Today In History – Red Sox Propose New Fenway Park

15 May 1999 – On this day nine years ago, Red Sox ownership, led by CEO John Harrington, announces plans to replace 87-year-old Fenway Park with a brand-new complex that features near-identical dimensions across Yawkey Way by 2003; however, plans never got off the ground and new ownership announced the abandonment of any such plan in 2005. The design was to have followed in the spirit of retro-style ballparks like Camden Yards in Baltimore and Jacobs Field in Cleveland, while the old ballpark would have seen new development built in place of what is now center field, the bleachers, and first-base side of the ballpark. However, plans also including turning part of the old Fenway Park into a baseball museum and park. The new plan would also have allowed construction of the new park to take place as the Red Sox played their final games in its historic ball yard.

Ownership claimed that with the current structure, the Red Sox would be unable to stay competitive as player salaries increased; the new stadium, which would be financed by the team, would include 10,000 more seats including luxury boxes and premium seats. All the team asked in return from the state was improvement to the local infrastructure, such as the building of parking garages and improved transportation. However, city, county, and state legislators balked at the idea and, after the sale of the team by the JR Yawkey ownership group in 2002, the idea was scraped as the new ownership, led by John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino, instead poured money into renovations, such as expanded concourses, added bathroom facilities and concessions, and innovations such as the Monster Seats and Conigliaro’s corner that have added close to 6,000 seats to bring the park’s present capacity to just under 40,000. In March of 2005, all plans for a new facility in the foreseeable future were abandoned as the club announced their commitment to remain at Fenway.

Today In History – Pedro Martinez Debuts with Win in Oakland

01 April 1998 – On this day ten years ago, Pedro Martinez makes his debut with the Boston Red Sox, strikes out 11 batters, and allows only three hits in a 2-0 win over the Athletics in Oakland. Martinez, who had pitched the previous four seasons in Montreal, had signed as a free agent with Boston over the off-season in a deal that guaranteed six years and $72.7 million, with a club option for a seventh season at $17.5 million. The previous season, he had posted 17 wins in 31 starts with a 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts, easily winning the National League Cy Young award. With the game starting late on the West Coast at 10:40 PM ET, Martinez set down the first eleven batters he faced before giving up a line-drive single to left field to Ben Grieve. The only real threat came in the seventh when back-to-back singles followed by a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out; however, facing his last two batters of the night, Martinez struck out catcher A.J. Hinch and center fielder Jason McDonald to keep Oakland off the board. Darren Bragg provided the only run the Red Sox would need in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Darren Lewis, and John Valentin added an insurance run in the seventh with a sac fly that plated Bragg.

Martinez would go on to finish second in the American League Cy Young vote that season behind former Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens, posting a 19-7 record with a 2.89 ERA and 251 strikeouts in 33 starts. The following year, he joined Randy Johnson as the first pitchers to win a Cy Young award in both leagues, the first of two consecutive awards for the ace. In seven seasons with Boston, Martinez would win 117 games against 37 losses, post a 2.52 ERA, and strike out 1683 batters in nearly 1400 innings of work. He would also be part of the club in 2004 that won Boston’s first World Series championship in 86 years, winning Game Three of the series against the St. Louis Cardinals with seven scoreless innings of work. Through 2007, his won-loss percentage of .760 puts him first in franchise history, his win total puts him tied for sixth, and his strikeout total puts him second behind Clemens, though just three ahead of current Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield.

Today In History – Tom Yawkey Buys The Red Sox

25 February 1933 – Seventy-five years ago today, in the midst of the Great Depression, Bob Quinn sells the Red Sox franchise to Thomas Austin Yawkey, who four days earlier had celebrated his 30th birthday. Quinn had owned the franchise since 1923 and the team had suffered considerably under his ownership; his clubs had averaged 99 loses against only 54 wins and suffered five seasons with 100 or more losses in ten years. In fact, since going 75-51 in the war-shortened 1918 campaign and winning the club’s fourth World Series in seven years, Boston had suffered 14 consecutive losing seasons under Quinn and previous owner Harry Frazee.

In 1932, the team had won just 43 games, fewest in team history, while ending up on the losing end of the score 111 times. Not only was Quinn’s ballclub suffering, Fenway Park had been left to deteriorate as Quinn’s debts mounted. At the same time, Yawkey, who had been born into wealth and whose uncle (and adoptive father) had once owned the Detroit Tigers, was looking to buy a baseball team. He turned down an offer to purchase a minor league team and refused another to buy half of the Brooklyn Dodgers; for him, it was all or nothing. He eventually heard through one of his sources that the Red Sox were available and quickly got his lawyers busy looking into the opportunity. By early 1933, talks were underway and, in the end, Quinn agrees to sell both the team and the park to Yawkey to the tune of $1.2 million dollars, a bargain price even at the time.

Within two years, Yawkey not only had Fenway Park renovated using his own money while employing several out-of-worker Bostonians but, with trusted confidant and former Philadelphia Athletics star Eddie Collins installed as vice president and general manager, also had the team performing better on the field, finishing at .500 in 1934 and winning 80-plus games in 12 of 15 seasons between 1937 and 1951. Yawkey would own the team for 43 seasons until his death in 1976, and ownership would remain in his trust until 2002, when the team was sold to current owner John Henry and his investment group for nearly $700 million.

Today In History – Red Sox Name Becomes Official

17 December 2007 – On this day 100 years ago, the Red Sox’ team name becomes official in an announcement by club owner John I. Taylor. Before that, the team had no true identity other than that of being the American League representative in Boston; in fact, most teams of that era did not have true names other than what creative sportswriters deemed necessary to make good copy. Though Bill Nowlin has shown that the name most often used by columnists was either the “Bostons” or the “Americans” (and not the Pilgrims, as some historic references have falsely reported), the truth was that there was no official nickname used by the team.

So how was Red Sox chosen by Taylor? Following the 1907 season, the National League representative in Boston, managed by Fred Tenney, had switched from wearing red stockings to white on the belief by Tenney that the red dye would cause infection if a player was spiked in the course of action on the ball field. Taylor took note of this and decided to switch his team from wearing uniforms trimmed in pale blue to bright, fire-engine red, though it should be noted that the “Nationals” had worn a dark, deep red. He also took an old nickname that had been used for the NL club, the Red Stockings, and shortened it to simply Red Sox. To emphasize the name, on the center of the jersey, he had a large red sock shown with the name Boston in white letters. That design just lasted one season and the uniforms switched back to read as they had in 1907, with just the name Boston on the front of the jersey, but the name stuck with fans and the media long enough to become synonymous with the identity of the team.

Today In History – Base-Running Blunders Doom Boston

02 October 1972 – On this day thirty-five years ago, Boston loses the first game of a crucial three-game series in Detroit, 4-1, thanks in part to a costly base-running mishap by the Red Sox. Six months earlier, the start of the 1972 season is delayed by baseball’s first player’s strike; upon its conclusion one week after the regular season is set to begin, Major League Baseball decides not to make up any of the lost games on the schedule. As a result, the Red Sox lose seven games to the strike while the Tigers lose six. Now with the regular season nearing its conclusion, the division title comes down to a final three-game series in Detroit, with the Red Sox ahead of the Tigers by a half-game in first place; whoever takes two-of-three would be American League East division champions.

In the opener, Detroit jumps to an early 1-0 lead but Boston appears to have a rally started in the top half of the third inning when, with one out, left fielder Tommy Harper singles and shortstop Luis Aparicio follows with a ground ball single to left, moving Harper to third. With runners on the corners, Carl Yastrzemski, playing first base, steps to the plate and hits a deep shot to center field for what seems like a sure triple. Harper easy strolls home and the fleet-footed Aparicio races from first looking to cross the plate as well. However, as he nears the third-base bag, Aparicio stumbles suddenly, then slips on the bag and falls into foul territory; he immediately gets up to return to the base. Unfortunately, Yastrzemski, who has not seen the miscue, motors around second with his head down, thinking he had an easy triple; to his surprise, Yaz arrives at third only to find his teammate still there. Aparicio makes a final attempt to head home but slips again on the wet grass and scrambles back to third; Yastrzemski has no choice but to try and return to second, but he’s easily tagged out by Tigers third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez.

With Aparicio still standing on third, the next batter, Reggie Smith, strikes out to end the frame; from there, Boston never recovers, reaching third base only once other time as Tigers starter Mickey Lolich pitches a complete game, striking out 15 while allowing just the one run, and Detroit walks away with a 4-1 win in the opener. Any chance to salvage the series ends the following day as the visiting Red Sox lose again, 3-1; a meaningless 4-1 win on the final day of the season is to no satisfaction as it leaves Boston with a final record of 85-70, exactly a half-game behind Detroit at 86-70 and out of post-season contention for the fifth straight season.

Today In History – Switch-Hitting Smith Helps BoSox Sweep

20 August 1967 – On this day forty years ago, Red Sox outfielder Reggie Smith hits three home runs in two games at Fenway Park as Boston not only sweeps a doubleheader against California, 12-2 and 9-8, but completes a four-game series sweep against the Angels. The four wins also avenges a sweep at the hands of the Angels in Anaheim one week earlier and moves the surging Red Sox to within 1-1/2 games of first place in the American League, but comes at a price; Tony Conigliaro is beaned by a Jack Hamilton pitch in the first game of the series and the young outfielder will miss not only the rest of the season but the entire 1968 campaign as well.

In the first game, Smith becomes the first player in franchise history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a single game; his first, a three-run shot, comes in the first inning off left-handed starting pitcher George Brunet and the second, a two-run blast, comes in the sixth off right-hander Pete Cimino. Rico Petrocelli and Carl Yastrzemski also homer as Boston scores five runs in the first and six runs in the sixth to make it a laugher.

In the nightcap, the Angels take a commanding 8-0 lead before Smith hits his third home run of the day, a solo shot off Angels starter Jim McGlothlin, with one out in the fourth inning. The Red Sox then score three in the fifth on Yastrzemski’s second home run of the day and four in the sixth to tie the score at eight runs apiece; third baseman Jerry Adair then completes the scoring with a solo home run into the netting above the Green Monster. In the ninth inning, the Angels attempt to salvage at least one game in the series thanks to a single and a double to open the frame that put runners on second and third. However, reliever Jose Santiago manages to pitch out of the jam by inducing a groundout to second base, a strikeout, and a international walk followed by a groundout into a force at second.

Today In History – Dom DiMaggio’s Hitting Streak Ends

09 August 1949 – On this day 58 years ago, Red Sox outfielder Dom DiMaggio’s franchise-record 34-game hitting streak comes to an end as he goes 0-for-5 at the plate against Yankee hurler Vic Raschi, but Boston still wins the game 6-3 in front of more than 35,000 fans at Fenway Park behind eventual 23-game-winner Ellis Kinder. With one last chance to extend the streak in the bottom of the eighth inning, Dom’s line drive to center field is caught on the shoestrings by his own brother, Joe DiMaggio, who today still holds the major league record for the longest consecutive-game hitting streak at 56.

Known to teammates as “The Little Professor,” the five-foot-nine bespectacled outfielder looked more like he belonged in front of a classroom than on a baseball diamond, yet he was perhaps one of the best to play the outfield for Boston. Seven times, DiMaggio was named to the All-Star game during his 11 seasons in Boston, sandwiched around three years of service with the Coast Guard during the second World War. DiMaggio would also hit in 27 straight games in 1951 and, used primarily as a leadoff hitter, scored 100 or more runs seven times. Though his numbers were not enough to earn consideration for Hall of Fame induction, he was part of the original class of former players inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995.

Today In History – Rick Ferrell Homers Off Wes Ferrell

19 July 1933 – On this day seventy-four years ago, Red Sox catcher Rick Ferrell hits a home run at Fenway Park off his brother Wes Ferrell, who is pitching for the visiting Cleveland Indians. However, Wes will return the favor with a home run of his own later in the game as the Indians edge the Red Sox, 8-7.

Rick, a future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, played 18 seasons in the major leagues, including five seasons with Boston, batting .302 with 16 home runs and 240 in a Red Sox uniform. He was named to the All-Star game four times with Boston, including as a starter at the inaugural Mid-Summer Classic in 1933, just two months after coming to the Red Sox in a trade with the St. Louis Browns.  Younger brother Wes, who played 15 seasons in the majors, came to Boston himself less than a year later from Cleveland and twice won 20 or more games in four seasons with the Red Sox, including a career-high 25 games in 1935. Ferrell was also one of a select few pitchers who knew how to wield a bat; he set a major-league record for career home runs by a pitcher with 38, two more than his older brother Rick managed, including 17 with the Red Sox.

Despite the abilities of both players and in part due to Wes’s pronounced temperament, often leading to fiery confrontations with then-manager Joe Cronin, Boston traded Wes and Rick as a package to Washington in June of 1937, ending the Ferrell brothers’ association with the Red Sox.

Today In History – Red Sox Hammer Browns for 29 Runs

08 June 1950 – On this day fifty-seven years ago at Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox embarrass the St. Louis Browns, 29-4. The Sox score eight runs in the second inning, five in the third, seven in the fourth, two in the fifth, two in the seventh, and five in the eighth. Second baseman Bobby Doerr hits 3 home runs and drives home eight, rookie sensation Walt Dropo hits another two home runs, drives home seven, and crosses the plate five times, while slugger Ted Williams strokes two long balls and driving home five. In fact, each of these players connect for a home run in the eighth inning alone. Pitcher Chuck Stobbs walks four times to tie a record for pitchers at the plate and right fielder Al Zarilla ties a record with four doubles in one game while also stroking a single in nine at-bats, though he is unable to add to the scoring barrage and fails to drive home a single run. In addition, outfielder Clyde Vollmer, batting leadoff, goes to the plate eight times in 8 innings‚ the only time this has happened in history.

Boston sets several marks in the game, including: most runs scored (29), most RBI in one game (also 29), most players scoring four or more runs (4), most players scoring at least three runs (7), most total bases (60), most hits (28), and most extra-base hits (17). Another mark is set of most extra bases on long hits (32) in a game‚ and the most extra bases on long hits in consecutive games (51). The previous day, the Red Sox had beaten the Browns 20-4 on 23 hits, setting other records for most runs scored in consecutive games at 49 and most hits in consecutive games at 51. The two games were part of a nine-game stretch to begin the month of June in which Boston would score 119 runs. The Browns, who would later relocate to Baltimore after the 1953, prove to be easy prey for the Red Sox that season as Boston would score 216 runs and finish with 19 wins in 22 games against St. Louis. At season’s end, Boston’s potent offense would score 1,027 total runs in 1950 and bat a remarkable .302 as a team.

Today In History – Red Sox and Yankees Rivalry Debuts

07 May 1903 – On this day 104 years ago, at Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston and New York meet for the first time in this storied rivalry as the home team wins over the visitors, 6-2. This was not the first time that the two franchises had played each other, however; in 1901, the future New York Yankees had debuted as the Baltimore Orioles and played for two seasons there before making the move to New York to become the Highlanders (New York would not adopt the Yankees name until 1913). Since 1903 through the 2006 season, New York holds a distinct advantage over Boston in terms of wins head-to-head, 1076 to 882, not including postseason play. Boston’s best season against New York came in 1912, the year in which the franchise won a record 105 games and the World Series, when the Red Sox won 19 of 21 meetings between the two clubs. Likewise, the Yankees’ best season against the Sox came in 1927, when Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the rest of Murderer’s Row took 18 of 22 against the Sox and also went on to win the World Series that fall.