In December of 2001, the Red Sox agreed to a 4-year / $31 million contract with Johnny Damon who had played the previous year with the Oakland A’s. Damon was known to bring his left-handed bat, speed, and great outfield range to the Red Sox while, patrolling CF for the next four seasons.
What was not known, however, was how much of a cult-figure Damon would become during his stint with the Red Sox,
In his first season as a Red Sox in 2002, Damon batted .286, had 14 home runs while also stealing 31 bases. He led the league in triples and was third in infield hits. He was rewarded by being named the winner of the inaugural All-Star fans final vote joining the AL All-Star squad.
Damon became only the second player in MLB history to record 3 base hits in one inning, during his second season with the Red Sox. Damon fell a home run short of the cycle in matching a major league mark with three hits against the Florida Marlins.
The Red Sox won the AL Wild Card that season, and Damon was the catalyst hitting .273 hitting, 12 home runs, and stealing 30 bases that season.
In the ALDS, many Red Sox fans will remember the collision that ensued between Damon and Damian Jackson.
In his third season in a Red Sox uniform, 2004 proved to be the season where Damon not only chose to grow out his hair, but became a fan icon, as well as a thorn in the Yankees side.
It all started when Damon reported to Spring Training, sporting a grown out hair and a long beard that resulted in fans beginning to ask WWJDD – What Would Johnny Damon Do.
Damon was the first to coin the catch-phrase of “The Idiots” that caught on quickly around not just the team but among the fans as well. In 2004, the Red Sox outfielder was again at his offensive best hitting .304 with 20 home suns, 94 RBI’s and stealing 19 bases.
Red Sox fans will never forget the postseason run that ensued during the magical 2004 playoffs. Damon, and company, powered the Red Sox to a comeback in the ALCS , defeating the rival New York Yankees and eventually ending “the Curse.”
During this series, Johnny delivered the final thorn in the Yankees side.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAgMBIu6iVk]
In his final season in a Red Sox uniform, Damon would have his best offensive year hitting .316, hitting 10 home runs, stealing 31 bases and making the All-Star team.
Again the Red Sox made the playoffs, but this time it proved to be a short series, as they were eliminated by the eventual World Champion White Sox.
After the season, Damon shocked many when he chose not to return to the Red Sox, but instead spurn them by choosing to sign with the Yankees. Had it not been for this moment, similar to Jacoby Ellsbury, he would have been forever loved by Red Sox Nation.
Damon finished his career in 32nd place on the All-Time Run’s Scored list, scoring 1,668 runs. He also finished 7th on a list of players who hit fewer than 250 career home-runs, Damon finished with (235) while scoring over 1,000 runs.
Every player on this list, except Pete Rose, is a Hall of Famer
Most runs scored (fewer than 250 homers):
1. Ty Cobb, 2,244
2. Pete Rose, 2,165
3. Tris Speaker, 1,882
4. Eddie Collins, 1,821
5. Paul Molitor, 1,782
6. Charlie Gehringer, 1,775
7. Johnny Damon, 1,668
8. Paul Waner, 1,627
9. Lou Brock, 1,610
10. Tim Raines, 1,571
While Damon’s name will appear for the first time on the MLB Hall of Fame BBWAA Writers ballot, with the announcement on January 24th, 2018, he, along with the rest of fans, will find out if he will indeed earn induction.
As of the most recent public ballots, Damon has earned only 0.6% of the vote and would need to get to 5% in order to stay on the ballot for 2019.
While Damon may not earn election, or be able to stay on the ballot, he was a tremendous player in Bostonwho helped bring a World Series title to Red Sox Nation.