Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game was first played in 1933 at old Comiskey Park in Chicago and future Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell became the first (and only) player from the Red Sox named to the American League team. Since then, a total of 97 players have made 257 appearances representing Boston. The player who has made the most appearances for Boston is Ted Williams, who played on 19 All-Star teams between 1940 and 1960; 12 times, he was named the starting left fielder for the Junior Circuit representatives, also a team record. In second place is Carl Yastrzemski, who was named to 18 All-Star squads and started seven games at three different positions; left field, center field, and first base. Bobby Doerr is third with nine appearances and five starting roles, while Wade Boggs and Jim Rice each represented Boston eight times, Boggs starting seven times at third base and Rice starting four times in the outfield.
With regards to the number of All-Stars named from Boston in a given season, the 1946 squad includes eight All-Stars: Williams, Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Boo Ferriss, Mickey Harris, Johnny Pesky, Hal Wagner, and Rudy York. Three times, the Red Sox sent seven players: 1977, 1978, and 2002. Twice, they sent six players: 1949 and 2007. Only ten times has the requisite single representative been named from Boston, most recently as 2001 when perennial All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez was sent to Safeco Field in Seattle to represent the Red Sox in his first season with the club.
As the Boston Red Sox head to Japan to play the first two games of its 2008 regular season schedule in Tokyo against the Oakland Athletics, it is interesting to note that, as well as having had Japanese players like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima play for Boston, there have been several non-Japanese players with past Red Sox teams that have also logged time with a Far East baseball club.. Perhaps the most well-known of these players is former outfielder and recent Red Sox Hall of Fame inductee Mike Greenwell, who signed on to play with the Hanshin Tigers in 1997 after twelve seasons with Boston. However, “the Gator” unexpectedly left the team during spring training while claiming an undiagnosed back injury, abruptly flew back to the United States, then returned to Japan and rejoined the team in late April. He finally played his first Japanese professional game in early May but, after fracturing his foot with a foul tip, announced his official retirement from baseball after batting .231 in just seven games with the club.
Outfielder Reggie Smith was another former Red Sox great who later played in Japan, though his move to Japan came ten years after he departed Boston. After playing his final season in the majors with the San Francisco Giants in 1982, Smith was lured to Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants; however, his personality and demeanor immediately clashed with the expectations of the Japanese fans and the media with regards to the norm for a baseball player. After injuring his knee early in the 1983 season, he was dubbed “Million-Dollar Bench-Warmer” by the Japanese media as he sat for two months nursing the injury; he also earned another less-honorable nickname, the “Giant Human Fan,” for striking out too often. Despite this, in just 263 at-bats, he managed a batting average of .285 with 28 home runs, a .409 on-base percentage, and a .609 slugging percentage.
One other more-recent Boston player who donned spikes in the Land of the Rising Sun was Gabe Kapler who, lured by a lucrative contract offer, departed the Red Sox a month after the team won the World Series in 2004 and joined the Yomiuri club. However, after batting just .153 (17-for-111) with three home runs and six RBI in 38 games with the Giants, the team put the veteran outfielder on waivers and Kapler returned to the Red Sox in June of 2005. In addition, other non-Japanese players who have worn both a Boston uniform as well as one for a Japanese club include: John Wasdin, who played for the Red Sox between 1997 and 2000, then signed for one season with Yomiuri in 2002; Larry Parrish, who played a half-season with the Sox in 1988, then played a season each with the Yakult Swallows (1989) and Hanshin (1990); Kip Gross, who played five seasons in Japan for the Nippon Ham Fighters (1994-1998), then returned to the United States to play for Boston for one season (1999); and Benny Agbayani, who also played 13 games for Boston in 2002 and has played the last four seasons for the Chiba Lotte Marines (2004-2007).
Stuffy McInnis enjoyed a long baseball career in the early part of the 20th century; between 1909 and 1927, the Gloucester, Massachusetts native played for six teams, including the Boston Red Sox between 1918 and 1921, and was part of five World Series champions. At the plate, he finished with a .307 batting average, batting over .300 12 times in 19 seasons, and his 2,405 career hits places him just inside the top 100 all-time through the 2007 season. He also finished third all-time in sacrifice hits for a career with 383, one of only 11 players in MLB history with at least 300, and fanned only 189 times in 6,667 at-bats between 1913 and 1927, a rate of 35.3 at-bats per strikeout, ninth all-time. With Boston, McInnis batted .296 with 594 hits and only 49 strikeouts in 2,006 at-bats.
McInnis was also known a great defensive player. He originally broke in as a shortstop, but ultimately moved to first base after a few seasons. In a time known as the “dead-ball” era, first base was a key defensive position and McInnis became part of Connie Mack’s “$100,000 infield” with the Philadelphia Athletics; teaming with second baseman Eddie Collins, third baseman Frank Baker and shortstop Jack Barry between 1911 and 1914, the team won World Series titles in 1911 and 1914 and an American League pennant in 1913. In 1921, his fourth and final season with Boston, McInnis set a record for his position with only one error in 1,651 chances, good for a .999 fielding percentage. He also went a stretch of 163 games between 31 May 1921 and 02 June 1922 without making an error, the first 119 games as a Boston player while spending the latter season with the Cleveland Indians.
Those records stood until 2007 when current Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis managed to go the entire year without making a single error in 1080 chances, the only player in the league to end the regular season with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Youkilis also broke McInnis’s consecutive errorless games streak by a Red Sox first baseman when he lodged his 120th mistake-free contest on 25 June 2007. It should be noted that the streak continues; entering the 2008 season, he has now played 190 straight error-free games at first, a new American League record and three shy of the major league record set by former Gold Glove winner Steve Garvey.
As Red Sox players gather in Fort Myers to begin spring training and prepare to defend the team’s 2007 World Series championship, it is a far cry from the very first Boston team pre-season. American League president Ban Johnson had only awarded a franchise in his upstart league to Boston in early January 1901 to Charles Somers and the season was slated to start just over three months later in Baltimore. Looking to directly compete against the well-established National League in Boston, franchise Somers and Johnson spent the first two months of the club’s existence putting together a team and signed Jimmy Collins, who had played for the Boston NL franchise only last season, to manage the club and play third base. Johnson also managed to lure Collins’ teammate, outfielder Chick Stahl, and another big-name National League star, Cy Young, into the fold.
With a roster in place, the team left South Station in Boston on 28 March and headed south to begin practice at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; by coincidence, the “Americans” were on the same train carrying the “Nationals” from Boston, who continued on to their training facility in Norfolk. Unlike major league players today that spend a good percentage of the off-season working out in order to enter camp in near-peak physical form, the stars of yesteryear needed every moment of spring training to prepare for the long season and this remained true for many decades. For Boston’s first training camp, the standards of the day were followed; mornings were spent by the players taking practice at the plate and in the field, while the afternoons were devoted to long hikes in full uniform to build endurance. After less than a week of conditioning, the new club squared off in an exhibition against the squad from the local university on 05 April and soundly defeated the collegians by a score of 13-0. Unfortunately, the game was followed by a week of rain that made practice near impossible, as there were no field houses or indoor batting cages at the team’s convenience. The team managed only a few more practices before finally breaking camp and heading back north to Baltimore, where they would play the first game in franchise history on 26 April 1901 and lose, 10-6.
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis strung together 135 errorless games and 1,094 errorless innings at first base during the 2007 regular season for a fielding percentage of 1.000, a feat of perfection that has been duplicated only once before in major league history. He has also played 190 consecutive errorless games in the regular season at first base, three shy of Steve Garvey’s major league record, and has easily surpassed the old Red Sox record (120 games by Stuffy McInnis) and American League record (178 games by Mike Hegan). For his efforts, American League managers and coaches last week honored the four-year veteran his first Rawlings Gold Glove award, one year after making the full-time switch from the third base position where he was raised as a professional player. He is the first Red Sox player to earn the honor since teammate Jason Varitek won the honor at the catcher’s position in 2005 and only the second Red Sox first baseman to be recognized, the other being George Scott, who won it three times between 1967 and 1971.
Since the awards were first handed out in 1957, 16 Red Sox players have captured the honor a total of 36 times. The first year the awards were given, only one award was made for both leagues, and Frank Malzone won the inaugural honor at third base. Five Boston players have won the award multiple times, with former outfielder Dwight Evans holding the team record with eight Gold Gloves won between 1976 and 1985 and Carl Yastrzemski capturing seven in his 23 seasons with the club. Nine times, the Red Sox have had more than one honoree in the same season; twice they have had three. Yastrzemski, Scott, and outfielder Reggie Smith all won at their positions in 1968 and Evans, outfielder Fred Lynn, and shortstop Rick Burleson each capture the honor in 1979. The last time the Sox had more than one winner in a single season came in 1990, when pitcher Mike Boddicker, the only Boston player to ever win a Gold Glove as a pitcher, and outfielder Ellis Burks both won. Gold Gloves have been at a premium for Boston players since averaging better than one per season between 1957 and 1985; catcher Tony Pena in 1991 had been the last Red Sox player to capture the defensive honor before Varitek ended a 14-year drought in 2005, giving the team a total of just five awards in the last 22 seasons.
With the Boston Red Sox facing elimination from the American League Championship Series, down three games to one to the Cleveland Indians, Red Sox fans can take solace in the fact that Boston has a recent history of coming back to win when facing early deficits in playoff series. In 1999, the club faced quick elimination from post-season play when they fell behind two games to none in a best-of-five divisional series with the Indians, but the Sox bounced back with two wins at home and won the series finale 12-8 behind two home runs from Troy O’Leary and a memorable relief effort from Pedro Martinez. Four years later in 2003, Boston also fell behind the Oakland Athletics 2-0 in their divisional match-up, but two wins at Fenway Park sent the series back west for the finale, where a three-run home run by Manny Ramirez, seven strong innings from Martinez, and a save by Derek Lowe gave Boston a 4-3 win in the deciding game.
Boston is also one of ten teams in post-season history to climb back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the series. In 1986, the Sox were one out away from losing to the California Angels in the American League Championship Series when Dave Henderson’s two-run home run to left field at Angel Stadium gave Boston a temporary one-run cushion; the Red Sox would eventually win the game 7-6 in extra innings to force the series back to the East Coast. There, perhaps still stunned by the turn of events in Game Five, the Angels easily crumbled under the sodium lights at Fenway Park as Boston won Game Six 10-4 and then took Game Seven 8-1 behind a strong effort by Roger Clemens and home runs by Dwight Evans and Jim Rice to win the pennant. Boston also accomplished the same feat 18 years later in one of the most memorable comebacks in league history. Against the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Red Sox found themselves down three games to none after getting trounced 19-8 in Game Three at Fenway Park, but Boston won two extra-inning affairs in Games Four and Five to send the series back to New York. After winning Game Six to force a winner-take-all finale, the Red Sox completed the first-ever comeback from a 3-0 post-season series deficit in Major League Baseball with an easy 10-3 win over a shell-shocked New York ball club, with former Boston outfielder Johnny Damon hitting two home runs and driving home six in the effort.
On Saturday night, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, making just his second career major league start, became the 17th player and first rookie in franchise history to toss a no-hitter as he held the Baltimore Orioles to just three walks while striking out nine on 115 pitches in a 10-0 Boston win. It was the first no-hitter thrown by a Boston pitcher since Derek Lowe no-hit Tampa Bay at Fenway Park back in April 2002, one year after Hideo Nomo threw his second career no-hitter against the Orioles at Camden Yard in April 2001.
The 23-year-old rookie, drafted by the Red Sox in 2005 as compensation for the loss of Pedro Martinez to free agency, also became the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter in either his first or second major league start; his only other start came two weeks ago against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Fenway. Buchholz also became the 17th rookie in major league history to throw a no-hitter and the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter this season. It was also the first time that he had thrown more than seven innings in a start for the Boston organization this season; he had thrown seven complete twice with Double-A Portland and once with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Ironically, Boston actually had the opportunity on the last day of the 2006 season to witness a rookie throw a no-hitter in just his second start. Devern Hansack, making his Fenway debut one week after his major league debut in Toronto, went five innings against Baltimore and, despite one walk, had faced the minimum 15 batters while striking out six. Unfortunately, the game was called on account of severe weather after five complete with the Red Sox leading 9-0; due to rule changes made in 1991 by Major League Baseball’s Committee for Statistical Accuracy, Hansack’s effort was not recognized as an official “no-hitter” in the record books since he had thrown fewer than nine no-hit innings.
In team history, only Cy Young and Dutch Leonard have thrown more than one no-hitter for the Red Sox and Young is the only Boston pitcher to throw a perfect game, the first in American League history. Oddly enough, no-hitters have come in bunches for Boston; nine were tossed between Young’s perfect gem in 1904 and Leonard’s second no-no in 1918. After Howard Ehmke no-hit the Athletics in Philadelphia in 1923, no Red Sox pitcher managed another one until 1956 when Mel Parnell threw one at Fenway Park against Chicago. Six years later, Earl Wilson and Bill Monbouquette threw no-hitters within five weeks of each other in 1962 and Dave Morehead threw a no-no against the Indians at home in 1965; it would then be another 36 years before the next Red Sox no-hitter and 37 years before a Red Sox pitcher would toss one in front of the home crowd at Fenway.
As Boston continues to make its push to win the team’s first division title since 1995, a once-comfortable, double-digit lead has shrunk to five games through games played last night. While this may be a cause for concern to some Red Sox fans, records show that in franchise history, Boston has more often than not managed to stay the course and maintain this lead through the end of regular season play. Fifteen times, the Red Sox have held or shared the lead at the end of play on 22 August and gone on to win a division title or the pennant eleven times. The largest lead ever held at this date was a 13-1/2 game divisional lead in 1995, while Boston was tied for the lead in the American League pennant chase in 1967, two years before divisional play began.
Only three times has Boston failed to make the playoffs with a lead this late in the season, all within the remarkable span of five years. In 1974, the Red Sox held a 6-1/2 game lead over the second place Indians and a seven-game lead over the third-place Orioles, but a severe late-season slump put Boston in third-place at the end of the regular season, seven games behind Baltimore. Three years later, Boston held just a half-game lead over second-place New York. Despite going 26-15 over the remainder of the season, the Red Sox would tie for second with the Orioles as the Yankees went 28-11 over that same stretch to win the division by 2-1/2 games.
In 1978, the Sox owned a seven-game lead over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers and a 7-1/2 game lead over the third-place Yankees, but another collapse, marked by the infamous “Boston Massacre” in early September, dropped Boston as far as 3-1/2 games behind New York. An eight-game win streak to end the season put the two teams in a first-place tie, forcing a one-game playoff at Fenway Park. Unfortunately for Boston, thanks in part to light-hitting Bucky Dent’s three-run home run for New York, the visitors prevailed with a 5-4 win, leaving the Red Sox out of the playoff picture.
Only one other time has Boston held a lead at this point in the season and not gone on to win a division title or the pennant, but the Red Sox still made post-season play. In 2005, the club held a 3-1/2 game lead over second-place New York and the lead would get as high as four games on 10 September but, thanks in part to a late-season surge by the Yankees, the two teams would finish with identical 95-67 records. However, New York had won the season series between the two teams 10-9, with the Yankees needing just one win in a season-ending three-game series in Boston to ensure this, thereby giving the Bombers their ninth straight division title. However, the Red Sox would still end up in the post-season as the wild card team.
Former Red Sox pitcher Jack Wilson may not be a name familiar even to die-hard Fenway fanatics and his career hardly made a blip on the radar as a professional ballplayer. In nine big-league seasons, seven with the Red Sox between 1935 and 1941, the University of Portland, Oregon product was 68-72 with a 4.59 ERA and 590 strikeouts. His best season, arguably, came in 1937 when he went 16-10 with an ERA of 3.70 in 51 appearances, splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen as he also saved seven games at a time when this was not a recognized statistic.
He may be better remembered, however, for what he did with his bat rather than with his arm. In September of 1935, Boston trailed Washington 7-0 in the first game of a Labor Day doubleheader at Fenway Park before the team rallied to tie the score at 8-8 after eight innings. Wilson then capped the comeback with a game-winning solo home run to dead center field, his first-ever major league home run, as the home team won by a final of 9-8 in 11 innings. Nearly five years later, pitching in the second game of a June 1940 doubleheader at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Wilson helped his own cause with two home runs as the visitors collected five home runs and 20 total hits en route to a 14-5 rout of the White Sox. These would be the only three home runs out of 15 extra-base hits that Wilson, a .199 hitter, would manage in 413 career at-bats.
Through Sunday, San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds has amassed 753 home runs in his career, two round trips shy of Henry “Hank” Aaron’s record for most home runs by a Major League Baseball player (former Japanese Central League baseball player Sadaharu Oh holds the professional baseball record, having hit 868 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants). Last year, on 28 May 2006, Bonds passed former Red Sox and Yankees baseball great Babe Ruth for second-place all-time, notching home run number 715 in the sixth inning off former Red Sox pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim of Colorado in San Francisco as the Giants lost 6-3 to the Rockies.
Then again, had one of modern baseball’s rules been observed early in Ruth’s career, it might have been necessary for Bonds to hit one more home run to pass the legendary ballplayer. On 08 July 1918, with the score tied in the tenth inning at Fenway Park, Ruth ended the game for the Red Sox with a walk-off hit over the outfield fence. Unfortunately, prior to 1931, as soon as the first run necessary to win the game scored, the ball was ruled dead, and the batter was credited only with the number of bases needed to drive in the winning run. In this instance, Red Sox center field Amos Strunk had already reached first base earlier in the inning when Ruth stepped up to the plate; after his hit left the yard, the umpires awarded an RBI triple to Ruth as Strunk crossed home plate one base ahead of “The Bambino” with the deciding run. This was the only instance in The Babe’s career in which this happened, and several other players from that period also lost home runs in this fashion.
In 1931, in part due to the frequency and popularity of Ruth’s home runs, the rule was changed to allow the entire play to be completed, with the ball ruled dead and all runners given the opportunity to move freely around the bases, which in turn allowed for the batter to be credited with a home run and all runs batted in, depending on the number of players on base. To put in perspective today, if the original rule still applied today, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz would have had three game-winning home runs for Boston since 2004 and his two game-winners from the 2004 post-season also changed to triples. As an added note, baseball historians did make an attempt in the 1960s to have the records of those who played prior to 1931 updated to reflect this rule change, but Major League Baseball decided to leave them as they still stand today.