Saturday, August 17, 2013

Unknown Heroes Pt. 34: Lou Merloni

I am not a Boston native.  I have never lived anywhere near Boston in fact.  I was born and lived all my life in Nebraska.  Nevertheless I still strongly enjoy the Red Sox players who grew up nearby.  Players from the New England era are massively popular with Red Sox fans, and for good reason.  And even though I am not a local product, I too enjoy the players from the area.

Lou Merloni is one such player who enjoyed a massive fan following despite the fact that he was little more than a utility infielder.  Dubbed "Framingham Lou" due to his hometown being nearby Framingham, MA, Merloni was always greeted with a chant of "LOOOOUUUUU" whenever he came to the plate.

I was actually in attendance at Merloni's Major League debut.  He was called up to replace the injured John Valentin in 1998 and played against the Royals in Kansas City for his debut in which he played second base.  Merloni was 27 when he finally made it to the Majors.  He had previously been a replacement player in 1995 during the strike, which greatly affected the number of baseball cards that were issued of him.  Merloni was decent in 1998, hitting .281/.343/.375 with one home run and 15 RBIs in 39 games.  Merloni traveled frequently between Boston and Pawtucket, something he would get used to over the years.

Merloni continued to bounce back and forth between the Majors and Minors for the next three years.  Merloni was actually sold to the Yokohama Bay Stars in 1999 before returning to the Red Sox system.  He did spend a chunk of the 2000 season in Boston when the team struggled to find third-basemen.  Merloni hit .320/.341/.438 with 18 RBIs in 40 games that season, mostly as a third-baseman.  It was his re-acquisition from Yokohama that lead to David Eckstein being placed on waivers.

In 2001 Merloni spent a fair amount of time at shortstop due to the Nomar Garciaparra injury.  He hit three home runs that year which was a career high to that point.  2002 was his best season thus far as he hit four home runs and played terrific defense.  2003 saw Merloni go to San Diego before making his return to Boston, where he played in just 15 games.

Following the 2003 season, Merloni bounced around a little.  He is currently a radio host for the Red Sox.

I was always disappointed that Merloni never really had many cards.  He had just three mainstream base cards issued and some oddball and minor league cards, but that is pretty much it for Merloni Red Sox cards, and he never had any mainstream cards for other teams.  

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