Number 5 is back, albeit wearing No. 1
It only took five years, but Nomar Garciaparra will finally play a baseball game at Fenway Park again tonight. He is representing the Oakland Athletics, and batting sixth as the DH. He is facing future Hall of Famer John Smoltz in the right-hander’s home debut in a Red Sox uniform.
Because there is a Nomar flavor tonight, here are five — yes, five symbolizing number five — top five Nomar moments that come to my mind.
1. The three-homer, two grand slam, 10-RBI game against the Mariners in May, 1999. What a clinic. “What a special player this kid is for Boston. We’re just lucky enough here that we get to watch him play,” manager Jimy Williams said later that night.
2. The three-homer, eight-RBI game in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader against the then Devil Rays in July 23, 2002. It was Nomar’s 29th birthday. Not a bad way to celebrate.
3. Game 4 of the 1998 Division Series, elimination game, against the Indians. After a 2-1 loss — Nomar had given the Sox the lead with a homer off Colon, but Flash Gordon coughed it up on a two-run double to David Justice — Nomar came out of the dugout after the game and saluted the fans, thanking them for all their support that season. It was a unique and classy gesture.
4. July 29, 2001. The golden moment of an otherwise forgettable season. Nomar returned following his wrist injury and thrilled the fans with a game-tying homer and a go-ahead single in a Sunday afternoon game against the White Sox.
5. June 22, 2004: Roughly 10 days after returning from the Achilles injury, Nomar provides his last great moment in a Red Sox uniform, belting a grand slam — his first homer of the season. Curt Schilling and the Red Sox went on to pound the Twins that night. Manager Ron Gardenhire walked Manny Ramirez intentionally to load them up for Nomar. Garciaparra came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Anyway, that sets the stage for the night. I think that as far as the fans are concerned, tonight will be about what Nomar did — particularly his greatness from 1997-2000. It should be a lot more about that than whatever bitterness or injuries he might have had in his last couple of months with the team. He was an icon, and, along with Pedro Martinez, helped bring a tremendous energy level and excitement to Red Sox baseball in the late 1990s.