On the last play of Wednesday afternoon’s game in Oakland, Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis collected a ground ball from Athletics left fielder Jack Cust and recorded the out at first unassisted; in the process, he set a new major league record for consecutive error-free games by a first baseman with 194. That mark breaks the old mark held by former big leaguer Steve Garvey, who set the mark between June 1983 and April 1985 with the San Diego Padres. Youkilis also went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI single in Boston’s 5-0 win over Oakland.
In 2007, Youkilis broke Stuffy McInnis’s old team record of 119 games and then surpassed the old American League mark of 178 straight games by Mike Hegan. At season’s end, Youkilis not only finished with a 1.000 fielding percentage but was awarded a Gold Glove, the only Red Sox first baseman other than George “Boomer” Scott to win the award at that position. Oddly enough, Youkilis originally joined Boston as a third baseman in 2004 but transitioned to first base full-time in 2006, though he did have some minor league experience at that position.
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.
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.