Bill Monbouquette, who died earlier this week at 78, was the player Red Sox fans cheered for when they had few others worth cheering. Monbouquette won 96 games over a six-year span, hitting double-figures in wins and 200 innings every season from 1960-65. Those Sox weren't as good as their best pitcher: they never finished higher than sixth, and though they didn't finish last in that span, they finished next to it twice, next-to-next-to-last twice, seventh once and the peak of sixth once. That was no fault of Monbouquette's, who won 20 games in '63, made four All-Star games, started one, pitched a no-hitter, fanned a then-club record 17 batters and threw strikes. Monbouquette walked only 462 batters in his 1,961.1 innings or 2.12 per nine innings — the 127th-best ratio, according to baseball-reference.com, ever for pitchers with more than 1,000 innings. (Trivia: There are six active pitchers through 2014 who have better ratios. Name them. Answer at end of post.) Monbouquette led the AL in strikeouts/walks ratio in 1963, with 4.14 strikeouts to every walk. He won 20 games with a 3.81 ERA in 266.2 innings that year, one of several good seasons. He won 14 with a 3.64 ERA in 1960 and started the All-Star Game, though he lost it (Ernie Banks, who died last week; homered off him); he won 14 with a 3.39 ERA in '61; 15 with a 3.33 ERA in '62; 13 with a 4.04 ERA in '64; 10 in '65 when he lost a league-leading 18 despite a 3.70 ERA. In 1961 Monbouquette fanned 17 in a 2-1 victory over Washington, breaking a team-record of 15 set by Hall of Famer "Smoky" Joe Wood that had stood for 50 years. Monbouquette would have fanned 18, but catcher Jim Pagliaroni couldn't hold on to Jim King's foul tip with two outs in the eighth before King grounded out. He pitched — and Pagliaroni caught — a no-hitter the next year against the White Sox. Monbouquette fanned seven and walked only Al Smith in the second inning. Pagliaroni scored the only run of the game, singling and scoring off Hall of Fame loser Early Wynn. The final out was another Hall of Famer, Luis Aparicio, and Monbouquette’s telling of it in a 2008 Boston.com story was worthy of the performance. “I had Aparicio, 0 and 2, and threw him a slider off the plate,” Monbouquette told boston.com. “He tried to hold up and I thought he went all the way. The umpire, Bill McKinley, called it a ball, and as I was getting the ball back from the catcher, someone shouted from the stands, ‘They shot the wrong McKinley.’ I had to back off the mound because I had a little chuckle to myself. The next pitch, I threw him another slider and he swung and missed. They say white men can’t jump, but I did. It’s about the biggest thrill I ever had.” The Red Sox traded Monbouquette after the ’65 season to the Tigers, who sent him to the Yankees. Monbouquette is one of 223 players, according to baseball-reference.com, to play for both the Red Sox and Yankees (Chris Capuano is the most recent, all in 2014). A native of Medford, Mass., there wasn’t much question where Monbouquette’s loyalties were. Monbouquette was very good for the Yankees in ’67 — 6-5 with a 2.36 ERA as a starter/reliever — as the Red Sox won their Impossible Dream pennant. The Yankees did well in trading Monbouquette to the Giants for Lindy McDaniel, who pitched six seasons with a 2.89 ERA and 58 saves in New York. Monbouquette pitched just 12 innings for the Giants. Monbouquette’s career numbers: 114-112 in 11 seasons with a 3.68 ERA, 78 complete games in 263 starts, 1,961.1 innings, 1,995 hits, 462 walks, 1,122 strikeouts, 18 shutouts, three saves, 104 ERA+, 22.5 WAR. With the Red Sox, 96-91 with a 3.69 ERA, 107 ERA+, 21.1 WAR.
For more on Monbouquette, link to the 2008 Boston Globe feature or Massachusetts native Gordon Edes’ remembrance on ESPN.com.
Trivia answer: the six active pitchers through 2014 with better walks-per-nine-innings ratios than Monbouquette are Dan Haren (1.86), Cliff Lee (1.93), Hiroki Kuroda (1.99), Mark Buehrle (2.04), Scott Baker (2.06) and Ricky Nolasco (2.10).