Patrick Green of BSI recently wrote a wonderful article reflecting primarily on the wondrous 2013 season. Now, as the late Paul Harvey would say: “The rest of the story.”
Very few of us remain from that time frame when the 2012 season was not an aberration but the standard. Following the Red Sox as a youth in the 1950s meant a string of mediocre seasons where the highlight was following the exploits of individual stars. How will Ted Williams do? Will Jackie Jensen contend for an MVP? Will Pete Runnels beat out Ted for a batting title? Does Mickey Vernon or Vic Wertz have anything left in the tank? There were two sure things about going to Fenway in the 1950s: one was the team was going nowhere, and two was you could sit anywhere you wished.
The 1950s had an influx of young talent. No draft, cash was king and the Sox, thanks to Thomas A. Yawkey, had cash. When Larry Lucchino takes a swipe at the checkbook antics of the Yankees, it elicits a snicker from me. That was the method of operation during the Yawkey years, purchasing or attempting to purchase players such as Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove or Joe Rudi.
The Sox had a string of “Bonus Babies,” as the press called them. Young and unproven talent, invariably a high school player, who would go to the highest bidder. Every kid was a free agent. The Sox invested heavily with names from the now past such as Billy Consolo, Marty Keough, Ted Lepcio, Gene Stephens (AKA- Williams’ caddy), Don Buddin, Tom Brewer and many, many more. With all that money the best bargain was an unheralded kid from the Bronx, Frank Malzone, who signed for a few hundred bucks. Still little improved as the Sox languished around the .500 mark.
In the fifties, my highlight came in 1959. In a five game set at Fenway, the Sox defeated the Yankees in all five games. That created a power vacuum and the Chicago White Sox won the pennant. For only the second time in the 1950s the Yankees were out of the World Series. And no Joe Hardy was needed.
The 1960s started out dismal. Ted was gone after 1960 and the Sox put together a magnificent string of losing seasons. Talent from the minors was starting to flow in but the results remained stagnant. Never above .500 until that magical 1967 season. There are similarities between that season and 2013. Both were pleasant surprises. In 1966 the Red Sox finished ninth in a 10 team league – 70 wins. The 2012 Red Sox will best be forgotten: a nightmare that was purged by 2013.
That wondrous 1967 season represents the turning point, to me, in Red Sox history. The team has consistently been in the hunt since that season. There would be blips but 90 wins was expected. The elusive World Series was captured in 2004 and that has been followed by two more. No mathematical anomaly with 2004. The 2004 season eviscerated the last remnants of decades of futility.
Rick Pitino coined the term with “Fellowship of The Miserable.” Pitino directed it specifically at the fan base that vented their collective frustrations on sports talk radio. The focus on the negative and the debasing of the positive. As a veteran Sox observer, that certainly described myself and far too many others when discussing the local baseball franchise. Virtually all Red Sox fans my age are similar to the old cartoon character Joe Bfstpik. Bfstpik wandered about with a black cloud of doom hovering over his head. Always expecting the worse. That cloud is now gone. Blown away by a series of championships and the promise of more to come. This franchise is something special and has been for decades. Now the ghosts of the past are long gone. Now it is our turn in Boston to say not “how we are going to lose,” but “how are we going to win?”
Tags: Boston Red Sox