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Joe Morgan’s 1988 magic honored by Red Sox

Members of 1988 team gathers at Fenway Park

Members of the 1988 Red Sox, including Roger Clemens (right), salute Joe Morgan during a pregame ceremony.

jim davis/globe staff

Members of the 1988 Red Sox, including Roger Clemens (right), salute Joe Morgan during a pregame ceremony.

It had been 25 years since they made their run to the American League Championship Series, and they had about 30 minutes to play catch up.

The handful of players from the 1988 Red Sox team that went on a summer heat wave and won 19 of 20 games to go from nine games back to first place squeezed in as many stories as time would allow.

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Dennis “Oil Can’’ Boyd was working on a project to bring an independent baseball team to Mississippi.

Roger Clemens, seemingly free of any controversy that hounded him in the past, was happy to be teaching the art of pitching to the next generation — not just with the Houston Astros, who employ him as a special instructor.

If Spike Owen had forgotten about the time he was called on to hit for Jim Rice, Clemens made sure to remind him.

“We get a chuckle out of it now, but it wasn’t real funny then,” Clemens said. “I’m sure that wasn’t real pleasant for Spike or Jim.”

They exchanged texts with some of the players who couldn’t be there to reminisce.

Then, just before they were all supposed to march on to the field to be honored before the Red Sox faced the Seattle Mariners, the man whose midseason fairy dust was responsible for the run walked in.

He was still loose, laid back, still charismatic and full of the magic that ignited that team’s run to an AL East title and eventually won him Manager of the Year honors.

“It was good to see him,” Clemens said. “I was curious to see how he was going to look and how he was going to feel.

Even though Joe Morgan was now 82, he had the same presence as when he took over for John McNamara.

“When he saw us, he looked us right in the eye and you could see that when he saw a couple of the other guys, he might not have recognized right at first, but then the memories started coming back to him,” Clemens said. “So I thought that was pretty cool.”

Morgan still remembers the day the switch was made.

He vividly recalled seeing team CEO Haywood Sullivan go into McNamara’s office, then seeing general manager Lou Gorman walking toward him. At that point, he said, he knew something was about to happen.

Gorman said to him, “We’re going to make a change. You’ll be the manager while we look around for one.”

Morgan told Gorman, “Don’t look around, you’re looking at him right now. It’s me.”

By no means did he expect the Sox to come out of that All-Star break and win 12 straight, 19 of 20, and 19 straight at home.

“I figured in the 11-game homestand if the team could win maybe eight games, I might have a chance to finish out the season.” Morgan said.

But win by win, the momentum grew, to the point that they were getting overwhelming media attention and road trips felt like a blessing, if only because it offered something of a break. Then, there was the Texas trip.

“The phone rings and [the person] said, ‘Be here at 5 in the morning. You’re on the “Today Show,” ’ ” Morgan remembered. “So it really didn’t stop.”

In the time since, life, as it does, has taken them all down different roads.

Clemens is now six years removed from being named along with 88 other players in the Mitchell Report, which accused them of using steroids.

He briefly played in an independent league for the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012. He’s settled comfortably into his role as a pitching consultant, preferring it to the idea of being a team’s pitching coach. And with baseball again in the middle of jarring re-evaluations about players and performance-enhancers, he distanced himself from the situation.

“I’ve got my own feelings about particular people in the MLB, how they approached my situation without learning facts,” Clemens said. “But I can’t comment on that because I don’t know about it. I’m extremely busy. I’m not too worried about it either way to tell you the truth. And I’m sure they’ll handle it the way they see fit. But I hear a lot of people making comments off the cuff that just don’t know the facts.

“And I know — I never do that anyway — but how hurtful it was over the period of time with us until we had to get in a fair setting and do it our way and stop all the ‘he said, she said’ and maybe this and maybe that and speculation this. So I would never comment, because I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on there.”

He was unfazed by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America not voting anyone into the Hall of Fame this year .

“It’s not going to change me as a person or as a man, how I go about my life, how I treat other people,” he said. “Whatever floats your boat, you know, go for it.”

It meant enough to be able to return to Fenway and recapture memories.

“It’s where I got my start,” Clemens said. “I think [the media] and my teammates and the city made me who I was as a person and as a player. There were so many fun games, important games, big games here.

“There’s no doubt I got my start here. This is where it began for me. All the great memories. We worked our butts off. We knew the passion was here.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.
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