BOSTON — Few have ever burst onto the scene quite like Fred Lynn did in 1975.
During that memorable season, Lynn was a daily highlight film at the plate and in center field. He formed the “Gold Dust Twins” along with fellow rookie Jim Rice and the Red Sox found themselves in the World Series. Lynn became the first player in history to be named Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. Nobody did it again until Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
And there would be more greatness in Lynn throughout the years, especially his Red Sox years — which ended abruptly with an unpopular trade to the Angels following the 1980 season.
As a member of the Red Sox, Lynn slashed .308/.383/.520 with 124 homers, 521 RBIs and was 6-for-6 in All-Star appearances during his Boston career. In a 17-year career, Lynn was a nine-time All-Star with four Gold Glove Awards and smashed 306 homers to go with a .283 average.
Here are 10 moments that helped defined Lynn’s career in celebration of his 70th birthday on Thursday.
1) All-Star grand slam in 1983
When you are the only person in baseball history to do something, that is bound to become your top moment. Though Lynn did terrific things in the regular season and the postseason, he will always be defined by his historic moment at Comiskey Park when he smashed the first — and still only — grand slam in All-Star Game history. The blast came against Giants lefty Atlee Hammaker and propelled the American League to a 13-3 romp that snapped a string of dominance in which the National League had won 19 out of 20.
2) Eruption in Detroit
The coming-out-party for Lynn as a budding superstar had to be the night of June 18 in that rookie year of ’75 when the left-handed hitter with the sweet swing clubbed three homers, a triple and a single to go with 10 RBIs at Tiger Stadium. His 16 total bases in that contest still represent a single-game record for a Red Sox player. Boston pounded the Tigers, 15-1.
3) Getting the Game 6 party started
Game 6 of the 1975 World Series is on the short list of the most compelling contests in baseball history. It was Lynn who got this party started Fenway Park by smashing a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning against Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine. Cincinnati would eventually turn that 3-0 deficit into a 6-3 lead. But Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk came back with monumental homers turning it into an epic 7-6 win in 12 innings for Boston. Though the late-game dramatics will always be remembered, perhaps they wouldn’t have been possible without the early salvo from Lynn.
4) Lynn saves Tiant, Sox in Game 4
If the homer in Game 6 was Lynn’s defining offensive moment from the only World Series he ever played in, his sensational, running catch to help save Luis Tiant to preserve a pulsating victory in Game 4 goes down as his signature defensive play in that series. In the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox had the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out. Ken Griffey Sr. belted a line drive that seemed to have extra bases written all over it. But Lynn got a great jump and made a tremendous snag as Boston hung on for a 7-6 victory that tied the Fall Classic at 2.
If 1975 is the season that will always define Lynn, ’79 is the one in which he put up his most impressive statistics. In his penultimate season with the Red Sox, Lynn had league-leading totals in batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.423), slugging percentage (.637) and OPS (1.059 OPS). He added career highs in runs (116), homers (39) and RBIs (122). And there was yet another big Lynn moment on the national stage when he hit a two-run homer off an all-time great in Steve Carlton to give the AL an early 3-2 lead in the All-Star Game at Seattle’s Kingdome.
6) 1982 ALCS MVP
Lynn’s postseason heroics were not limited to his time in Boston. He had one great — albeit abbreviated — October run for the Angels in 1982. Though the Brewers came back from an 0-2 series deficit to beat the Angels in five games, Lynn achieved the rarity of being named the MVP of that series despite playing for the losing team. Lynn went 11-for-18 (.611 average) with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs.
7) Yet another ASG homer
With Lynn’s time winding down in Boston, he still had another big moment in him when he smashed his third career homer in All-Star Game competition. This one was the 1980 Midsummer Classic at Dodger Stadium, and Lynn took Bob Welch deep for a two-run shot in the fifth that snapped a scoreless tie. The legendary Vin Scully made the call.
8) Collision and sensational catch
When Lynn was in hot pursuit of the baseball, a collision was just a minor nuisance. Take the night of Sept. 21, 1982, when Lynn roared back and jumped at the wall to try to take extra bases away from Kansas City’s Amos Otis. Angels left fielder Brian Downing had similar ideas and crashed into Lynn. Somehow, Lynn managed to hang on to the baseball. Downing got the worst of the collision but was in the lineup the next day.
9) Lynn belts No. 300
Though few people will ever think of Lynn as a Detroit Tiger, that is the team he was playing for when he smashed the 300th homer of his career. The rocket off the façade of the lower deck in right was struck on Sept. 4, 1989, and came off of Royals ace Bret Saberhagen. It was the final home run for Lynn in Detroit. He would hit his final six playing for his hometown San Diego Padres in ’90.
10) Lynn elected to Red Sox Hall of Fame
Initially, Lynn’s career seemed to be on a Hall of Fame track. But thanks to his departure from the Red Sox — Lynn had a swing built perfectly for Fenway — and some injuries, that never came to fruition. He did, however, get elected into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2002. That was a sweet moment for Lynn, the start of his reconciliation with his original team. Though he lives in Southern California, Lynn is a frequent visitor to Fenway Park.