Did You Know – Red Sox Opening Day Home Runs

Hitting a round tripper on Opening Day, like hitting one in the World Series or an All-Star Game, is not an unusual feat, but doing it more than once is noteworthy in some respects.

Hitting a round tripper on Opening Day, like hitting one in the World Series or an All-Star Game, is not considered unusual, but doing it more than once is noteworthy in some respects. In the ninth inning of Tuesday afternoon’s 6-2 win for Boston over Cleveland, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hit what proved to be his fifth career home run on Opening Day, his third with the Red Sox after hitting two with the Minnesota Twins earlier in his career. After what was a quiet spring (4-for-35 with three extra base hits), the sight of him launching one into the bleachers was a welcome sight to Red Sox fans looking for a positive start to the 2016 season.

The home run also proved to be number 504 in Big Papi’s career, which ties him with Eddie Murray for 26th all-time in MLB history. After Murray, his next target on the all-time list would be Gary Sheffield (509), followed by Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks (512) and Eddie Matthews (also 512). He now also has 446 home runs with the Red Sox, which puts him six behind Carl Yastrzemski for second place (452) and well behind Ted Williams with 521, whom he has a chance to catch only in the career total category.

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Did You Know? – Appearances as Designated Hitter

The next appearance David Ortiz makes for the Red Sox as the designated hitter will see him set a new Major League Baseball record for most appearances as a DH.

Should David Ortiz appear tonight for the Red Sox against the Yankees at Fenway Park as the designated hitter, and by all accounts he will, he will set a new Major League Baseball record for most appearances as a DH with 1644 games, surpassing former slugger Harold Baines. Ortiz already holds the record for most starts in league history by a DH with 1625, well ahead of Baines at 1565 starts.

Big Papi is far and away the leader in most offensive categories as a designated hitter: most plate appearances (7188), most hits (1779), most doubles (450), most home runs (385), and most RBI (1256). Counting only players with at least 2000 plate appearances as a DH, his OPS of .941 ranks second to Edgar Martinez (.959).

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Time Is Right To Retire Wade Bogg’s Number

The time is right to let bygones be bygones and give one final honor to one of the best players to ever wear a Red Sox uniform.

The Red Sox employ a rather strict policy related to the retirement of uniform numbers; to be considered, you need first to have played a minimum of ten years with the team and you must also be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

To date, only one person has received this honor who has not met these criteria; Johnny Pesky, whose number 6 was retired in 2008, was recognized for more than 60 years of nearly uninterrupted time with the franchise as a player, a manager, coach, and instructor.

There is also one player who meets these criteria but whose number is absent from the façade in right field: former third baseman Wade Boggs.

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Did You Know? – The Red Sox and Total Bases

Total bases (TB) refers to the number of bases a player has gained with hits and is a very easy statistic to calculate; it follows a simple formula: 1B + 2*2B + 3*3B + 4*HR.

Following Will Middlebrooks‘ offensive barrage in today’s 13-0 win over the Blue Jays, in which the young Red Sox third baseman hit three home runs and a double, there are now six players in Boston team history since 1916 with at least 14 TB in one game.

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Did You Know? – The Red Sox and Losing Seasons

The 2012 Boston Red Sox season is likely one that the organization and fans alike will want to soon forget.  In celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, the team finished 69-93, which broke a stretch of 14 straight winning seasons.  Before that, the last Red Sox team to suffer through a losing season was in 1997, when first-year manager Jimy Williams and rookie Nomar Garciaparra ended the season with a disappointing 78-84 record.  The team also finished in last place for the first time since 1992, when another first-year manager, Butch Hobson, and pitcher Roger Clemens finished in seventh place in the American League East.

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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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Did You Know? – David Ortiz and His Home Run Totals

On Wednesday afternoon in Oakland, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hit career home run number 400, making him the 49th player in MLB history to reach this milestone.  It was also his 342nd home run in a Boston uniform, which ranks him fifth all-time in team history behind Ted Williams (521), Carl Yastrzemski (452), Jim Rice (382), and Dwight Evans (379).  “Big Papi” also ranks second behind Manny Ramirez in number of at-bats per home run at 14.7, just ahead of Jimmie Foxx and Williams.

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Did You Know? – Red Sox MVP Honorees

The 2009 season begins with second baseman Dustin Pedroia set to defend his title as American League Most Valuable Player, the first since former first baseman Mo Vaughn began the 1996 season in the same position. In team history, only ten Boston players have received the AL MVP award. The first was outfielder Tris Speaker, who received the Chalmers Award in 1912, created as a promotional gimmick by an automobile company owner, Hugh Chalmers, in recognition of a player from each league who proved himself as “…the most important and useful player to his club and to the league at large in point of deportment and value of services rendered.”[1] Speaker was one of only eight players recognized over a four-year span in which the honor was made, which included the awarding of a Chalmers Model 30 automobile for that player’s efforts. (The award was discontinued after the 1914 season due to diminished interest.)

Efforts by the Baseball Writers Association of America eventually led to the creation of the MVP award as it is recognized today, decided by 28 seasoned sportswriters using a positional voting system where each voter ranks his or her top ten players. Jimmie Foxx was the first Boston player recognized by the baseball writers who gave him the honor in 1938, though for him it was his third award after having been recognized twice before with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1932 and 1933. Ted Williams remains the only Red Sox player to have been named twice (1946 and 1949). Other winners have included Jackie Jensen (1958), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Fred Lynn (1975), Jim Rice (1978), and Roger Clemens (1986). Clemens remains the only Boston pitcher to earn the distinction, though since 1967 only seven pitchers have been so honored.

Of course, due to the subjective native of the MVP vote, Red Sox players have found themselves the focus of controversial outcomes, more often as the odd man out. Though Williams was honored twice in his illustrious career, there were also four instances in which he finished second in the voting where he might have been considered the more deserving candidate. In 1941, he batted .406, the last player to hit .400 or better in the regular season, but lost to New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio, who has amassed a 56-game hit streak that same year. The next year, he finished second again, this time to Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon, despite having won the batting Triple Crown with more hits in fewer at-bats, twice the number of home runs, and an OPS almost 250 point higher. In 1947, Williams again won the batting Triple Crown, the only player other than Roger Hornsby to win that recognition twice, yet he again lost to DiMaggio by a single point in the vote, again with far better numbers across the board. Finally, in 1957, he won the batting title with an impressive .388 average and hit 38 home runs while setting a modern-day record of reaching base in 16 consecutive at-bats, all at the age of 39, yet finished second once more to another legendary Yankees outfielder, Mickey Mantle.

Other Boston players who fell just shy in the voting include Pedro Martinez, who had one of the best seasons ever by a pitcher in modern baseball history and won the pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young award. Yet, despite having more first-place votes, he lost to catcher Ivan Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers by a narrow 13-point margin in the vote. It was later discovered that two sportswriters, which included George King from the New York Post, had omitted Martinez from their ballots with the argument that the contributions made by pitchers were not significant enough to earn MVP consideration, though King had included two pitchers on his ballot the previous season. David Ortiz also fell just short of the honor in 2005 as he finished behind Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in the vote. Though both players finished the season with impressive numbers, the argument was made that Ortiz, as a designated hitter, did not contribute as much to his team’s success as Rodriguez, so much that two sportswriters left Ortiz off their ballots.

On the flipside, Vaughn finished a mere eight points ahead of Cleveland slugger Albert Belle in the 1995 vote, despite Belle having far more impressive numbers on offense, including a higher number of home runs, runs scored, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases; he had also become the first player in major league history to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season that same year. Vaughn, however, had a far better relationship with fans and the media, whereas Belle routinely refused to grant interviews to reporters and had engaged in several controversial incidents with fans both at and away from the park. Ted Williams was also well-known for his sour relationship with the media, whom he mockingly referred to as the “kinights of the keyboard,” and, like Belle, may have been the reason in part for losing several close MVP ballots.

[1] Deane, Bill, Thron, John, and Palmer, Pete. Total Baseball. HarpersCollins Publishers, New York, 1993.

Jim Rice Finally Gets Call from Hall of Fame

Years of waiting finally paid off for former Red Sox left fielder Jim Rice; on Monday, in his 15th and final year of eligibility, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with 76.4 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rice, a 16-year veteran who retired after the 1989 season, follows in the footsteps of two other Hall of Fame outfielders who spent their entire careers in Boston: Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. Rice fell 16 votes shy of election in 2008 but earned seven more than the minimum this year and will join first-ballot inductee Rickey Henderson and Veterans Committee inductee Joe Gordon this summer for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Had he failed again to reach the minimum 75 percent for eligibility, his only chance for induction after this would have been through the Veterans Committee, which has proven to be a challenge for other former players not elected by the writers to find themselves added to the Hall.

Proponents had lobbied for Rice based on the fact that, between 1975 and 1986, Rice was one of the most feared hitters in the American League as he averaged .304 with 29 home runs and 106 RBI each season. He also finished in the top five of the MVP vote six times during that stretch, winning his only award in 1978 when he stroked 46 home runs, led the league with 139 RBI, and batted .315, just twenty points behind league-leader Rod Carew. He also collected an amazing 406 total bases that season, the first to have 400 or more total bases in a single season since Hank Aaron in 1959 and a feat that’s been matched since only six times.

Drafted and signed by Boston in 1971, he earned Triple Crown, Rookie of the Year, and MVP honors as a member of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox in 1974. The following season, Rice broke into the majors and, along with fellow rookie sensation and “Gold Dust Twin” Fred Lynn, helped Boston return the World Series for the first time in eight years (unfortunately, a wrist injury due to an errant pitch in September forced Rice to miss the remainder of the season as well as the 1975 Fall Classic between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds). Eleven years later, appearing for the only time in the playoffs, Rice hit a 3-run home run in the seventh game of the ALCS to help Boston win the AL pennant, then batted .333 and scored the lone run in a 1-0 Game 1 victory for Boston against New York in the World Series. He was also an eight-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger award winner in 1983 and 1984.

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.