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But other players said that Rice was out of control, yelling at Morgan, "You and me gotta go [at it]." Players poured into the runway to break up the fracas. Says Greenwell, "The amazing thing was that Joe didn't back down. If Jimmy wanted to fight, Joe was willing to fight." There were no fisticuffs. By all accounts, Morgan's final words to Rice were. "I'm the manager of this nine."
When calm was restored, Owen laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the Sox failed to score and reliever Lee Smith failed to hold the lead. Not only did he let Minnesota tie the game in the ninth, but he also surrendered two more runs in the 10th. So in the bottom of the inning, Boston trailed 7-5 with one out and two on when Reed doubled off the wall to make the score 7-6. Next up was Ben-zinger, who had entered the game in the seventh as a defensive replacement for Parrish at first base. A 25-year-old switch-hitter, Benzinger drilled a towering three-run homer into the rightfield seats to give the Sox a 9-7 victory. When he reached home plate, Parrish was among those waiting, hand outstretched. Morgan's comment: " Parrish stayed and watched his teammates. He's a winner. 'Nuf said."
Rice arrived at the park for Thursday's game only to learn that Morgan had suspended him, without pay, for three days. He would forfeit some $30,000 of his $2.4 million salary. A 13-year veteran who had only four homers and 40 RBIs, Rice told Giuliotti that he was frustrated after losing his leftfield job, becoming a DH and dropping from "third to fourth to fifth to sixth to seventh in the batting order. I'm ashamed. I wish I could change things, but I can't. I never had problems with a manager before, and I never will again."
While Rice drove home on Thursday, Morgan's good fortune continued. McNamara's downfall had been caused in part by the difficulties suffered by three-fourths of what Mac had thought would be a superb pitching rotation: Bruce Hurst was placed on the disabled list on July 8 with a viral infection, Jeff Sellers was 0-6 when he went on the disabled list with a broken hand on June 21, and Oil Can Boyd was 2-5 with a 6.10 ERA in his last 11 starts. Boyd was Morgan's Thursday night starter against the Chicago White Sox, and he had a perfect game going for 6? innings. "Finally, I let it all go, and everything came together," said Boyd, who had surgery on his right shoulder last August. "The old Can is back."
His 6-1 win was followed on Friday by Morgan victory No. 9, another come-from-behind special. Boston beat Chicago 4-3 as converted reliever Wes Gardner got his fourth straight win. In the ninth inning a fan bounded out of the stands, ran to second base and dropped his pants to reveal the words JIM RICE painted on his derriere. "It wasn't like this in Texas," said Parrish.
Win No. 10 on Saturday featured Smithson on the mound for the fourth time in nine days. This time he came out of the bullpen to throw 6? shutout innings for his sixth victory. Smithson allowed one hit while his teammates rapped 20 of them, including four by Burks, in an 11-5 rout of the White Sox. The pitching was improving, but the hitting was as good as it gets. At week's end, seven members of the lineup that pounded out those 20 hits were batting a combined .323: Wade Boggs (.363), Greenwell (.345), Burks (.323), Evans (.307), Rick Cerone (.305), Reed (.306) and Barrett (.297). The team average of .293 was the highest in the majors since 1950, when Boston batted .302. In Fenway, the Sox were hitting .312.
Win No. 11 on Sunday closed out the perfect homestand. Hurst returned and went five-plus solid innings against Chicago, Parrish knocked in his eighth run in seven Red Sox appearances, and Smith saved the 3-2 win, striking out the side in the ninth. "Having Boyd, Gardner, Smithson and Hurst pitching-so well the last four games is more important than the winning streak," said Morgan.
Before embarking on a three-game trip to Texas, he said, "The important thing is that we're back in the race. I've been around too long to get giddy about 11 wins." How long? After graduating from Boston College, where he was an outstanding hockey player, Morgan bounced around for six years as the property of the Milwaukee Braves, Kansas City A's, Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals. His lifetime average in 88 big league games was .193. He got his first manager's job in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1966 and moved over to the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox in 1974. When the big club bypassed him in favor of Ralph Houk in 1980, Morgan settled in for a quiet organizational life.
He scouted for two years before becoming a Red Sox coach in 1985, and his World Series share in 1986 allowed him to quit his winter job driving a snowplow for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. "The side benefit was the money you'd find in snowbanks," he says. "But about all I got was cat food, mayonnaise and salad dressing."
Morgan still lives in the small town of Walpole, two blocks from the house in which he grew up. He bowls every Monday, and his old friend Richie Hebner, the former Pirates third baseman, keeps his score. For years Morgan has received mail intended for the Joe Morgan who stole 689 bases and batted .271 in a 22-year major league career. "I learned his signature, so I sign bubblegum cards people send, and I send them back," says Walpole Joe.