Kevin Millar was never an All-Star. He was dependable offensively, someone who could always come through in the clutch, but he wasn’t one of the big names. He wasn’t David Ortiz or Curt Schilling or Manny Ramirez. But for the Red Sox, and especially Red Sox Nation, he was so much more than a player on the roster.
Photo courtesy of Boston.com
Gabe Kapler wrote a little piece on the WEEI blog yesterday that really conjures up the essence of Millar not only as a baseball player, but also as a friend. He’s someone who is hard on himself, but offers every last bit of support and an obsessive knowledge of the game for everyone else. And reading about him from that point of view makes you realize just how much of an impact he had on the Red Sox.
During the 2003 and 2004 seasons in particular, Millar was more talked about for his antics than his ball playing. He coined the phrase “Cowboy Up” in 2003 and was the one who dubbed the 2004 team “the idiots.” But his silliness was never a distraction; it was a unifying force. As is clear from Kapler, that team loved him as much as the fans did. He was a huge part of bringing them all together.
To say that Millar is one of the key reasons the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 would not be a stretch. He kept up the morale on an underdog team. He kept the fans interested. He went around the field before Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship series at Fenway Park warning “Don’t let us win tonight,” rallying for the comeback that would eventually happen. He called out Dan Shaughnessy for calling them frauds. And then, with his help, they came back.
Now, he’s a cult hero in Red Sox history, and his presence brings a lot of excitement to fans and players alike. He helped lead the biggest toast in history with Pedro Martinez, in a very confusing and hilarious display on top of the Red Sox dugout that he had to end with “I think we’re done. This is awkward now.” He calls himself “The Real One-Five” (and heckles current one-five Dustin Pedroia about it on Twitter) and is a great personality and analyst on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk.”
A personality like Millar’s is exactly what this season’s team is missing. Pedroia is a good fill-in for number 15, but he’s not as candid. It might be that he’s too much of a superstar. But one thing's for sure, after everything Millar did for the team, it would be great to see him back with the Sox in some capacity.