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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Carl Yastrzemski and the Boston Red Sox: Did You Know?

Every major league baseball team has their own Mount Rushmore; their most iconic players from respective franchise histories. The Boston Red Sox are no exception, and having been in existence for more than a century, have as impressive a group as anyone. This include Hall-of-Fame outfielder Carl Yastrzemski, better known to fans simply as “Yaz.” Although his career has been much discussed, here are some things that you may not know.

-Best remembered for playing left field in front of the famous Green Monster for most of his career, Yastrzemski also played the other outfield positions and some first base (especially at the end of his career). What many may not recall is that he also played a little third base, appearing in 33 career games at the hot corner. 31 of those came in 1973 when he was 33 years old and filling in for injured teammate Rico Petrocelli. His 12 errors were convincing proof that it was an experiment not worth extending.

-A career .285 hitter with an .847 OPS over 23 seasons, the left-handed hitter had significant platoon splits during his career. He tuned up right-handed pitching with a .299 batting average and .891 OPS, while posting a rather pedestrian .244/.692 split versus southpaws.

-His first major league hit was a single to right field off the Kansas City Athletics’ Ray Herbert. He quickly negated that thrill by getting thrown out trying to steal second base, thus ending the inning.

-His final major league hit was an infield single down the third base line against Bud Anderson and the Cleveland Indians on October 2, 1983.

-His first major league home run was a two-run blast to the opposite field on May 9, 1961 against Jerry Casale and the Los Angeles Angels.

-His 452nd and final home run was a two-run job off Rick Sutcliffe and the Indians on September 10, 1983.

-Playing for so long meant spanning multiple generations. When Yaz first broke in, his oldest teammate was first baseman Vic Wertz, who had debuted in the majors in 1947. During Yaz’s last season in 1983, one of his teammates was Wade Boggs, who went on to play until 1999.

-The most home runs Yaz hit against any one pitcher were the seven each he parked against Mickey Lolich, Joe Coleman and Pat Dobson.

- With the three pitchers mentioned in the previous paragraph all spending at least a portion of their career with the Detroit Tigers, it’s not surprising that the team Yaz took deep the most was… the Tigers! His 65 homers against them and their formerly inviting right field porch were 13 more than he hit against the New York Yankees.

-Yaz wore out plenty of pitchers over the years but there were a few hurlers who got the best of him. The one who faced in more at bats without giving up a hit was right-hander Roger Nelson, who yielded but a solitary walk in the 17 times he faced off against the Hall-of Famer.

-The Red Sox had winning seasons in 16 of Yastrzemski’s 23 years as a player.

-Only four players (Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb and Rickey Henderson) reached base more often than the 5,304 times Yaz did in his career

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  1. Andrew, I read your recent, wonderful article on Yaz. When he hit his first homer in 1961 vs. the Angels, they were known as the Los Angeles Angels, not the California Angels.

  2. Did you know that Yaz was the only player in American League history to lead the league in hits and walks in the same season (1963)?