Red Sox Memories: Fans wave goodbye to Carl Yastrzemski on Yaz Day

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 1967: Carl Yastrzemski #8 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the St Louis Cardinals during the World Series in October 1967 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Cardinals won the series 4-3. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 1967: Carl Yastrzemski #8 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the St Louis Cardinals during the World Series in October 1967 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Cardinals won the series 4-3. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

After an illustrious 23-year career with the Red Sox, the great Carl Yastrzemski hung up his boots at the end of the 1983 major league season.

Carl Yastrzemski is a household name for baseball fans everywhere and for Boston Red Sox fans no matter what their age is. Yaz is as big of a Boston sports hero as they come due to his incredible baseball capabilities and for the fact that he did what he did for 23-years with the same ball club. Any player who stays with one team that long is going to be considered a club legend, but Yaz’s prestige was like few others. A true Boston great.

After the legendary Ted Williams decided to call it a day back in 1960 it seemed an impossible task to fill the shoes of a guy who led the club through a period which saw his career span into four different decades. The greatest hitter to ever live and a war hero – how is this replaceable? While it really isn’t, the Red Sox hit gold. Yaz slotted into that left field spot, and while all the pressure in the world was on his shoulders, it felt like a breeze for the kid, who became an All-Star just three years into his career.

Fast forward to the end of the 1983 season. Yaz now had 18 All-Star appearances, an AL MVP and Triple Crown (both 1967), three batting titles and a hell of a lot more on one of the better resumes in major league history.

While both Williams and Yaz never got that championship that every professional player longs for, it does little to knock how much of an effect these two had on the game of baseball and just how good they were.

In 1967, perhaps the best season of his career, Yaz led his team to the promised land, but it was never to be. ‘The Impossible Dream’ nearly became a reality in the season where Yaz flourished the most and where the Red Sox had their first winning season ten years. The Sox ultimately lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Yaz batted in five during the 1967 series, hitting two homers in Game 2 at Fenway.

In just the two postseasons Yaz took part in he produced a 1.047 OPS – who knows how good he could’ve been if he got there more. But, that’s baseball. It’s easier said than done to get to October and although it seems like it’s easier in modern times, it wasn’t all that simple back then, especially for the Sox.

October 1, 1983 is remembered as one of the defining moments in this ball club’s long and admirable history. ‘Yaz Day’ was a celebration one of the greatest servants this team has ever and will ever see. It was also the day that Carl Yastrzemski took to the diamond at Fenway Park for the penultimate time.

Before the game, Yastrzemski gave a goodbye speech to the Red Sox faithful – which would’ve been extremely emotional for every fan inside the ball club or watching at home that day:

"“I am proud to only have worn a Red Sox uniform for my entire 23 years. It was a privilege to have worn it longer than any other player,” said Yastrzemski. “In recent weeks I have been asked how I would like to be remembered. I hope you will think of me as a winner because I feel just playing one game at Fenway Park makes me a winner.”"

Yaz then took a final lap around Fenway, connecting with fans and waving goodbye to many of the people who had supported him for all of those years. In the game itself, Yaz didn’t get a hit and the Sox ended up losing the game 3-1 to the Indians, although this would never have been the true reason that this day was remembered for.

Yaz did get one final hit the next day in what would be the last game of his distinguished career, finishing his last year with a .266 batting average – not bad for a 44-year-old.

"“They just kept saying, We Love You, Yaz,’ over and over. I’ll never forget it,” Yastrzemski responded  when asked about what the Fenway faithful said to him on his lap of honor around the ballpark on Yaz Day."

Yaz and the Red Sox were a match made in heaven. He loved Boston, Boston loved him and that connection makes it all the easier for you to succeed in a big city such as Boston. For a ball club to have a drought as long as the Sox did, having Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski present for about half of that time doesn’t make it so bad in the end.

Coming in to fill the shoes of perhaps the greatest Red Sox player of all time back in 1961, I don’t think there was a Sox fan alive then having hopes that Ted’s replacement could have the potential to be half as good as Teddy Ballgame, but Yaz, well he did better than anybody could’ve and became a Red Sox legend himself in the process.

Next. Red Sox All-Rookie Team. dark

No. 8 is immortalized in Red Sox folk-lore and with his grandson making his way into the majors last year with the San Francisco Giants, it’s fantastic to see the Yastrzemski name kept active within the major leagues.