When you look back through the annals of Boston Red Sox history, and you think of all the great outfielders that have patrolled the confines of Fenway Park, Christopher Trotman Nixon is not a name that often comes to mind. Why is that? First, because you probably never knew “Trot” Nixon’s real name was Christopher. And second, Nixon’s career numbers just don’t stack up against the All-Star outfielders who have played here in Boston like Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, or even contemporary Manny Ramirez.
But even if the numbers don’t compare, few players in the history of baseball have ever had such an impact on a team’s philosophy like Trot Nixon during the turn of the century.
Trot Nixon was born in Durham, North Carolina on April 11th, 1974. He played baseball and football at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, where he was State Player of the Year for both baseball and football his senior year. He had a .512 average, a state record 56 RBIs, and also pitched 40 innings going 12-0 with a 0.40 ERA. He was also named Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year. When his high school career was drafted seventh overall by the Red Sox in 1993, but was also offered a football scholarship from North Carolina State. In the end, Nixon turned down NC State and signed with Boston.
Nixon was used sparingly at the Major League level between 1996 and 1998. In his official rookie season in 1999 he finished 9th in Rookie of the Year voting, with fellow Red Sox rookie Brian Daubach finishing 4th. Nixon’s first five years at the Major League level were fairly unremarkable. But following that, Nixon’s impact, both on the field and in the clubhouse, grew exponentially.
In the 2001 season, both Nixon and Daubach had over 20 HRs and 70 RBIs each. But more important than that, the two of them, especially Nixon, led in the creation of a new clubhouse identity. Nixon became the first ever “Dirt Dog”, due to his gross, sweat-marked hat and the pine tar that covered his batting helmet. With Nixon as the archetype, dirt dog became synonymous with a player who goes all out, leaving nothing on the field, regardless of talent level. Nixon’s style of play was adopted as a philosophy throughout the Red Sox clubhouse during and after his time with the team. Players like Bill Mueller, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia all engaged in dirt dog tactics and had successful tenures with the Sox.
Aside from his impact as a dirt dog, Nixon had his fair share of highlights in a Sox uniform. In 2002, after Tampa Bay pitcher Ryan Rupe had hit both Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand, Nixon took retribution into his own hands and hucked his bat at Rupe for targeting his teammates.
Nixon was also quite adept at the plate when it mattered most. In Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS, with the Red Sox down 0-2 in the series, Nixon hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th, sparking the Sox to come back and win the series.
And his biggest career highlight came in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, when he scored the final runs of the season. The Sox were up 1-0 with the bases loaded, and 2 outs in the top of the 3rd. Nixon took a 3-0 pitch from Jason Marquis off the wall in center, driving in 2 runs, giving Boston a 3-0 lead, a lead they would hold and win with to capture the World Series title.
During the regular season of 2004, Nixon spent a large part of the season battling injuries and after that, Nixon never got his numbers back up to where they were earlier in his career. Nixon signed with the Cleveland Indians in 2007 and finished his career following the 2008 season, after playing only 11 games with the New York Mets. Still though for a while he was a very solid player and his stats certainly reflect that making you wonder what could have been if he stayed healthy.
Nixon spends his retirement in his home state of North Carolina with his wife Kathryn and his sons Chase and Luke. And even though his numbers will never reflect it, Nixon had a huge impact on the way the Red Sox have played baseball for the past decade, and was a true professional and role model for how the game should be played.