On this day 20 years ago, Red Sox SS Nomar Garciaparra was named American League Rookie of the Year. Nomar became just the sixth player to win the award unanimously as he posted one of the greatest rookie seasons in Boston’s rich history.
“No-Mah” hit 30 home runs, had a Sox rookie record 209 hits, and drove in 98 runs, which set an MLB record for RBIs by a leadoff man & most dingers by a rookie SS. Garciaparra stole 22 bases and led the AL in triples with 11. Batting .306, Nomar mixed in a 30 game hitting streak which set the AL rookie record. He competed in the Home Run Derby, participated in his first of 6 All-Star games he was selected to, won the Silver Slugger Award for AL SS and finished 8th in MVP voting. Garciaparra became a fan favorite and is still loved throughout Red Sox Nation.
I turned 10 years old a month after Nomar received this award. I remember cutting out newspapers and asking my Mom to help me tape them to the walls of my room. I changed my baseball number to 10 because 5 was taken and I thought, we’ll just double it up. That’s dumb kid logic, but I did it for Nomar. I remember listing Nomar has my favorite baseball player on Little League Picture Day so they could add that “fact” to my baseball card. I played SS all the way up until High School because I loved Nomar. Hell, in my teenage years I named so many failed pot-plants Nomar. (I was a weird teenager.) When the Red Sox traded him in ‘04 I was CRUSHED. Obviously, the events that took place in October of 2004, breaking the hearts of Yankees fans and, more importantly, 86 year old curses tend to make things better.
Nomar is the greatest SS in Red Sox history and Boston hasn’t had a shortstop as good since. He was a lifetime .313 hitter and, at the time, Nomar was considered to be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He probably would’ve been first ballot, but he was plagued by injuries starting in 2001. Nomar’s refusal to put PEDs in his body, at a time when EVERYONE was doing it, makes Nomar one of the best players of that era. Although he did win NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2006, he never reached that ceiling that seemed to be miles high. Watching him and Pedro revolutionize what it was like to be a Red Sox fan is something I’ll always appreciate Nomar for.
So here’s to you, Nomar! Happy Anniversary and thank you for everything!