis, but no reason as to why the two confronted each other was fully explained.
Ramirez was later traded that season and Youkilis took his spot in the order as the cleanup hitter.
“We have two different approaches to the game. Winning and losing isn’t life and death to Manny,” Youkilis said of Ramirez in 2009.
In 2009, Youkilis was again involved in a scuffle, this time involving him and an opposing player. On Aug. 11, 2009, Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello nailed Youkilis in the back with a pitch, prompting the first baseman to charge the mound and a bench-clearing brawl to ensue. Both players were ejected from the game and Youkilis was handed a five-game suspension.
– Timely hits were also a part of Youkilis’ Red Sox resume. On April 29, 2008, he broke a scoreless game with a game-winning walk-off single in the ninth inning against the Blue Jays that scored David Ortiz for the 1-0 victory.
Then, on April 24, 2009, Youkilis delivered more heroics. In the bottom of the 11th inning of a 4-4 game against the Yankees, Youkilis turned on an offering from Damaso Marte and sent it over the Green Monster seats for a walk-off solo home run that gave the Red Sox a 5-4 victory.
– During the 2011 offseason, during the height of Youkilis’ popularity, car dealer Herb Chambers put together a commercial that included Youkilis and singer Biz Markie in which they sampled his song, “Just A Friend,” to include the lyrics, “Youk, you got what I need.”
– Youkilis wasn’t just clutch during the regular season. In fact, he was arguably at his best during the postseason, where he was a big factor in helping the Red Sox claim their 2007 World Series championship. Mostly a bystander during the 2004 title run, Youkilis set records in 2007. In the 2007 ALCS against the Indians, he set records with a .500 batting average, 10 runs and 14 hits in the seven-game series.
In 29 career games and 125 career plate appearances in the postseason as a member of the Red Sox, Youkilis hit .306, six home runs and 17 RBIs with a .944 OPS.
– Youkilis’ most memorable moment may have saved itself for last. With trade speculation mounting in light of third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ breakout rookie season, Youkilis had one last memory for the Fenway Faithful in what turned out to be his final game in a Red Sox uniform.
In the seventh inning against the Braves on June 24, Youkilis displayed the heart he had showed Boston for so long as he raced around the bases for an RBI triple. Manager Bobby Valentine – who was told earlier in the day by general manager Ben Cherington that a trade involving Youkilis was looming – then pulled him out of the game, prompting an emotional farewell and curtain call as he exited Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox for the last time.
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