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Today In History – Tom Yawkey Purchases The Red Sox

25 February 1933 – On this day eighty years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, Bob Quinn sells the Red Sox franchise for $1.5 million to Thomas Austin Yawkey, who had celebrated his 30th birthday four days earlier. Yawkey served as the sole owner of the team for the next 44 years and became a Boston institution as well as a pillar of Major League Baseball, though the legacy of his ownership was not without controversy.

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Dom DiMaggio, Former Red Sox Center Fielder, Dies at 92

Dom DiMaggio, a seven-time All-Star Red Sox center fielder who played with the likes of Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr, passed away Friday morning at the age of 92. Known as “the Little Professor” due to his glasses and his small frame, DiMaggio was the youngest of three brothers who played in the Major Leagues, which included Hall of Fame outfielder Joe DiMaggio and Vince DiMaggio. He played eleven seasons in the majors, all with Boston, and like Williams and Pesky missed three years between 1943 and 1945 serving with the US Armed Services during World War II.

While his brother Joe is remembered for a 56-game hitting streak that remains unbroken since 1941, DiMaggio holds a record of his own – a 34-game streak set in 1949 – that still stands as the water mark for Boston. In his career, he batted .298 and finished with 1046 runs scored, 87 home runs, 618 RBI, and an OBP of .383; his best season came in 1950, when he batted .328 and led the league in triples (15), stolen bases (11), and runs scored (131). That same year, on 30 June, he and Joe both homered in the same game playing against each other, only the fourth pair of brothers to accomplish the feat, in a 10-2 win for Boston over New York in the second game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park. In 1946, after returning from active duty, he made his one World Series appearance following Boston’s first pennant in 28 seasons, and batted 7-for-27 with two runs scored and three RBI, including a two-run double that tied the score in the top of the eighth inning of Game Seven of the series. DiMaggio was also part of the inagural class enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995, where he again joined his teammates Williams, Pesky, and Doerr.

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Pedroia Snags First Gold Glove Award

He may be better known for his discipline at the plate, finishing second in the 2008 American League batting race with a .326 average, but Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was recognized Thursday for his fielding skills with his first Rawlings Gold Glove honor. Paired on the right side of the infield with 2007 Gold Glove winner Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia appeared defensively in 157 games and made just six errors in 733 chances, one year after making the same number of errors in 625 total chances; he also collected 448 assists and helped turn 101 double plays. Pedroia, who is also a leading candidate for the 2008 AL Most Valuable Player Award, became just the second player in team history to win a Gold Glove at his position; the only other Red Sox second baseman to accomplish the feat was Doug Griffin in 1972. He is also the third Red Sox player to win a Gold Glove in the past four years; besides Youkilis taking home the honor last season playing error-free ball at first base, catcher Jason Varitek earned recognition for his efforts behind the plate in 2005.

Much like Youkilis, who transitioned from third to first in 2006, Pedroia moved from his natural position at shortstop, where he had been named as a first-team All-American by Baseball America playing for Arizona State in 2004, to second to fill Boston’s needs and the change has been near-seamless. Pedroia’s .992 fielding percentage in 2008 was second in the American League only to Oakland’s Mark Ellis and third best in team history behind Mark Loretta (.994, 2006) and Bobby Doerr (.993, 1948). He also became the first Red Sox second baseman since Doerr to finish with as few as six errors in 700 or more chances. At one point this season, Pedroia enjoyed a 61-game streak without making an error, 12 games shy of Doerr’s record 73 straight games at that position, also made in 1948. In the post-season, his defense continued to shine, playing error-free ball in all 11 games for Boston while making 35 assists and taking part in five double plays.

Red Sox To Retire Johnny Pesky’s Number 6

The Boston Red Sox announced Tuesday that, prior to Friday night’s game at Fenway Park against the New York Yankees, the team will retire number 6 in honor of former shortstop Johnny Pesky, whose name has been synonymous with the club for decades since lacing up his cleats as a rookie in 1942. With his number posted on the façade above the right field grandstand, Pesky will join Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9), Carlton Fisk (27), and Jackie Robinson (42) as the only players to have received this honor from the club. The honor will also be made one day before the legendary Red Sox figure celebrates his 89th birthday.

The move came as a surprise for most familiar with Boston’s long-standing policy for awarding this honor. Until yesterday, numbers have only been retired by the Red Sox if a player spends at least ten seasons in Boston and is then elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. (Media outlets continue to state that a third criterion – a player had to finish his playing career with Boston – needed to be met. However, this was dropped to allow Fisk to have his number retired even though he spent the second half of his career in Chicago with the White Sox. A quick check of the official policy at redsox.com confirms this.) Team president Larry Lucchino, in acknowledging that an exception was being made in this instance, stated:

We inherited a set a rules that applied to this question of retiring numbers and we have looked at that and considered that to be useful but as guidelines rather than firm rules… Johnny Pesky’s career cries out as exceptional and its length of term and the versatility of his contributions – on the field, off the field, in the dugout, etc. – are such that we considered Johnny a worthy exception to the rules that were set down before.[1]

As a rookie in 1942, the 22-year-old shortstop amassed an eye-popping 205 hits, tops in the majors, and batted .331, second only to teammate Ted Williams; his efforts were enough to place him third in voting for the American League MVP. After putting his career on hold and serving in the Navy for three years during World War II, Pesky returned in 1946 along with fellow veterans Williams and Dom DiMaggio to help his team finish first in the American League with a record of 104-50. His time away from the diamond had not diminished his abilities; he led the league with 208 hits and batted .335 that season, the third best average in the American League, to finish fourth in the MVP vote. In eight seasons with Boston, he batted .313 and amassed 1227 hits.

Since the end of his playing career in 1954, he has served in several capacities for the club, including stints as manager, broadcaster, coach, and scout. These days, he continues to serve as a special instructor and as an unofficial club ambassador, well-regarded today by fans young and old. He also has the distinction of having a Fenway Park feature, the right field foul pole, affectionately named “the Pesky Pole” in his honor.

Regarding the announcement, a clearly-humbled Pesky said:

I’m very flattered about the whole thing because I didn’t think I was in the Ted Williams or Bobby Doerr class. I played with some good guys and I’m quite flattered by this announcement and I’m really going to enjoy it.[2]

[1], [2] Sox to retire Pesky’s number Friday. Boston.com, 23 September 2008.

Did You Know? – Red Sox All-Stars

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.