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Two big home runs were sweet for O'Leary in '99

It is a treasured part of Red Sox lore, an injured Pedro Martínez coming out of the bullpen and throwing six innings of no-hit ball in Cleveland in the deciding game of the 1999 American League Division Series against the Indians.

But there's another name in the record book as a result of that game, one who barely rates a footnote, even though he did as much, if not more, to assure the Sox of winning that night as Martínez. Maybe that's what happens when you played the same position as Williams, Rice, Yaz, and Manny.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Troy O'Leary said by phone from Arizona the other day, speaking of the grand slam and three-run home run he hit in Game 5, lifting the Sox to a 12-8 win, his seven RBIs tying a division series record. "To tell you the truth, it was about the best time of my career."

Before both home runs, Indians manager Mike Hargrove ordered Nomar Garciaparra to be walked intentionally to face O'Leary.

"I remember them walking Nomar," said O'Leary, who was called "Yummy" by his teammates because of his love of sweets, "and thinking to myself, 'Don't pay any attention to it.' I didn't want to get into it. I told myself, 'It's part of the game, just make sure you take three good swings.' "

O'Leary needed just one swing, on each at-bat. In the third inning, he drove the first pitch from Indians starter Charles Nagy over the fence in center field, helping the Sox erase a 5-2 deficit. In the seventh, he connected on the first pitch from Paul Shuey, hitting it over the right-field fence to give the Sox an 11-8 lead.

"Same situation," he said of the second homer. "I didn't try to do too much. I thought one was enough. I got lucky. Then Pedro came in and sucked it up for us. I remember him being in the training room two days before, getting a massage, trying to get him ready. It didn't look like he had much left in his arm."

True to his reticent nature, O'Leary wanted little to do with the media after the game.

"People were on the field, trying to interview me, and I just wanted to get back into the clubhouse and celebrate with my boys," he said. "I remember doing a radio interview, and I could hardly talk.

"It was a great experience. I don't like to be in the camera's eye. That day was a special day."

O'Leary represents one of the high points of Dan Duquette's tenure as Sox general manager. Duquette drafted O'Leary out of high school in Cypress, Calif., when he was scouting director with the Brewers, and he was the GM when the Sox claimed O'Leary off waivers from the Brewers in 1995.

"Duke, he's my main guy," O'Leary said. "I don't think I was on the waiver wire for more than five minutes when they took me. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. It changed everything about the way I felt about baseball."

O'Leary went from a frustrated minor leaguer to a key contributor to the Sox team that won a division title, the last to do so until the '07 bunch.

"Kevin Kennedy gave me the initial start," O'Leary said, saluting the Sox manager at the time. "He kept putting me in there. It was a good situation to succeed."

O'Leary hit .308 in 399 at-bats in that first season with the Sox, and drove in 80 or more runs in each of the next three seasons. He had a career year in '99, batting .280 with 28 home runs and 103 RBIs.

But two years later, the Sox elected to dramatically upgrade at the position, Duquette signing Manny Ramírez to an eight-year, $160 million deal, and O'Leary was cut loose in the winter of '01 after seven seasons with the Sox. He caught on with the Expos and eventually wound up with the Cubs, and in 2003, hit a pinch-hit home run off Josh Beckett in a 9-6 Game 7 loss to the Marlins.

In doing so, O'Leary put himself in the company of Ted Williams, at least in one respect. "That was my last at-bat in the big leagues," O'Leary said.

The following year, 2004, he went to Korea to play. "I tried to revive my career," he said. "But I don't think anybody knew that I'd left, to tell you the truth."

He didn't make it through the summer, returning home midway through the season.

Now?

"I'm getting out, playing golf and watching my kids grow," said O'Leary, father of 9-year-old Trey and 7-year-old Haylee.

O'Leary said he came back to Boston to play with former teammate John Valentin in Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek's golf outing, "but it rained that day."

He went to see the Sox play when they came to Arizona in June, but he didn't come to the clubhouse, he said, because he didn't want to bother anyone.

Yes, he said, he's watching the Sox' playoff run this season, hoping for a Diamondbacks-Sox World Series.

"Of course," he said. "I've got to watch my boys."

O'Leary turned 38 in August. How close is he to being in playing shape? He laughed.

"Give me two weeks, man," he said, "and I could hit the ball. I can swing the bat. Running balls down in the outfield? That may be a different story."

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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