Inducted June 5, 1986
Often called the consummate professional, “Yaz” starred for 23 years (1961-1983) for the Boston Red Sox, compiling a lifetime .285 batting average with 452 home runs and 1,844 runs-batted-in. He won the American League triple crown in 1967 with a .326 average, 44 home runs and 121 RBI – the last player to do so (as of the 1997 season). He was the league’s MVP that same year. In his career, he played in 3,308 games, had 3,419 hits, 452 home runs and 1,844 RBIs (and, coincidentally, 1,844 walks). He was the first American League player to produce 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. He won the Gold Glove award seven times and was selected 18 times for the All-Star Game.
INDUCTION BANQUET PROGRAM STORY — June 5, 1986
By Matt Dobek
He was often called the consummate professional. And for 23 glorious seasons, Carl Yastrzemski was the franchise for the Boston Red Sox. As former Sox Manager Don Zimmer said when his club was approaching a big weekend series in the heat of an American League pennant: “We’ll do the same thing the Red Sox have done for the past 20 seasons; we’ll ride the coattails of Carl Yastrzemski.” In Boston, that’s exactly what they did.
Yastrzemski carried the Red Sox from 1961 to 1983 and the records he set along the way remain standards for future Hall of Famers. The 23 seasons he played for the Red Sox is a record in itself-more than anyone ever played for any team in one uniform.
Yaz had a career batting average of .285 with 452 homeruns and 1,844 runs batted in. He was the first American League player to produce 400 homeruns and 3,000 hits. He won three batting titles: .321 in 1963, .326 in 1967 and .301 in 1968.
Yaz was the Most Valuable Player of the American League in 1967 when he hit for the Triple Crown, the last player to do so. For the record, Yaz hit 44 home runs in ’67 to go with 121 runs batted in and a .326 average. He led the Sox to the World Series that season and also lifted Boston to the World Series in 1975. Seven times Yaz was a Gold Glove winner, awarded for his outstanding fielding and he was selected to the American League All-Star Team 18 times during his career. In 1970 Yaz was named the MVP of the All-Star Game.
Yastrzemski was the man asked to replace Ted Williams, and he did. “I wasn’t blessed with great tools,” Yaz used to say, but his greatest asset was his will to win. Made out of that “tough Polish stock,” Carl wasn’t fast or blessed with a great arm, but he always seemed to deliver in the clutch when the Red Sox most needed him.
Yaz was known as a money player and that can be best attested by his performance in the 22 biggest games of his career-playoffs and World Series. Yaz batted .417, slugged .702, hit a home run every 14 times at bat, knocked in better than a run a game and nearly scored as many. But despite all those individual honors, Yaz’ true professionalism showed through when he set just one goal: to win a World Series ring.
His durability was absolutely incredible. In 23 years he was on the disabled list but once, playing through strained ligaments in his knee, torn ligaments in his ankle, a tear in his shoulder, a tear where his hand and wrist come together, fractured ribs and a recurring back problem. That pain was bad enough to have him in traction at 9:30 a.m. and in the batter’s box at 7:30 p.m. One of the more memorable Yaz stories occurred during the 1972 campaign. In May, he hurt his knee in a home plate collision at California. West Coast doctors told him he would have to have surgery and that he would be out for the season. Yaz wanted one more opinion so he flew home, had the leg put in a special cast and returned in a month, leading the Red Sox chase for an Eastern Division title, losing in the last week to Billy Martin’s Detroit Tigers.
Yastrzemski defied odds as he continued with his amazing longevity streak. The fact that his 23-year averages were .285, with 20 homers and 81 RBls proves he continued to produce as he was older. Three months shy of 37, he hit three homers in a game in Detroit in May, 1976, then went to New York and in his next game, hit two more. In 1977 at age 38, he became one of the five oldest players to knock in 100 runs. In 1978 at 39, he had six homers, knocked in 19 runs and belted that memorable homerun off Ron Guidry in what New Englanders refer to as “The Playoff.”
But through it all, Yaz was a player idolized and looked to for his on-the-field leadership. “I never wanted to be idolized. All I ever wanted was respect. That’s enough.”
Boston Globe writer Peter Gammons said: “He got what he wanted because he is the toughest man most of us will ever see.”
FOOTNOTES ABOUT CARL YASTRZEMSKI