The Red Sox were not exactly pioneers in opening up doors to players from the Caribbean in the 1970’s. Remember, they WERE still being run by Tom Yawkey who liked his team Lilly White. But there were a smattering of Spanish names on the roster in the 70’s.
Luis Tiant, Luis Aparicio and Juan Marichal were on the team. So was Roger Moret. Juan Beniquez was signed by Ray Negron in 1968. He was an 18 year old infielder that the Sox were hoping would be the heir to Aparicio.
He played a handful of games at shortstop in 1971 and 1972 but his defense was suspect and off he went to the minors to work on his defense.
While in the minor leagues in Pawtucket and Louisville, Beniquez hit for a decent average, good power and lots of speed. He got 16 triples and 30 stolen bases at Louisville in 1971. He batted .298 with 13 homers at Pawtucket in 1973. With a Red Sox team loaded with young hitting stars, Beniquez looked like he was going to fit in well.
He was the regular center fielder in 1974 and began 1975 as the starting left fielder and lead off man. But the emergence of Jim Rice and Fred Lynn with Yaz, Evans and Cecil Cooper still on the squad, Beniquez found himself riding the bench.
He did well as a part time player, batting .291. Beniquez was labeled as having a “bad attitude”, but a lot of non white Red Sox players got that reputation while having great reps elsewhere. Funny how that works.
After 1975, he was traded to the Rangers in the Fergie Jenkins trade, earning a Gold Glove in 1977. Later he was sent to the Yankees in the deal that sent Sparky Lyle to Texas and Dave Righetti to the Yankees.
He bounced from team to team. From 1978 to 1981, he played for a different team every year going from Texas to the Yankees to the Mariners to the Angels. It was in Anaheim that Beniquez found his swing.
He batted .305 in 1983 and .336 in 1984, finishing 25th in the MVP race. He remained a .300 batter for the Angels in 1985 and Baltimore in 1986 before bouncing between the Royals and Blue Jays in 1987 and 1988.
A valuable role player, he had the biggest and most pressure filled at bat as a member of the Red Sox.
Jim Rice was injured in the post season and Beniquez got some playing time, starting each game of the ALCS victory over Oakland. But with no DH in the World Series, Yaz played left, Cecil Cooper played first and Beniquez rode the bench again except for Game 4 when he started in left.
In Game 7, Beniquez was on the bench until the bottom of the 9th. The Reds took the lead with 2 outs in the top of the 9th. The Red Sox needed one to tie and two to win the World Series. With Rick Miller coming up against left handed reliever Will McEnaney, manager Darrell Johnson chose to send Beniquez up as a pinch hitter. If he got on, they would have speed on the basepaths for the tying run with the likes of Yaz, Fisk and Lynn coming up.
He had the ball 1 ball and 1 strike but he flew out for the first out of the inning. The Red Sox would go 1-2-3 in the 9th. The chance for Game 7 as being the Juan Beniquez game did not come true.
OK, so he wasn’t a post season legend. He DID play for 15+ seasons and managed to be quite the part time hitter, and that isn’t bad.
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