Monday, March 05, 2007

100 Greatest Red Sox: #46 Bill Monbouquette

Here is my second article that is currently appearing at the web site "Top 100 Red Sox." ( It is about the pitcher Bill Monbouquette. I'll have another article up on the site later this week.

Bill Monbouquette, SP, #27 (1958-1965)
96 W - 91 L, 254 G, 72 CG, 16 SHO, 3.69 ERA, 969 K, All-Star (1960, '62, '63)

He was known to his friends and teammates as "Monbo." He grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, and turned down offers from the Tigers and Cubs to pitch for the Red Sox, his hometown team that he grew up rooting for.

But Bill Monbouquette joined the Red Sox at a very inopportune time, during a dark period in Red Sox history.

Bill Monbouquette was born in Medford on August 11, 1936. He signed with the Sox in 1955 as a free agent and for a $4,000 bonus. He was a righthander who was a finesse pitcher who relied on changing speeds and had pinpoint control. He was brought up by the Red Sox in 1958 and made his debut with them on July 18. He went 3-4 in 10 games with an ERA of 3.31 in just over 54 innings.

Monbouquette was brought up to the Sox at a time when the Red Sox were in a downward spiral, and one of the only reasons many fans came to Fenway in the late 1950s was to see Ted Williams, who was winding down his brilliant career. Monbouquette was used as a spot starter and reliever in 1959, but became a full-time starter in 1960 and began to blossom into a reliable starting pitcher, and was named to the AL All-Star team that season.

Monbouquette also played a little-known part in the social history of the team. In 1959, when Pumpsie Green became the first black player on the Red Sox, he saw that a coach on the Red Sox named Del Baker was giving some racial abuse to the White Sox' Minnie Minoso, who was from Cuba. Green confirms that it was Monbouquette who went over to Baker and let it be known in no uncertain terms to cut it out. Monbouquette would later say that the racial abuse was upsetting Green, who Monbo considered a friend.

Monbo went 14-11 in 1960, and 14-14 in 1961, with over 200 innings pitched both seasons and respectable ERAs both years as well. His first career highlight came in the 1961 season when he struck out 17 Washington Senators in a game on May 12, a 2-1 Red Sox win. It set a team record that would last until April of 1986, when Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners in a nine-inning game to set the major league record.

1962 would be an even better season for Monbo. The Red Sox were a very mediocre club, but Monbouquette took another step as a bonafide top-notch starter. He won 15 that season, with the highlight being a no-hitter he pitched against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park on August 1, a 1-0 win over Early Wynn. (It was one of two by the Sox that season, as Earl Wilson threw one as well.) He was also named to his second All-Star team as well.

But the next season would prove to be the best season in Monbouqette's career. He reached the magic number of 20 wins for the first and only time, and made another All-Star team. He also established career highs in innings pitched (266.7) and strikeouts (174). But again, the Red Sox had a rather miserable team and were nowhere near a pennant race.

The next two seasons would see a decline in Monbouquette's numbers, as he went 13-14 in 1964 and 10-18 in 1965. He was still the ace and workhorse of the Red Sox staff, but the team's on-field play still didn't improve very much. Just after the 1965 season, Monbouquette was dealt to the Detroit Tigers for George Smith, George Thomas and Jackie Moore.

Monbouquette went 7-8 for Detroit in a spot starter/reliever role in 1966, and shortly into the 1967 season, he was released and picked up by the New York Yankees. They used him in a similar role, and he pitched well, going 6-5 with a 2.36 ERA in 101 innings. In 1968, he pitched for both New York and the San Francisco Giants, going 5-8 in 101 innings combined for both clubs. He was released by the Giants before the start of the 1969 season.

At 32, Monbouquette decided to retire rather than go back to the minors to try to fight his way back. He became a very successful minor league pitching coach and scout for such teams as Mets, Blue Jays, Yankees and Tigers. For over 30 years he has been a very-well respected teacher of pitchers in baseball's minor leagues.

In 1988, Monbouquette was coaching for Myrtle Beach in the Toronto organization, when he saw a tall, lanky kid from Texas who he thought had a lot of raw ability but not much "killer instinct." He taught the kid a sinker, and the pitcher credits Monbouquette with changing his career completely. That kid's name: Mike Timlin.

"I like working with the kids," Monbouquette once said to Steve Buckley, in his book, Red Sox, Where Have You Gone. "You like to think you can have an impact on their lives, their careers. It's a good feeling when you can connect with them."

Monbouquette has served as a major league pitching coach on two occasions: with the Blue Jays, and with the Mets from 1982-83. Recently he has been the pitching coach for Oneonta of the New York-Penn League, the Tigers affiliate.

Monbouquette has been married twice, and has three grown children.

He finished his Red Sox career with some very respectable numbers, winning 96 games in nine seasons with some less-than-stellar Red Sox teams. He left the Red Sox shortly before the 1967 Impossible Dream season, and it was a shame that Monbouquette never pitched in a postseason game in his career, in Boston or anywhere else, and that he never got to pitch for the Red Sox after their fortunes upturned.

He was the best pitcher on the Red Sox in a bad era in Red Sox history. But at least he will always be remembered in Red Sox history, as he was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2000.

John Quinn is a writer who lives in New York City and runs the web site, "The Mighty Quinn Media Machine," and writes for the Red Sox fan site,, as "Brooklyn Sox Fan."

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