New England Sports 366, #1: Marty Barrett
Updated: Feb 20, 2022
2020 is certain to be a year of tension and conflict as our national political drama builds. For a brief daily diversion, I’ll be posting a profile of a New England sports figure who I rooted for as a kid, who my kids root for now, or who I’ve enjoyed reading about from the past.
As I thought about where to start this project, my mind kept turning back to my first favorite player. When I was nine or ten in the mid-eighties and just starting to watch sports with any awareness, the Red Sox were my first love. One of my earliest vivid sports memories comes from the fall of 1986, when I was eleven, watching the ball roll through Buckner’s legs at Shea Stadium.
My first favorite player was a linchpin on that star-crossed 1986 team. In a world of swaggering sluggers, Marty Barrett looked like a junior high math teacher. Yet he played second base as well as anyone, pulling off the hidden ball trick three times in his nine-year Red Sox career. Barrett was a gifted bunter who lead the AL in sacrifices three years in a row, and he almost never struck out (209 times in 3378 at-bats). I loved his heady play (including a magic double-pump slide into second against the Orioles). I loved that he was the ALCS MVP in 1986 and could have been World Series MVP had Game 6 ended differently, hitting .433 in the Fall Classic (people will say Bruce Hurst, but I would have voted for Marty).
Barrett’s last game with the Sox came in the last game of the 1990 ALCS against Oakland. Roger Clemens was ejected in the second inning for arguing with the home plate umpire, and in solidarity with his teammate Barrett threw big water jugs out of the dugout onto the field and got himself ejected too.
Marty Barrett is in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, and would remain my favorite player until a guy named Pedro rolled around a few years later. Barrett made me want to play second base, and helped make me love baseball. I wound up as a mediocre catcher for a few years, but I still love baseball thirty years later. Thanks, Marty.