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Jacoby Ellsbury and the return to Fenway Park of Yankees past

Ellsbury is far from the first Red Sox great-turned-Yankee to return to Fenway Park. How did his predecessors perform?


During the 2013-14 off-season, Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury departed the team that drafted him in favor of the Yankees on a seven-year, $153 million contract. It was a unique moment in the rivalry's history, as never before had a member of a World Series-winning Red Sox team immediately left them to join the Yankees. Such a change will surely lead to an interesting reaction at Fenway Park when Ellsbury takes the field there for the first time as a Yankee. Although Ellsbury was the first to leave a championship team, numerous Yankees of recent years past have been former Red Sox who were greeted with a... mixed reaction, at best.

Keep in mind that yes, I do know that other former Red Sox like Sparky Lyle and Red Ruffing also returned to Fenway, but they were mostly unknowns when they were traded from Boston, unlike these players. Additionally, yes, Babe Ruth also returned to Fenway immediately after his infamous trade, but we don't know much more other than the fact that he went 2-for-4 with a double on April 19, 1920. Anyway, on to the recent "traders"...

Johnny Damon

May 1, 2006: 0-for-4

After famously declaring that he would never play for the Yankees, the bearded leadoff man for Boston's 2004 championship team decided to change his tone when the Red Sox didn't give him much of a return offer during the 2005-06 off-season. The Yankees waited him out to get his contract lower, even amusingly declaring that they were fine going forward with friggin' Bubba Crosby as their center fielder, and eventually, Damon signed with them in early January on a four-year, $52 million deal. Given his previous declaration, many Red Sox fans were furious, and though some fans still cheered, the crowd reaction was more of a collective boo.

The eventual story of the game was David Ortiz destroying a three-run homer off another former Boston player, Mike Myers, deep into the windy Boston night, a shot that probably would have gone 500 feet had the weather been fine. The Yankees lost 7-3, Damon went hitless, and the Red Sox fans went home happy. Of course, it was Damon who had the last laugh, as his team made the playoffs, and Boston failed to make it while finishing below second place for the first time since 1997.

Roger Clemens

July 31, 1999: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 40 GSc

It wasn't technically the Rocket's first visit back to Fenway since leaving the team in the so-called "twilight of his career," as then-Boston GM Dan Duquette said. He pitched two Cy Young Award-winning seasons with the Blue Jays in '97 and '98 before getting traded to the Yankees on the first of spring training in '99. Clemens had an up-and-down first season in New York, pitching to a mere league-average 102 ERA+, a bit of a letdown after his gaudy years in Toronto. His first time back at Fenway as a Yankee was similarly mediocre, as he struggled to hold a lead and left the game when Nomar Garciaparra led off the sixth with a single. Middle reliever Jason Grimsley couldn't hold the two-run lead, and the Yankees lost 6-5 when Jose Offerman tripled against sinkerballing Ramiro Mendoza to lead off the ninth and John Valentin walked off with a single to left.

The two teams met in the playoffs for the first time that year, and Clemens's first playoff start at Fenway was awful. The Yankees were blown out in Game 3 of the ALCS, 13-1. Fortunately for the Yankees, that was their only playoff loss in '99, as they went 11-1 on the way to repeating as World Series champions, earning Clemens his first World Series ring.

Wade Boggs

May 21, 1993: 4-for-4, BB

Boggs was one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history, and he plied his craft in Boston for 11 years, making eight All-Star teams, reaching 200 hits in a then-AL record seven consecutive seasons, and winning five batting titles. In '92 however, Boggs stumbled to a .259/.353/.358, 96 OPS+ line, and deciding that the 34-year-old was probably toast, the Red Sox let him walk as a free agent. He jumped to the rival Yankees on a three-year, $11 million deal, and he immediately went right back to hitting .300. His first game back at Fenway was something special:

A perfect day at the plate, though the Yankees did fall 7-2 because Melido Perez was awful. Nonetheless, Boggs eventually won his first World Series title with the Yankees in '96 and he rode around Yankee Stadium on horseback. It was pretty tremendous.

...what do you mean Kevin Youkilis played for the Yankees? I have no idea what you're talking about. Regardless of such crazy talk, here's hoping that Ellsbury does his best Boggs impression tonight back at Fenway and Masahiro Tanaka pitches the Yankees to a win.