Stanley, Bob (1987)
From The Working Waterfront Archives
Maine’s “Steamer” Stanley earned fame, infamy with the Red Sox
BY HARRY GRATWICK — MARCH 27, 2008
As the Red Sox begin the defense of their second World Championship in the last four years, let’s celebrate the opening of the baseball season with a profile of one of the more illustrious ball players from Maine, Bob Stanley. The reference library at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY lists 71 men born in Maine who have played major league baseball. The length of their careers vary, ranging from the redoubtable George “Piano Legs” Gore who played in 1,310 games from 1879-1892, to Jim Mains who played one game in 1943.
Breaking the numbers down further, there are 10 men who played in more than 500 games. A ‘top five’ list might include: Bill “Rough” Carrigan (Lewiston), Fred Parent (Biddeford), Sid Farrar (Paris), George Gore (Westbrook) and Bob Stanley (Portland). I hasten to add that Louis Sockalexis, the spectacular Native American from Old Town, would be on this list had his career lasted longer than 94 games. To my knowledge the only major leaguer from the islands is Vinalhaven’s Bill “Dasher” Murray, who played 8 games with the Washington Senators in 1917.
Bob Stanley, who appeared in 637 major league games, is a name familiar to Red Sox fans of a certain age. Bob, also known as “Steamer,” Bob Stanley was born on Wednesday, November 10, 1954, in Portland, Maine. Stanley was 22 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 16, 1977, and spent his entire career (1974-1989) in the Red Sox system. Stanley won 115 games for the Red Sox in a 13-year big league career, which makes him the winningest pitcher ever to come out of Maine.
Bob grew up in New Jersey, although he returned to Maine every summer to visit friends and relations in the Portland area. One of the highlights for him each summer was the chance to go lobstering with his Uncle Jimmy.
Stanley, however, credits New Jersey with giving him the opportunity to develop as a ball player where “you can play more baseball than in Maine.” In 1973 he returned to Portland for his senior year in high school. After being named all-state in both basketball and baseball, Stanley was offered a contract by the Dodgers following a 10-1 baseball season. He rejected the offer, but six months later he signed a contract with the Red Sox. Three years later, after an outstanding spring training, Stanley made the big league team at the age of 22.
Stanley’s first season with the Red Sox established the pattern for his big league career when he started 13 games and relieved in 28. The Kansas City Star crowned him the league’s MVP — Most Versatile Pitcher. Phil Elderkin of the Christian Science Monitor wrote, “The 1977 model of the Stanley Steamer stands 6’4″ weighs 205 and has a right arm that can throw a baseball up to speeds of 100 miles per hour.” The next year Stanley really blossomed. He was 15-2, primarily as a relief pitcher. The Boston Herald-American headlined, “IN 1978 THE RED SOX SPELLED RELIEF: BOB STANLEY.”
Jump forward to 1982 and the Steamer set an American League record for innings pitched in a season by a relief pitcher with 168. (Incidentally, the record still stands). He was 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA. In an article by Boston sports writer Tom Shea, Stanley was quoted as saying, “I prefer to relieve. You have to trick hitters too long as a starter.”
“He’s had quite a year,” Sox manger Ralph Houk said. Following the season, his agent, Bob Wolf, had this to say about Stanley’s contract negotiations: “When I negotiated Bob’s contract we had statistics demonstrating that he was the third best pitcher in the league. The Red Sox had a chart showing he was the sixth best pitcher on the team.”
Although he had a distinguished major league career, Stanley is best known for throwing “The Pitch” in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. The Pitch bounced in front of home plate and allowed New York Met runner Kevin Mitchell to score the tying run from third. One pitch later Stanley got Mookie Wilson to hit a routine grounder to Bill Buckner at first who, as we all know, let the ball skip through his legs. The result was an agonizing 10th inning loss and instant notoriety for Stanley and Buckner. (The Red Sox lost the Series the next day extending their seemingly cursed existence). Indeed, Bill Buckner was so vilified that he moved his family to Boise, Idaho.
Years later Stanley recalled a “Buckner moment” to Daily News columnist John Harper. “I had a guy pull right into my driveway one time. My son was playing outside at the time. The guy picked up my son’s bike and threw it against the basketball pole in the driveway and said, ‘tell your father he stinks.'”
In fairness to Stanley, replays showed that equal blame belonged to Sox catcher Rich Gedman, who reacted slowly. Since it was scored as a wild pitch, however, many Boston fans still blamed Stanley for the loss.
In a December 1986 interview with Bill Parrillo of the Providence Journal, Stanley said, “A lot of them tell me they didn’t think it was a wild pitch, but I tell them it doesn’t matter. We lost. Don’t blame Geddy. And hopefully, try not to blame me. We lost It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Now that the Red Sox have twice (make that 4 times) broken their World Series “curse” let’s hope that Boston fans have finally forgiven Bob Stanley.
PRESS RELEASE – The Seacoast Mavericks of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) announced Monday that former Major League Baseball All-Star Bob Stanley will serve in the capacity of team President. Stanley, who was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2000, was the Sox all time saves leader until Jonathan Paplebon passed him in 2009.
Stanley will help to oversee the Maverick’s organization and is excited to aid in their development. “I’m very excited to lend my support in favor of helping many overlooked college players in the Northeast,” said Stanley who will also serve on the FCBL Board of Directors.
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