I was watching Sports Century on ESPN Classic. It featured the storied career of Carl Yastremski. Yaz spent his entire 22-year career with the Boston Red Sox. A local product who grew up in Southampton, New York he played for Bridgehampton High School. He hit .512 during his high school career. After attending Notre Dame where he had scholarships for baseball and basketball, Yastremski signed with the Red Sox in 1958.
Three years later, he made his major league debut. At age 21, he was considered Ted Williams’ replacement. Patrolling left field at Fenway Park, it wasn’t easy right away. During his first six seasons, he batted .293 and averaged 18 home runs, 65 extra base hits and 83 RBI’s. Respectable numbers. He was already a great defensive player winning two Gold Gloves. But still not what Teddy Ballgame expected. Criticized for not always hustling, Yaz rededicated himself before the 1967 season. Adding a better workout regimen along with a different batting stance that allowed him to become a dead pull hitter, he exploded at age 27. A special year that saw him lead the American League in batting (.326), homers (44) and RBI’s (121) to win the Triple Crown along with AL MVP.
Putting ’67 in perspective, Yastremski paced the junior circuit in 10 offensive categories including hits (189), runs (112) and total bases (360). He also finished with 79 extra base hits and led the Red Sox to the pennant. They lost in seven games to the Cardinals. He did his part hitting .400 with three dingers with five RBI’s. Amazingly, Boston only made the postseason once more losing the World Series to Cincinnati in 1975. Despite some talented teams, Yaz never won a Series. The most heartbreaking year was 1978 when the Yankees came back and stunned them in a one game playoff at Fenway. They held on for a 5-4 win with Goose Gossage getting Yastremski to pop up for the final out.
Throughout his entire career spent with one team, Yaz played in 3,308 games and recorded 3,419 hits. He hit .285 with 452 homers and 1,844 RBI’s. How great was he? Yastremski was an All-Star 18 times during an era when it wasn’t as common for hitters to put up big numbers. In fact, he had three 40-homer seasons and knocked in over 100 five times. He won three batting titles (’63, ’67, ’68) including his first at 23 in only his third year. He hit .321 and led the league with 183 hits, 40 doubles and a .418 on-base percentage. He was a player who reached base finishing better than .400 OBP six times. He also drew over 100 walks half a dozen times including four straight from ’68-71. His career OBP was .379. Known as one of the greatest defensive left fielders, he won seven Gold Gloves.
After finally calling it a career in 1983, he was elected as a first ballot Hall Of Famer in 1989. Voted in in his first year with Johnny Bench, Yastremski received 94.6 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writer’s Association. He received 423 votes while Bench got 431.