Dwight Evans: The Red Sox Strong-armed Right Fielder

It’s hard to believe that it has been more than fifteen years since Dwight Evans wore a Boston Red Sox uniform. It seems like only yesterday that “Dewey”, wearing his number 24, was patrolling Fenway Park’s right field, where Dwight Evans ruled for almost twenty years. Dwight Evans came to the major leagues as a highly touted hitter and fielder, with an arm second to none in the history of the sport. It took Dwight Evans a while before he became a solid offensive force, but his defense was never questioned. Dwight Evans left the game with the legacy of being one of the greatest right fielders to ever play, and his nearly 400 home runs rank him in the top fifty long ball producers of all-time.

Dwight Evans arrived in Boston in 1972 as the Most Valuable Player of the International League. At Louisville, Dwight Evans had hit .300, with 17 home runs and 95 runs batted in. The lanky right-hander possessed a gun for an arm, and it was his defensive prowess that helped him stick in the big leagues until he began to consistently hit for power later in his career. The highlight of Dwight Evans early days in Boston had to be when he beat “Sudden” Sam McDowell of the Yankees with a walk-off home run in 1973. McDowell, in the twilight of his career as a power pitcher, was pitching his last great game, but Dwight Evans hit a 3-0 fastball into the Fenway night in the bottom of the ninth to send Sam home a loser. Although Dwight Evans only hit .223 in 118 games that year, the Red Sox had enough confidence in him to trade outfielder Reggie Smith away to the Cardinals to open up a spot for him full time in 1974.

Playing in 133 contests and getting more than 450 at-bats, Dwight Evans had a solid if unspectacular 1974 at the plate, batting .281 with 70 runs batted in. Already word had gotten around the American League not to test his right arm, which would come to be regarded as one of the strongest throwing arms of anyone who ever roamed an outfield. In 1975, Dwight Evans combined with rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice to form one of baseball’s most storied outfield trios. Although he still did not hit for power on a regular basis, Dwight Evans’ defense was almost as important as his bat. This became evident in the 1975 World Series against the Reds, when late in Game Six, Dwight Evans robbed Joe Morgan of extra bases and kept the game tied with a twisting, turning circus catch of a drive to deep right. His throw back to the infield doubled up the runner, and allowed Carlton Fisk to win the game with his famous “body English” home run to left.

Beginning in ’75, Dwight Evans arm accounted for double digit outfield assists every year, except for an injury plagued 1977 campaign. In 1981, Dwight Evans, who was always experimenting with his batting stance, finally saw his offensive game catch up with his defense. He tied for the American League lead in home runs during that strike-shortened season, knocking 22 homers. For the next nine years Dwight Evans would hit no fewer than 20 homers a year, with a career high of 34 in 1987. The keen batting eye he had honed would account for over 100 walks in a season four times, and Dwight Evans would lead the AL in bases on balls on three separate occasions. The three-time All-Star would reach the one hundred RBI plateau four times, and Dwight Evans would also have a pair of seasons when he had over 95 runs batted in.

As he grew long in tooth, Dwight Evans was used more and more as a designated hitter, and he also played some first base. Only Carl Yastrzemski played more games for the Red Sox than the 2,505 that Dwight Evans appeared in. He signed with Baltimore and played his last year, 1991, for the Orioles before retiring at the age of 39. His lifetime marks included a .272 batting average, 385 home runs, 1,384 runs batted in, 1,391 walks, and a total of 157 outfield assists, compliments of his right arm. Dwight Evans also batted an even .300 in two World Series, slamming three Fall Classic homers and collecting 14 RBI. His eight Gold Gloves rank him with the best outfielders in history, and Dwight Evans also rose to the occasion on Opening Days, saving four of his home runs for those games. But no matter what he ever did with a bat, nobody who ever saw Dwight Evans throw a baseball from deep in right field will ever think of anything else when you mention his name.

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