Boston Red Sox

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The Boston Red Sox are a Major League Baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts. They play in the Eastern Division of the American League at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are 7-time winners of the World Series, including championships in 2007 and 2004.

History

Golden Age (1900-1919)

The team was founded as the Boston Americans in 1900, the same year that the American League established itself as a major league equal in status to the National League. The team’s inaugural game was played on 26 April 1901. Heading the pitching staff for the team’s first eight years was Denton True “Cy” Young, who is today celebrated as one of baseball’s all-time greats, and for whom the highest honor a pitcher in the major leagues can win, the annual Cy Young Award, is named. One of the most significant early games of the Boston Americans was played on 5 May 1904, when Young pitched the first perfect game in the history of the American League.

In the early days the team was referred to by a series of names, such as the Somersets, Beaneaters, Puritans, Pilgrims, and Plymouth Rocks, until the team’s owner, John Taylor, decided upon the Red Sox in 1907.[1]

The Red Sox played its home games at the Huntington Avenue Grounds (a location now occupied by the Northeastern University campus) until the opening of Fenway Park, a baseball stadium built specifically for the team, on 9 April 1912.[2] The first official professional game at Fenway took place on 20 April 1912, when the Red Sox defeated the New York Highlanders (later renamed the Yankees) 7-6.[3]

Early distinguished Red Sox players included Young (1901-1908); center fielder Tris Speaker (1907-1916); pitcher Smokey Joe Wood (1908-1915); and the man routinely hailed as “the best baseball player of all time”, Babe Ruth (1914-1919).[4] Ruth, one of whose nicknames was “the Bambino”, served as a highly successful starting pitcher for most of his years with the Red Sox.

The team, when still called the Americans, won the first official World Series against the National League, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5 games to 3, in 1903.[5]The Sox won their second World Series, defeating the New York Giants 4 games to 3, in 1912.[6] The Red Sox went on to win three more World Series in quick succession, in 1915 (beating the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1); 1916 (beating the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-1); and 1918 (beating the Chicago Cubs, 4-2).[7]

In the winter of 1919, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees, where he thrived throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, setting various batting records that stood for decades and winning for himself another nickname, “The Sultan of Swat”. Meanwhile, the Red Sox did not win another World Series until 2004. Many Red Sox fans down throughout the ages mused on the connection between these two events, and, beginning with the late 1980s deemed the Red Sox’s lack of World Series success as “The Curse of the Bambino”.

Rebuilding under Tom Yawkey

Whether it was the Curse of the Bambino or just poor playing, the Red Sox did not finish a single season with a winning record between the years 1920 to 1933; worse, the team finished in last place in the American League in every one of those years except for 1920, 1921, 1924, and 1931, with the nadir year being 1932, when the Sox closed out with a 43-111 record. (Meanwhile, the New York Yankees, headed by slugger Ruth, won four World Series in this same thirteen-year time frame.)

By 1933, when Tom Yawkey, a wealthy young Southener, bought the Sox, the country was in the depths of the Great Depression and he was one of the handful of owners whose finances were not totally dependant upon the team's dwindling box-office receipts. Intent on turning the team’s ill-fortunes around, he quickly acquired from Connie Mack and his financially desperate Philadelphia Athletics two of the greatest players of all time, first baseman Jimmy Foxx and pitcher Lefty Grove. Blessed by his deep pockets, throughout the 1930s he amassed a series of future Hall-of-Famers such as second baseman Bobby Doerr and shortstop/manager Joe Cronin. The most important acquisition of the decade came in 1939, when the Sox unveiled one of the most gifted hitters in the history of the game, a skinny young Californian named Ted Williams.

The Sox achieved seven winning records between 1933-1945, but the team never rose higher than second place in the American League in any one of those years.

Ted Williams

Ted Williams played left field for the Red Sox for nineteen seasons from 1939 to 1960. The prime of Williams’s career was interrupted by stints as a fighter pilot in World War II (Naval Air Corps, 1942-45) and the Korean War (Third Marine Air Wing, 1952-53).[8]

In 1946, Williams led the Sox to the team’s first American league pennant in 28 years, but the team lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, 4 games to 3.[9] That would be Williams’s sole appearance in a World Series.

Among his statistics: he batted .406 in 1941; led the American League in batting six times; 2,654 career hits, including 521 home runs; Most Valuable Player 1946 and 1949; picked for the All Star Team 18 times; and was named Player of the Decade of the 1950s. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .344, and today is seventh on the list of batting average all-time leaders.[10]

Yawkey and racism

A courtly and immensely popular owner with his players because of both his personality and his generosity, Yawkey was, in spite of being a Northerner born in Detroit, Michigan, steeped in many of the racial beliefs of his time and place. As a result, Yawkey turned out to be the last team owner to integrate his team with black players. Because of local political pressure, the team did conduct a mock workout at Fenway Park for Jackie Robinson and two other black players on April 16, 1945, but thereafter never contacted them again.[11] It was not until July, 1959, that Pumpsie Green finally became the first black player to appear in a Boston uniform, twelve years after Robinson had debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers and great black players such as Willie Mays and Frank Robinson had been dominating the National League for nearly a full decade.

Williams to Yaz, and the Impossible Dream (1961-1967)

From 1946 to 1958 the Sox had ten winning seasons, but never made it back to the World Series after 1946. The five-year period of 1946 through 1950 was particularly discouraging. During that run they won 477 games to 469 for the New York Yankees with only a single pennant to show for their efforts. After narrowly losing the '46 series in seven games, they tied for first place with the best record in the American League in 1948 but lost the playoff game to the Cleveland Indians. The following year, they led the league by one game with two games to play, then lost both games to the Yankees as well as the pennant. In 1950, even with Williams gone for half the season with a broken elbow, their batting was outstanding: a .302 average for the team as a whole. They finished, nevertheless in third place, four games behind the Yankees. Following that, their record declined rapidly, with 1959-1966 being distinguished by eight losing seasons in a row, their best record being 76-85 in 1963.

However, a turning point was in the works. Williams's spot in left field was ceded to future fellow hall of famer Carl Yastrzemski in 1961. Yastrzemski, known affectionately as “Yaz” by Sox fans, proved himself to be one of the best batters and fielders in baseball. In 1967, his annus mirabilis, Yastrzemski became the last batter to win the Triple Crown (most home runs, most runs batted in, and highest batting average) and was named the Most Valuable Player in the American League.[12]

That same year, 1967, the Red Sox, with Yaz as team captain, won the pennant for the first time in eleven years, the so-called “Impossible Dream” win, because first place was only clinched with the Sox’s very last game of the season. But the Red Sox lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, 4 games to 3.

Close, But No Cigar (1968-2003)

In the last three decades of the 20th Century and the cusp of the 21st, the Red Sox were known for having good teams that could not win the ultimate prize of a world championship.

They were American League champions in 1975 and 1986, but lost both World Series in seven games to the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets, respectively.

Each of the two World Series had a particularly noteworthy element to it. Game 6 of the 1975 series featured what has been called one of “baseball's most photographic moments”: in the bottom of the twelfth inning, at Fenway, with the score tied at 6-6, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk hit a high fly ball, and as the ball soared toward left field, Fisk waved his arms excitedly as if to “push” the ball over the wall in fair territory; indeed, it was a home run, and the Red Sox lived to fight another day.[13] What happened to the Red Sox in the tenth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 Series was something else altogether: with two outs, a man on second, and the score tied at 5-5, an easy ground ball rolled toward Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, but the ball somehow rolled through his legs, and the Mets promptly won the game 7-6, and went on to win the next game and the Series.[14] Buckner’s error became the most infamous error in Red Sox history. Dwight Evans, the Red Sox’s right fielder, commented at the time, "I don't believe in curses, or ghosts, or magic spells, but I'm beginning to."[15]

With the advent of division play in 1969 and the Wild Card in 1995, the Red Sox became frequent participants in the new post-season format, winning the American League East division title in 1975, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1995, 1999, and 2003, and winning the American League Wild Card in 1998.

A New Golden Age (2004-Present)

In 2004, the Red Sox achieved a 98-win season, clinched the American League Wild Card and entered the post-season. After sweeping the L.A. Angels 3-0 in the Division Series, the Red Sox lost three games in a row to their main rival, the New York Yankees, in the AL Championship Series. The Red Sox were on the verge of getting knocked out, but then they made baseball history. The Sox won the next four games in a row to brush past the Yankees and make it into the World Series. Riding a high of momentum, the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 to win the Championship. It was the first time that a baseball team had won eight post-season games in a row to win the Series. The team’s 86-year drought was now over; fans reckoned that the “Curse of the Bambino” had been lifted.

Indeed, the Red Sox repeated as World Series Champions in 2007, sweeping the Colorado Rockies 4-0 and outscoring them 29-10 in one of the most lopsided World Series in history.

Team Records

Yearly Record

Retired Numbers

  • 1 Bobby Doerr
  • 4 Joe Cronin
  • 8 Ted Williams
  • 9 Carl Yastremski
  • 27 Carlton Fisk
  • 42 Jackie Robinson (retired across baseball)

Fenway Park

Fenway Park, the team’s distinctive stadium, is the oldest baseball stadium still in use today, and was one of the first to built of be iron, bricks, and concrete, to prevent the disastrous fires that were common to the wooden parks of the early days of baseball. It is most famous for the Green Monster, the 37-foot high wall in left field.[16]

Current Roster

Fans

The Sox have a fervent fan base known colloquially as "Red Sox Nation", stemming back to the Royal Rooters of the early 1900s.


References

  1. http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/index.jsp
  2. http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/american/huntin.htm; http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/index.jsp; http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/history.jsp
  3. http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/history.jsp
  4. For example, http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/history/timeline1.jsp
  5. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1903ws.shtml
  6. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1912ws.shtml
  7. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1915ws.shtml; http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1916ws.shtml; http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1918ws.shtml
  8. http://tedwilliams.com/index.php?page=milww2&level=2; http://tedwilliams.com/index.php?page=milkorean&level=2
  9. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1946ws.shtml
  10. http://www.tedwilliams.com/; http://www.baseball-almanac.com/hitting/hibavg1.shtml
  11. David Muchnick in the Dorchester Atheneum [1] A lengthy article about the mock workout
  12. http://www.yaz8.com/bio.htm
  13. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1975ws.shtml
  14. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1986ws.shtml
  15. http://espn.go.com/classic/s/battle_lines_mets/sox.html
  16. http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/american/fenway.htm