When Red Sox legend Ted Williams retired after the 1960 season, Opening Day of the 1961 season saw a fresh-faced rookie with the number 8 on his back take Williams’ spot in left field. 23 years later, Carl Yastrzemski, or “Yaz” as Red Sox fans everywhere knew him, retired with the assurance that he would follow Williams into the Hall of Fame.
Yastrzemski was already well-known by 1967, having made the American League All-Star team three times in his first six seasons, but that was the year that the Red Sox went from finishing ninth the year before to winning the American League pennant for the first time in 21 years. He won not only MVP honors but the batting Triple Crown after averaging .326 at the plate, driving in 121 runs, and leaving the yard 44 times; he is the last player to have accomplished that feat in either league and joined Williams as the only Red Sox players to earn this recognition. Although the Red Sox would lose the Fall Classic in seven games to St. Louis, Yaz batted .400 with three home runs and five RBI.
Steady production at the plate continued to be the norm for Yaz through his career, batting .285 for his career and better than .300 in six different seasons. He also managed to collect 3,419 hits, sixth all-time in major league history, and hit 452 home runs, the only American League player and the fourth player ever to collect 3,000 hits and 400 home runs, joining Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays.
Yaz also won seven Gold Gloves as an outfielder between 1963 and 1977, though he also saw many games at first base and, later in his career, as the designated hitter. In addition, Yaz appeared in one other post-season as a member of the 1975 pennant winners. In the AL championship series against Oakland, Yaz was again clutch at the plate, batting .455 with a home run and two RBI; in the World Series, he batted .310 with four RBI.
Yastrzemski finally retired after the 1983 season after playing in 3,308 games for Boston, the most appearances by a player in a Red Sox uniform. Elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1989, he is also one of only seven former Red Sox players to have his number (8) retired.