Best known for his contributions during the 2004 season with the Red Sox and their World Series, Mark Bellhorn was a switch-hitting infielder that spent one season with the Red Sox.
Born on August 23, 1974 in Boston, Bellhorn was raised in Oviedo, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, and played baseball for Oviedo High School. Upon graduation, Bellhorn attended and played ball for Auburn University from 1993 to 1996. With the Tigers, Bellhorn played in the 1994 College World Series though his team lost in the first round to Oklahoma, the eventual winners of the tournament. You can see a scouting report on a young Bellhorn from 1992 here:
His career in the majors began in 1997 with the Oakland Athletics. In his first season he batted .228 with six home runs and 19 RBIs, however, during the following three seasons he saw limited action and batted just .131 with a single home run and five RBI.
In 2002 Bellhorn was traded to the Chicago Cubs and on August 29th of that year became the first player in National League history to hit a home run from each side of the plate in the same inning. In that inning Bellhorn also tied the club record for most RBIs in an inning with five. Bellhorn’s 2002 campaign was a record setting one for the Cubs. He had 27 home runs, which was a record for a second basemen with the Cubs, and he was the first Cubs player to hit a homerun from each of the four infield positions. That season he batted .258 and had 56 RBI in addition to his 27 home runs.
After a bit of a slow start in 2003, Bellhorn was traded by the Cubs to the Colorado Rockies where he finished the season with a .236 batting average and no homeruns with the Rockies, though he had hit two with the Cubs. Following the ’03 season, he was sent to the Red Sox as part of a conditional deal.
For Red Sox fans, 2004 was by far the most exciting season to watch Mark Bellhorn play. Originally signed as a utility infielder, he found himself in the starting role after Pokey Reese and Nomar Garciaparra were injured early on in the season. In the starting role, Bellhorn flourished. He had his best batting average of his career (.264) and hit 17 homeruns as well as 82 RBIs. He led the league in strikeouts with 177 but was also among the league leaders in walks, 88 free passes, pitches seen-per-at-bat, Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position, and on-base percentage (.373, the best among AL second basemen). His numbers were strong that season and nearly half of his plate appearances resulted in a strikeout, walk, or homerun, but it was during the post season that year when Bellhorn was most clutch.
The postseason that year started poorly for Bellhorn; during his first seven games he had just two hits in 25 at-bats for an average of .80. During the ALCS against the Yankees, though, he began to rebound. During Game 1 he broke up Mike Mussina’s perfect game in the 7th inning and then hit a three-run homer off of Jon Lieber during Game 6 to give the Sox an crucial 4-2 victory. During Game 7 he homered again, and the Sox went on to win that game 10-3.
His success continued into the World Series. During Game 1 he hit a pivotal two-run homer off of Julian Tavarez to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-9 which you can see here:
His home run there made him the first second basemen ever to hit a homerun in three consecutive post-season games. His two-run double during Game 2 also helped put the Sox up 4-1 in the eventual 6-2 victory against the Yankees. Any true Sox fan knows how this saga eventually ended; in just four games the Sox swept the Cardinals and ended the dreaded Curse of the Bambino in large part because of Bellhorn’s efforts.
2004 was the peak of Bellhorn’s time with the Sox. He struggled at the start of the ’05 season and was released from the team as a result, ironically signing with the New York Yankees just days after his release. The strange move did not payoff; the struggling Bellhorn appeared in just nine games and was thus named to the Yankees All-Forgotten team in 2014.
Generally, Bellhorn was a journeyman throughout his career. After his brief stint in New York he spent a season with the San Diego Padres in 2006, and in 2007 he joined the Cincinnati Reds organization, playing for their minor league affiliate the Louisville Bats for the season. Then, in 2008 he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and played for their Double-A affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns, before being released on July 24, 2008.
2009 was Bellhorn’s final season of baseball. In February of that year he signed a minor-league contract with the Colorado Rockies, a former team of his, and spent a season playing for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. At the end of that season he was granted free agency and decided to retire. You can see his full line of stats here:
Since leaving the game Bellhorn has been involved with multiple business ventures and is an owner of several Dunkin Donuts franchises in the Boston area. In Red Sox lore, Bellhorn will always be remembered for his contributions for bringing the long-awaited World Series back to Boston in 2004.