Moving along in Fenway Pastoral’s periodic, not quite daily, but definitely every other day or probably at least twice weekly tribute to Movember, today’s throwback Red Sox entrant is Mike “The Gator” Greenwell.
Greenwell played his entire career in Boston, spanning from 1985 until 1996. Looking back at Greenwell’s career totals is underwhelming and does no justice to just how high expectations for him were back in the day. At age 24, he came in second place in 1988 in AL MVP voting to Jose Canseco. (Greenwell has been understandably vocal about his view that Canseco should be stripped of his award in light of the myriad revelations regarding Jose’s steroid-propelled career that have come out over the past decade.)
Back when the photos provided in this column were taken, Greenwell was keeping his ‘stache close and tight. After all, the unencumbered flamboyance of the 1980s were transitioning into the calculatedly cool 1990s (Hammer Time, baby!) and Greenwell was so far doing the Fenway left-field lineage proud. There was no reason to rock the boat too much. He figured to be the bridge to the Millennium, ably receiving the same left-fielder torch passed on from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski in 1960 and, later on, from Yaz to Jim Rice.
It was a lot of pressure and a very large helping of unfair expectation to be heaped on anybody. Not surprisingly, Greenwell’s tenure marked the end of Boston’s eventual streak of successive Hall of Fame left fielders at three. Getting on base was never Greenwell’s problem – he had a career OBP of .368 – but staying healthy and on the field turned out to be a challenge and Mike retired from the major leagues at the age of 32.