While I was taking a train to a game at Yankee Stadium in the early 2000’s, I saw film critic Jeffrey Lyons was on the subway with me. We both appeared in the HBO Documentary Curse of the Bambino. I truly doubt if he recognized me from that.
We are both Sox fans and I decided I would try to stump him with a trivia question. I brought up Spike Owen, the starting shortstop on the ill fated 1986 Boston Red Sox. I asked him “What was Spike Owen’s real first name?”
He didn’t know.
I told him “Spike. His mother’s maiden name was Spikes, so Spike is NOT a nickname for him. That is his actual name.”
I took that as a moment of pride for me that he didn’t get it.
I don’t ever remember buying a pack of Donruss cards in 1989, but my eyes do not deceive me. This card does indeed exist in the shoebox inside my closet. The picture and stats on the back show Owen in his third and final season as a member of the Red Sox, 1988. He was reduced to a bench player and often a pinch runner for Jim Rice during the Morgan Magic Division Championship year as Jody Reed became the every day shortstop. He appeared in a single at bat in that year’s ALCS.
But he was indeed a member of the 1986 pennant winner and would have been a beloved figure in Boston had that final out been recorded.
Owen was a college teammate at University of Texas with Rogers Clemens and Calvin Schraldi. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1982 and by 1983 was the Mariners starting shortstop and in 1986 was named team captain. He was the leadoff batter for Seattle on the night when Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters. Owen himself fanned twice.
That same year, he was packaged with Dave Henderson to the Red Sox for a bunch of bodies including Rey Quinones and Mike Trujillo. With that, Owen got to play in the post season with the Red Sox. Owen was excellent in the ALCS against the Angels, batting .429, slugging .524 with an OPS of 1.002. Naturally Red Sox manager John McNamara pinch hit for him twice in close games in the series.
He continued to hit well against the Mets in the World Series. When his Mariners and Red Sox teammate Dave Henderson homered to lead off the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series to give the Red Sox a potential World Series winning lead, Owen met Hendu at home plate. He stopped and said something to him. I have no idea what it was, but I felt it was a special moment between two players who were toiling in obscurity in Seattle now 3 outs from winning the World Series.
Annnnnnd it didn’t happen.
After his time in Boston ended with the 1988 ALCS, Owen was dealt to Montreal where he started for four seasons.
After a year with the Yankees, Owen landed with the Angels, the very team he helped beat in 1986. He played well in the strike shortened 1994 season but lost his starting job to Gary DiScarcina in 1995. He pinch hit in the one game playoff between the Angels and Mariners for the 1995 AL West crown. He was retired by Randy Johnson. It turned out to be his final big league at bat.
Owen has a new baseball home in the Rangers organization. He has been a minor league manager and a major league third base coach. He will start the 2017 season as the manager of the class A Hickory Crawdads.
All the while, he goes by that first name, the same one I used to stump Jeffrey Lyons.
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