Boston Red Sox: Most important players in franchise history

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 02: David Ortiz
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 02: David Ortiz /
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(Photo by Dennis Brearley/Boston Red Sox)
(Photo by Dennis Brearley/Boston Red Sox) /

Carl Yastrzemski

Another Red Sox all-time great who also happens to be one of the most important players in their history will come as no surprise to anybody. Carl Yastrzemski debuted in 1961, the year after Williams retired, and promptly took over left field for the next two decades. Yaz played his entire twenty-three year career with the Red Sox and retired as perhaps their second-greatest player after Williams.

Yaz’s most important and enduring contribution to the Red Sox, though, may be the fact that he helped to save baseball in Boston. As mentioned previously, the Red Sox were really bad in the 1950s and that carried over into the 1960s. From Yaz’ rookie season of 1961 to 1966, the Red Sox finished in sixth place or worse. Everything unexpectedly came together in 1967 in what became known as the Impossible Dream season.

The Red Sox caught fire and played brilliantly down the stretch of an exciting pennant race that came down to the last day of the season before they pulled it off. Throughout that summer, Yaz was the leader of the club, the face of the franchise,  and a one-man wrecking crew. He ended up winning the American League Triple Crown and cemented his place in Red Sox lore.

While the Red Sox lost the 1967 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, they would spend the next decade as one of the better teams in the league, winning another pennant (and losing another World Series in seven games) in 1975 and finishing in second place four times (two of which, 1972 and 1978, happened on the final day of the season).

With ballpark attendance next to nothing and complete disinterest in the Red Sox since the early 1950s, it’s no hyperbole to say that Yaz and that 1967 team helped to save baseball in Boston while giving birth to what is now known as Red Sox Nation. Because of that, in a lot of ways he may actually be more important than Ted Williams.