Maurice Samuel 'Mo' Vaughn (born December 15, 1967 in Norwalk, Connecticut), nicknamed "Hit Dog", was a Major League Baseball first baseman from 1991 to 2003. Vaughn won the American League MVP award in 1995 and was a key factor in the Boston Red Sox's 1995 and 1998 playoff teams.
He was noted for "crowding the plate"; his stance was such that his front elbow often appear to be hovering in the strike zone, which intimidated pitchers into throwing wide and outside. Because of Vaughn and others like Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball instituted regulations in 2001 that changed the strike zone from a low outside box, to a high inside one; the boundaries used decades ago. The new regulations also banned hitters from using hard protective gear, which was letting them get closer to home plate.
Vaughn became the center of the Red Sox's line-up in 1993, hitting 29 home runs and contributing 101 RBIs, but his reputation as one of the most feared hitters in the American League wasn't grounded until the strike-shortened 1995 season when Vaughn hit 39 home runs with 129 RBIs and a .326 average. He also pitched in with 11 stolen bases, not bad for a man of his size. His efforts, which led the Red Sox to the playoffs (only to lose to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series), were rewarded with the American League MVP award.
Vaughn continued to improve over the next several seasons, batting .315 or higher from 1996 to 1998 and averaging 40 home runs and 118 RBIs. The Red Sox lost in the American League Division Series in 1998, once again to the Cleveland Indians.
Last Season with the Sox
Though Vaughn's boisterous personality and extensive charity work made him a popular figure in Boston, he had many issues with the Red Sox management and local media; his disagreements with Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy and Red Sox general manager Sean Stevenson were particularly acute. As an outspoken clubhouse leader, Vaughn felt that the conservative Sox administration did not want him around. Incidents in which he allegedly punched a man in the mouth outside of a nightclub and crashed his truck while returning home from a strip club in Providence led to further rifts with the administration. Constantly the blood and guts of the club, Mo helped protect young potential hall of famer Nomar Garciaparra and future Red Sox captain Jason Varitek in the Red Sox lineup.
Vaughn hit a walkoff grand slam in the ninth inning of Opening Day at Fenway Park against the Seattle Mariners in 1998. Despite this auspicious start, the season was filled with acrimony, as Vaughn and the Sox administration sniped at each other throughout the year. After Cleveland knocked Boston out of the playoffs in the first round, Vaughn became a free agent. Almost immediately, he signed a six-year, $88-million deal with the Anaheim Angels, the highest contract in the game at that time. The Red Sox sadly made essentially no effort to retain him.
Anaheim and Beyond
While he hit well for Anaheim when he played -- he hit 30-plus homers and knocked in over 100 runs in both 1999 and 2000 -- Vaughn was plagued by injuries in 1999 and didn't play a single game in the 2001 season. He started his Anaheim career by falling down the visitor's dugout steps on his first play of his first game, badly spraining his ankle. Vaughn was nevertheless seen as a viable middle of the line-up producer prior to the 2002 season and was traded to the New York Mets on December 27, 2001 for Kevin Appier.
Vaughn was unable, however, to resurrect his glory days of Boston or kick the injuries which had been nagging him. In 2003, after a poor 2002 season, Vaughn played only 27 games because of a left knee injury. He was advised by several doctors that attempting to play baseball again might lead to disability. The diagnoses successfully put a close to Vaughn's career, a somber way to go for a man who had once garnered so much fear in the batter's box.
- All-Star (1995, 1996)
- American League MVP award winner (1995)
- Finished 4th in American League MVP voting (1998)
- Finished 5th in American League MVP voting (1996)
- Featured in Fox Sports List: Top-10 Out of Shape Athletes (2005)