I first became aware of Trot Nixon when the Red Sox drafted him in the first round in 1993. He was only a year older than I was, and he seemed like the can’t-miss prospect who would revive the fortunes of a flagging franchise and lead the team to glory in the 1990s.
That was both true and false.
Trot Nixon put up surprisingly pedestrian major league numbers, hitting .274 with 137 home runs in 11+ seasons, mostly with the Sox (110 games with the Indians and Mets to close out his career). He was never an All-Star, never really even close. He did hit .306 with 28 jacks in 2003, and in the ALDS that postseason he ignited the rally against the Athletics, coming back from two games to none to win the series. Oh, and in the 2004 World Series, Nixon hit .357. He was a big-stage player.
He was also the pioneer of the Dirt Dogs. He was a filthy-uniform gamer, and we loved his headfirst style, his tar-encrusted helmet, his take-no-prisoners approach to Fenway Park. A hell of a high school quarterback in North Carolina, he was state athlete of the year in both football and baseball his senior year in high school. He brought gridiron grit to the diamond, and after the Clemens/Boggs me-first era, his team-first ethos was a welcome balm. He was a huge part of that epic 2004 comeback and title, and it was his personality and toughness that inspired Millar and Varitek and the rest of the “cowboy-up” mentality.
Trot Nixon never did become a five-tool Hall of Famer. But he was a champion. And in New England we love our champions.