Happy Labor Day everyone. I guess if I have listed the first two batters who made the 3 outs to end the 1975 World Series in Juan Beniquez and Bob Montgomery, I might as well bring up Yaz as well.
You’ve probably seen the clip. Yaz was the Red Sox last hope in the 1975 World Series and he flew out to Cesar Geronimo in centerfield, ending possibly the greatest World Series ever played.
Yaz also popped out to end the 1978 Bucky Dent playoff game. (He also homered off of Ron Guidry in that game, for the record.)
There is a lot to unpack in a post honoring Carl Yastrzemski. He was and remains one of my favorite players of all time. There was a sense of royalty to him when I started following the Red Sox in the late 1970’s. Yaz had already been there for 15-16 years when I was a young fan. He was a link to a long time before I rooted for teams or before I was born for that manner.
I had no shortage of Yaz cards to pull for this post. I liked this one from 1978. That was the first year I collected cards and I was super excited to get this one. He looked like a person of authority, looking up at… something. I am not sure what. But man he looks important.
And hey look! He has the shield showing he was an All Star then. He wasn’t just an old guy playing out the string.
Yaz was my grandmother’s favorite player. I think a lot of New Englanders of earlier generations liked him because he was a nice Catholic boy who went to nice Catholic schools and was from the Northeast (he was from Long Island.) So all these added to him being like someone from the neighborhood winning in Boston.
Also, all of what we think of as “Red Sox Nation” can be traced back to 1967. This notion that New Englanders flocked to their beloved Fenway Park and made summer days all about the Red Sox was not true for a long time. Fenway Park was considered an old dump and the Yawkeys (the pieces of shit that owned the Red Sox for decades) threatened to move the team if they didn’t get a multipurpose Astroturf new stadium to replace Fenway.
You read that right.
Then Yaz and the 1967 pennant race came about. People rediscovered Fenway Park and the love for the Red Sox. It hasn’t gone away and Yaz was a big part of that. Maybe he was THE part of it.
I remember in 1979, the first year I really followed baseball day in and day out, Yaz was the big story in Boston. He had a chance to become the first American League player with 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. He hit homer 400 on July 25th.
Khans Hot Dogs and Hilshire Farms, the companies that made Fenway Franks, had a contest. Mail in the day you think Yaz will get hit 3,000 and the winner will get a T-Shirt, a Poster and … um… maybe some hot dogs, I don’t remember.
I dutifully wrote some date on the order form that came with the hot dogs. Then as he inched closer to 3,000, I began to watch each day I could. Remember this was before cable TV and MLB.com. Not every game was televised.
But more games were shown on TV 38 because of the Yaz chase.
On September 9th against the eventual AL Champion Orioles, Yaz got hit 2,999. On September 10, he went 0 for 4. On September 11 against the Yankees, he also went hitless.
Scalpers were having a field day selling tickets with anticipation for hit 3,000 being stretched out for a few more days.
The September 12th game was against the Yankees. Yaz needed one more hit but they were about to go on a road trip. It would have been anticlimactic if he passed 3,000 in Baltimore or Toronto.
I was watching dutifully in our living room in Weston, Massachusetts.
In the first inning, Yaz walked and came around to score when Jim Rice homered off of Catfish Hunter.
My favorite player, Butch Hobson, doubled to start a 3 run rally in the 4th but Yaz ended the scoring by grounding to second for the third out.
Yaz led off the 6th with a grounder and it was looking like this was going to be another fruitless night in pursuit of 3,000.
In the 8th, Yaz came up against reliever Jim Beattie with 2 outs and nobody on and the Red Sox up 8-2. He swung and ground it just past Yankees second baseman Willie Randolph. He did it. As announcer Ned Martin described it “All hell breaks loose in Fenway.” His kid ran out to meet him at first. police and cameras surrounded him. He gave a speech and received a standing ovation. Pinch runner Jim Dwyer took over for him at first.
And where was your pal Sully? I missed it. I went to the bathroom. After watching him ground out and pop up for days, I was sitting on the toilet when Yaz got 3,000. An early lesson was learned. Don’t leave. You might miss something.
By the way, a few weeks later, we were mailed a Yaz T Shirt and poster from Hillshire Farms and Kahns Hot Dogs. We won. Or maybe everyone got that, I don’t know. I always felt like a winner.
In 1983, we went to a bunch of Red Sox games even though the team wasn’t very good. It was the last year of Yaz and it seemed like everyone in New England came out that year to say good bye. I didn’t miss his final at bat, which he popped up to end his career. That game he ran around Fenway Park, high fiving the fans. He did that 12 years before Ripken. That was a Yaz move.
Finally, he was one of my favorite players and a symbol of my childhood and connection to a previous generation. And yet, even as I type this sentence, I have to carefully look at his name so I do not mistype it.
Y… A… S… T… R… Z… E… M… S… K… I…
It is that Z after the R that always throws me off.