Vaughn has no room for curse


September 14, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

The back of his red T-shirt, just below the neck area, says, "No crybabies."

No one would ever accuse Mo Vaughn of being a crybaby. In addition to being listed at 6 feet 1, 245 pounds, he's a major reason the Boston Red Sox are in first place, and is a leading candidate for American League Most Valuable Player.

If the "Curse of the Bambino" -- the Red Sox haven't won a World Series since 1918, after which they traded away Babe Ruth -- ever dies, Vaughn could be the one to kill it.

"I don't really believe in failure," Vaughn said. "I believe if you work hard enough and you believe in yourself, you can have success."

It sounds corny, but it's worked. He hit three home runs in the first two games of the Orioles series. He leads the American League with 37 home runs and 114 RBIs.

Not to mention leading the Red Sox by example.

"He only says things when he feels like the team is in need of something," said shortstop and former Seton Hall teammate John Valentin, who compared Vaughn to former Red Sox outfielder Andre Dawson.

Listen to Vaughn long enough and he starts to sound like Kevin Costner in the movie, "Bull Durham," ticking off a list of baseball beliefs.

"I don't believe in days off, I don't believe in relaxation," Vaughn said. "I believe I'm paid to play every day, for my development and the people that I play for."

Vaughn played in 92 straight games to start the season. A July 14 altercation in a Boston nightclub ended Vaughn's streak. He was defending his girlfriend from an abusive ex-boyfriend.

But to Vaughn, that wasn't a good excuse. His first public comments consisted of an apology to the youth of Boston, to whom Vaughn has spent much of his career preaching love, education and respect.

In a city with a history of racial intolerance, Vaughn has become a beloved black superstar and community leader. His impact on young people -- he established the Mo Vaughn Youth Center in Dorchester, Mass. -- is enormous.

"I never expected this stuff to happen," said Vaughn, 27. "I was asked to do some speaking engagements, and I reached some of the kids. I only do as much as the kids want me to do."

The son of two schoolteachers, Vaughn grew up in Norwalk, Conn. His parents imbued in him the importance of a strong work ethic.

Orioles first base coach Al Bumbry, a former coach with the Red Sox, saw it firsthand after Vaughn flopped his first time up with Boston.

"He was pressing offensively," Bumbry said. "The harder he tried, the worse he'd get."

Vaughn went back to work, learning to hit to all fields and improving his fielding. "He's made an incredible transformation," Bumbry said.

Vaughn returned to Boston for good in 1993 and earned the nickname "Hit Dog." He had 29 home runs and 101 RBIs that season and 26 and 82 in strike-shortened 1994.

The front of Vaughn's red T-shirt says "Mo Hotta" and beneath that "Mo Betta." In Boston, there's no better antidote to a 77-year-old curse.

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