18 April 1888 – On this day 125 years ago, former Boston Red Sox outfielder Duffy Lewis is born in San Francisco, CA. Lewis was the starting left fielder for three world championships with Boston (1912, 1915, and 1916) and played as part of the team’s “Million Dollar Outfield” for six seasons with Tris Speaker in center field and Harry Hooper in right field beginning in 1910.
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.
(Note: This article was published by the author on another Red Sox web site prior to the establishment of this site.)
One cannot talk about the history of the Red Sox without included one of the most prominent figures in its history, Theodore Samuel Williams. Known as the Splendid Splinter, the Thumper, the Kid, and the self-proclaimed Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived, he was just a boy from San Diego who loved to swing a bat. With his mighty swing, he stormed through the record books and left behind marks that may never be reach again.
Besides being the last man to hit .406, he also had a lifetime on-base percentage of .482, best in the history of the game. He also had a slugging percentage of .634 (2nd), a career batting average of .344 (7th), 2654 hits, 2021 walks, 1798 runs, 1839 RBI, and 512 home runs, numbers that would be even more impressive, if not for the fact that he gave up nearly five years of his career to military service. He also won not one but two batting Triple Crowns, a feat that was last accomplished by another Red Sox legend, Carl Yastremski, in 1967.
As I never got to see him play (I was not born until nearly 12 years from the day he retired), I have only film reels, pictures, and reference material to teach me all there is to know about his baseball career. But there was more to the man as demonstrated by his commitment to his country in time of war when he could have opted to let his baseball career exempt him from service. It even happend during the prime of his career; his stint in World War II came just after completing his 1942 Triple Crown campaign. He also played a significant part in raising money for the Jimmy Fund, an organization he championed on behalf of former owner Tom Yawkey, to help support cancer research. He also made baseball realize that the Hall of Fame should recognize the records of those who played in the Negro Leagues of the past during his acceptance speech to the baseball shrine in 1966.
My one true memory of him will always be when he came onto the field to throw out the first pitch prior to the 1999 All-Star game. As he was carted onto the field to make what would be one of his last public appearances, he tipped his cap to the crowd, something he did not do when he homered in his final career at-bat in 1961. When he came to the center of the diamond, he was immediately surrounded by players past and present, those there to participate in the contest, and those who had been introduced on the All-Century team as Ted had. It was a magical scene that left not a dry eye in the house, not if you understood the significance of some great ballplayers of the present paying respect to arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived.
It will be hard to imagine that someone else will come along and make Williams look mortal in comparison. Williams stood tall in his time and he stands tall by today’s standards. Though he is gone now, it is not likely that he will be forgotten; even years from now, he will stick around in the hearts and minds of those who love the game of baseball.