Ranking the Red Sox shortstops
By Rick McNair
Number Six – Vern Stephens
Red Sox fans have a lust for hitting and especially right-hand hitting capable of taking full advantage of the Green Monster. The Red Sox had the opportunity to acquire a 26-year-old shortstop who had led the American League in RBI in 1944 with 109 and home runs in 1945 with 24.
The St. Louis Browns needed money and Tom Yawkey had plenty of that so off went a bundle of players and $310,000 for Vern Stephens in the 1947 off-season. Stephens had a negative atmosphere hovering around him as a player who had a certain level of selfishness and a history of conflagrations with management and a noted after baseball hours party boy.
Despite all the concerns over the acquisition, Boston fans would not be disappointed as Stephens became an integral force in one of the most devastating lineups in baseball history and that certainly mitigated initial pessimism over the deal.
Stephens played five seasons with the Red Sox and made four All-Star teams and twice led the AL in RBI while hitting 122 home runs and knocking in 562 in those five years and hitting .283 in the process. The downside was the first three years in Boston Stephens was exclusively at short and had 64 errors. Stephens was no iron glove, but far from a Gold Glove.
The Red Sox already had a noted shortstop in All-Star Johnny Pesky when they traded for Stephens and Pesky shifted to third and then back to short for the 1951 season as Stephens moved over to third. 1951 was also the last productive one for Stephens, whose career faded rapidly after that. Was it his lifestyle? Eye issues? Lingering knee issues? Maybe all three?