Nomar Garciaparra has owned a Red Sox uniform for less time -- 982 days -- than the thousand days JFK was president, playing in a town that understands that his tales of youth and promise, hope and glory, will shimmer long after he leaves the antiquated stage that is Fenway Park.
But for all he already has done that seems touched by myth, the 25-year-old Garciaparra did something last night he had never done before.
He surprised and delighted even himself.
On a night that must have sent even 80-year-old Ted Williams to dancing, his reconstructed hip be damned, Garciaparra hit three home runs, including two grand slams, and drove in 10 runs in a 12-4 win over the pitching-deficient Seattle Mariners, equaling a raft of records while enjoying a night he never thought possible.
``That’s the kind of night you dream about when you’re lying in bed playing Little League,’’ teammate Jim Corsi said. ``He got to do it for real, which is awesome.’’
You could see it in the glow of Garciaparra’s face afterward, his eyes reflecting a child’s wonder and an artist’s pride.
``I never hit three home runs in a game, not even Little League,’’ said Garciaparra, who went a month into the season (78 at-bats) before hitting his first home run of 1999. ``I’m glad I waited until the big leagues to do it.
``When you’re swinging well, good things happen. Today, things felt pretty good.’’
Garciaparra became the fourth Sox player, and first since outfielder Fred Lynn on June 18, 1975, to have 10 RBIs in a game. The others were first basemen Norm Zauchin (1955) and Rudy York (1946). He is the third Sox player to hit two grand slams in a game, joining third baseman Jim Tabor (1939) and York (’46).
``You know me, I don’t know any stats,’’ said Garciaparra, who became the 11th major leaguer to hit two grand slams in a game, and the second this season, joining Fernando Tatis of the Cardinals, who hit two in one inning against the Dodgers April 23.
``That’s nice,’’ Garciaparra said when the numbers were recounted. ``It was a good night. I can take a good night. Like I said, they don’t come too often. You enjoy it, you’re happy with it, but I don’t have a week to enjoy it. There’s a game tomorrow night.
``Yeah, maybe I’ll ask Skip [Jimy Williams] for a week off.’’
Garciaparra etched his name in history on the first pitch to him from Seattle rookie Eric Weaver with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, driving a ball through a 14 mile-per-hour northwest wind into the left-field screen.
``I probably would have swung at anything,’’ he said. ``A pitch 10 feet over my head or down in the dirt.
``There was a lot of energy going on. It was kind of neat. I just wanted something good to happen.’’
Garciaparra’s first two home runs of the night came off another rookie righthander, Brett Hinchliffe, who was brought up from the minors for just this occasion but did nothing to ease the pain of a staff that has the worst earned run average in the major leagues (6.54).
The Sox shortstop hit a grand slam into the visitors’ bullpen in the first inning and followed that two innings later with a two-run home run just inside the Pesky Pole.
The home runs gave Garciaparra five in a stretch of 21 at-bats, and powered the Red Sox to their fifth straight win and eighth against the Mariners in their last nine games here. Not only was it the first three-homer game of his career, but it was the first multihomer game by a Sox player this season.
``You shake your head and tip your cap, just one of those things,’’ said Seattle center fielder Ken Griffey, the all-world player on the other side of the diamond who was reduced to the role of captive audience for Garciaparra’s splendid splintering.
What amazed Griffey most about Garciaparra’s performance?
``All those people that were on base in front of him,’’ Griffey said. ``If he hit three solo shots, you wouldn’t be talking to me right now.’’
Troy O’Leary gave the Sox another first when he followed Garciaparra’s third-inning shot with his eighth home run, which gave the Sox an 8-2 lead and marked the first time this season Boston has had back-to-back home runs.
In the first inning, Jeff Frye and John Valentin singled and Brian Daubach was hit by a pitch before Garciaparra drove a 1-and-1 pitch into the Mariners’ bullpen for his first slam.
In the third, Daubach doubled high off the left-center field wall before Garciaparra went the opposite way again, this time curling an 0-and-1 pitch just inside the right-field foul pole, 310 feet away.
Darren Lewis led off the eighth with a single, and after Frye bounced into a force play, Valentin and Daubach walked, setting the stage for Garciaparra’s second slam, which led him to come out for a rare curtain call.
``You can’t drive in 10 without people being on base,’’ Williams said. ``That’s where it starts, with people on base, to do what he did tonight. A special night for all of us to see it.’’
The Sox’ show of power should have made it an easy night for starter Pat Rapp, who was looking for his first win in home polyesters. Instead, Rapp, who was knocked out of his last start one out into the game, made another early exit, departing in the third to the boos of a crowd of 21,660.
Rapp gave up five hits and walked four while registering just six outs. Rapp, whose spot in the rotation is in jeopardy after he failed to make it through four innings for the fourth time in six starts, was bailed out by John Wasdin, who entered with the bases loaded in the third and the score 4-1.
Wasdin allowed a run on John Mabry’s forceout but escaped further damage when Russ Davis struck out and Scott Hatteberg cut down Mabry stealing.
Wasdin pitched 6 1/3 strong innings before giving way to Kip Gross for the last two outs of the night.
Wasdin was the winning pitcher, but he knew where to send his love.
``I’ve already given him one hug tonight,’’ Wasdin said, nodding toward Garciaparra. ``I might just have to give him another.’’
At one point, the umpires interrupted the game because of a commotion behind the plate.
``I think it was when Nomar was hitting and there was a fan with a VCR [sic] that had a light on it,’’ Williams said. ``I think somebody was just trying to capture a special night by a special player.’’
Amazed by Garciaparra?
``Of course,’’ said the irrepressible one, Pedro Martinez. ``A great day at the office. Every day is a new adventure with Nomie.’