Photo Credit: Nancy Lane / Boston Herald
The Red Sox J.D. Martinez has tied a Red Sox first-year player home run record by Dick Stuart. This is a record that just has to be broken.
J.D. Martinez blasted his 42nd home run to tie a first-year player home run record and that means Dick Stuart. Comparing Stuart to Martinez is simply that both hit home runs and that is where it ends. Stuart was – to be blunt – a lousy player and when you add in fielding lousy becomes wretched.
To refresh younger Red Sox fans Stuart had the one item the Red Sox look for – a power right-handed bat, but that bat comes with issues. First off is Stuart’s hitting for 1963 when he led the American League in total bases, RBI, and grounding into double plays. Stuart also whiffed 144 times and in today’s baseball that may seem minor. In 1963 it was a significant total.
Stuart played in an era before the designated hitter and that means a position and for Stuart, that means first base. Just the nicknames should be enough: “Dr. Strangeglove.” “Stonefingers.” Stuart led all 1963 AL first basemen in error with 29 – no one was close. If advanced metrics existed there would be no one remotely close to Stuart’s defensive deficiencies.
How bad was it for Stuart? With six games left the Twins came to town with Harmon Killebrew challenging Stuart for the home run title. As Dennis Eckersley would say the Red Sox staff served up five cookies to Killer in the three-game series. Reports circulated that the going nowhere Red Sox staff thought that be the best revenge for a season of first base ineptness.
Stuart played one more season in Boston and slammed 33 home runs, but enough was enough and Stuart was traded away. An insight into Stuart was his autograph which he would sign with “66” between his first and last name. That was the number of home runs he hit one season in the minors. Some would say it may have been matched by his error total.
Stuart eventually played two seasons in Japan before attempting a return to the United States. Stuart signed with the Angels and hit just .157 before finishing the season in the Pacific Coast League.
Martinez is not a great defender but compared to Stuart he is Gold Glove material. I witnessed the strikeouts, towering home runs, and indifferent play for two seasons. This is one record that deservedly needs to be removed from Red Sox history books.