In the 1950s the Red Sox had some very talented players, but this was the decade of the New York Yankees, who missed the World Series in 1954 and 1959, otherwise they owned the decade. The Red Sox had more than just Ted Williams and one player I admired from my youth was Frank Malzone.
Born in the Bronx, but a Red Sox for life and that is Malzone, who grew up a Yankee fan and signed with the Red Sox in 1947 for $175. What does that type of money get you?
Start with a six-time All-Star and three Gold Gloves. Add in a career slash of .274/.315/.399 with 133 career home runs that contributed to 728 RBI in 12 seasons – 11 as a member of the Red Sox.
Physically Malzone was a stocky right-handed hitter who walked with a noted bow-legged gait that often drew comments from fans and players. That right hand bat was built for Fenway Park, where “Malzie” slashed .289/.339/.442 and banged out 68 home runs and 430 RBI.
Malzone spent seven seasons in the minors and lost two years to the military. Many players did service time back in that Cold War era and Malzone was no exception, but his climb through the minors – especially Double-A at Louisville and a partial season split 1956 season with Triple-A San Francisco got the attention of management and Malzone was locked in for 1957.
Malzone’s first season in Boston saw him get both his first GG and AS Game honors and finish second in Rookie of The Year balloting. For the next eight years you could guarantee consistency from Malzone with the bat, glove and being ready to play since Malzone rarely sat out a contest.
The Red Sox of the 1950s had a roster dotted with high-priced talent that never made a significant impact. Players such as Billy Consolo, Marty Keough, Gene Stephens, Ted Lepcio and numerous others who received five and sometimes six figure contracts. For $175 the Red Sox got the ultimate bargain.
Malzone still is seen around Fenway Park and has been employed by the team in the past in a variety of capacities such as advanced scout, instructor and the all-encompassing “special assistant.” Malzone was also in the inaugural class of the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995, so that will give an inkling into just how capable Malzone was as a player.
That was the past, so what about the present? Is there a connection to any recent Red Sox third basemen for comparison? Carney Lansford or Adrian Beltre? The one that stands out from my perspective is Kevin Youkilis. Just look at the numbers.
Youk spent nine seasons in Boston and slashed .287/.388/.487 and hit 133 of his 150 career home runs in Boston and had 564 RBI in his Red Sox tenure. The difference is that Youk spent more time at the other corner – first base – than at third. Nonetheless, his style of play and hitting were very similar to Malzone and both were players that really did not establish themselves until 27-years-old.
Statistics via baseball-reference
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