Going back to my post on ‘Retired Numbers’ I wanted to expand upon my thoughts a little further. This is a short list of players and their uniform numbers who should, in my opinion (and maybe in a few of yours as well) be honored (not retired) by the Red Sox. Yes, most are members of Red Sox Hall of Fame, but having something more publicly displayed (aside from the red and blue banners on the Right Field/3rd Base exterior) for people in the stands and folks in the viewing audience certainly couldn’t hurt. After all, in such a historic venue as Fenway Park with such a history laden team as the Boston Americans not everything in view needs to be an advertisement.
For players whose numbers are being honored, place their number in road uniform coordinated navy blue and gray as opposed to the retired number coordination of the home red and white. Equally coordinated would be the player’s name, in road font, above the number but equally placed on the border of the gray circle. Should be fairly simple, right?
For players who didn’t wear a number and are being honored, find an equally coordinated way to either place their name in the gray circle or maybe just place them on a higher section of the wall displaying the honored numbers (I recommend the right field bleachers). They do something similar at Comerica Park in Detroit.
I know there will be at least one controversial pick….
James “Jimmie” Foxx, was the second major league player to hit 500 career home runs, after Babe Ruth. Attaining that plateau at age 32 years 336 days, he held the record for youngest to reach 500 for sixty-eight years, until superseded by Alex Rodriguez in 2007. His three career Most Valuable Player awards are tied for second all-time. ‘Double X’ played six years for Boston, including a spectacular 1938 season in which he hit 50 home runs, drove in 175 runs, batted .349, won his third MVP award, and again narrowly missed winning the Triple Crown. Foxx is one of nine players to have won three MVPs; only Barry Bonds (7) has more. On June 16, 1938, he set an American League record when he walked six times in a game. In 1939 he hit .360, his second-best all-time season batting average. His 50 home runs would remain the single-season record for the Red Sox until David Ortiz hit 54 in 2006. Jersey #3
Nomar Garciaparra is a six-time All-Star (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006). Garciaparra was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 5th round of the 1991 draft, but did not sign. Garciaparra was a first round pick of the Red Sox in 1994 following a successful career at Georgia Tech. He played in the Red Sox minor league system for three years (1994–Sarasota, 1995–Trenton, 1996–Pawtucket). He made his Major League debut on August 31, 1996, as a defensive replacement against Oakland. His first Major League hit was a home run off of Oakland pitcher John Wasdin on September 1. Nomar would then ultimately take Wasdin deep a record thirteen times over his career. Garciaparra is known for his idiosyncratic tics when batting. This habit includes an elaborate routine of glove adjustments and alternating toe taps on the ground prior to an ensuing pitch. At the time, Boston’s starting shortstop was John Valentin, who finished ninth in MVP voting in 1995. By late 1996, Nomar won the job. Garciaparra’s talent was enough to displace Valentin, who was moved to second base (then third base) to make room for young Garciaparra, who batted .241 with 4 home runs, 16 RBI, and 5 stolen bases in his initial stint with the club near the end of 1996. As a rookie in 1997, he hit 30 home runs and drove in 98 runs, setting a new MLB record for RBIs by a leadoff hitter and most homers by a rookie shortstop. His 30-game hitting streak set an A.L. rookie record. He was named Rookie of the Year in a unanimous vote, competed in the Home Run Derby, and finished eighth in MVP voting. He also won the immediate admiration of Red Sox fans, who referred to him in Boston accents as “NO-mah!”. His popularity in New England was reflected in the Saturday Night Live “The Boston Teens” sketches, where Jimmy Fallon’s character Pat Sullivan always wore a Garciaparra T-shirt and would repeatedly reference his admiration for him. Garciaparra even appeared in one of the sketches, where he was introduced as the boyfriend of Sully’s sister (played by guest host Kate Hudson). He finished with 35 home runs and 122 RBI in 1998, and placed as the runner-up for AL MVP. Garciaparra then led the American League in batting average for the next two years, hitting .357 in 1999 and .372 in 2000, finishing in the top ten in MVP voting both years. He is one of the few right-handed batters to win consecutive batting titles, and the first since Joe DiMaggio. He hit safely and scored a run in the first five games of his post-season career (1998–99), and is joined by Ian Kinsler (2010) as the only other player to start his post-season career in that manner.
In February of 2001, Garciaparra appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, with the headline “A Cut Above… baseball’s toughest out”. The week after the issue hit newsstands, Garciaparra suffered a broken right wrist that would ruin his season and alter the trajectory of his career. He recovered by the start of the 2002 season and drove in 120 runs while hitting a league-leading 56 doubles. However, he had a difficult time playing as strongly defensively as before, and his batting average dipped substantially, though it was still an excellent .310. Before the 2002 season, a new ownership group purchased the Red Sox. The baseball operations staff, led by Theo Epstein, stressed on-base percentage on offense and strong defense, two areas where Garciaparra was about to decline precipitously from his pre-2001 levels. Still, Garciaparra recovered from an injury-filled 2001 season to bat .310 with 24 home runs and 120 RBIs in 2002. The star shortstop was up for a contract extension following the 2004 season and hoped for a deal before that deadline. Still considered one of the best shortstops in baseball, he hoped to receive salaries similar to peers Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. In 2003, Garciaparra had a good season in which he was second in the majors in triples, fifth in the AL in hits, and second in the AL in runs scored. Unfortunately, a September slump caused his batting average to dip, but it still ended at a very good .301. He followed that with a poor post-season, contributing zero home runs, one RBI and ten strikeouts in 12 games against the Oakland Athletics and rival Yankees, who eliminated the Red Sox in a thrilling seven-game series. Meanwhile, new stars and cult heroes, led by David Ortiz and Kevin Millar, began to emerge in Boston. Millar convinced nearly every player on the roster other than Johnny Damon and Garciaparra (whose wedding with Mia Hamm followed the season) to shave his head.
After the 2003 season, Red Sox management explored trading Manny Ramírez to the Texas Rangers for shortstop Alex Rodriguez. However, the MLB Players’ Union objected to Rodriguez’s willingness to sacrifice a huge amount of his $250 million contract to facilitate a deal to Boston, and the New York Yankees then struck a deal with Texas to bring A-Rod (who gave up $14 million with union approval) to their team. The Red Sox then had covert trade talks involving Nomar with the Chicago White Sox, but the subsequent agreement to trade Garciapara and others for a package centered around Magglio Ordóñez quickly became public. Garciaparra thus returned to Boston for the start of the 2004 season in the final year of a contract signed in 1997, and it quickly became clear that he was enraged with the team and would not return to Boston after the season. On July 31, 2004 (the MLB trading deadline), Garciaparra was the key player involved in a four-team deal that sent Nomar and Matt Murton to the wild card leading Chicago Cubs. The Red Sox received Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. Nomar expressed his appreciation to Red Sox fans in a speech to the media, and left for the Windy City. At first, Garciaparra was assigned jersey number 8, because Cub catcher Michael Barrett wore number 5. A few days later, they switched numbers. On March 10, 2010, Garciaparra signed a one-day contract with the Boston Red Sox to retire as a member of the organization. On May 5, 2010, The Red Sox hosted “Nomar Garciaparra Night”, honoring Nomar before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was given two official seats from Fenway by Johnny Pesky, one bearing Nomar’s own #5, and the other bearing Pesky’s #6.
Dominic DiMaggio, nicknamed “The Little Professor”, played his entire 11-year baseball career for the Boston Red Sox (1940–1953). He was the youngest of three brothers who each became major league center fielders, the others being Joe and Vince. An effective leadoff hitter, he batted .300 four times and led the American League in runs twice and in triples and stolen bases once each. He also led the AL in assists three times and in putouts and double plays twice each; he tied a league record by recording 400 putouts four times, and his 1948 totals of 503 putouts and 526 total chances stood as AL records for nearly thirty years. His 1338 games in center field ranked eighth in AL history when he retired. His 34-game hitting streak in 1949 remains a Boston club record. 7× All-Star selection (1941, 1942, 1946, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952) Jersey #7
Roger Clemens nicknamed “Rocket”, broke into the league with the Boston Red Sox whose pitching staff he would help anchor for 12 years. Clemens was drafted 19th overall by the Boston Red Sox in 1983 and quickly rose through the minor league system, making his major league debut on May 15, 1984. In 1986, his 24 wins helped guide the Sox to a World Series berth and earned Clemens the American League MVP award for the regular season. He also won the first of his seven Cy Young Awards. Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron angered the pitcher by saying that pitchers should not be eligible for the MVP. “I wish he were still playing,” Clemens responded. “I’d probably crack his head open to show him how valuable I was.” Clemens remains the only starting pitcher since Vida Blue in 1971 to win a league MVP award. On April 29, 1986, Clemens became the first pitcher in history to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning major league game, against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. Only Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson have matched the total. Clemens attributes his switch from what he calls a “thrower” to a “pitcher” to the partial season Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver spent with the Red Sox in 1986. Clemens accomplished the 20-strikeout feat twice, the only player ever to do so. The second performance came more than 10 years later, on September 18, 1996 against the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Clemens’ second 20-K day occurred in his third-to-last regular season game as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Clemens recorded 192 wins for the Red Sox, tied with Cy Young for the franchise record.
No Red Sox player has worn his #21 since Clemens left the team in 1996.
Luis Tiant. The Braves signed him to a minor league contract to play with their Triple-A Richmond, where he pitched well, and was acquired by the Louisville Colonels, a farm team of the Boston Red Sox. He was quickly called back up to the majors, and despite struggling through 1971 with a 1-7 record and 4.88 ERA, he would soon become one of the greatest and most beloved pitchers in Red Sox history and a great idol in Boston. Starting to be known as El Tiante at Fenway Park, in 1972 Tiant regained his old form with a 15-6 record and led the league with a 1.91 ERA. He would win 20 games in 1973 and 22 in 1974. Though hampered by back problems in 1975, he won 18 games for the American League Champion Red Sox and then excelled for Boston in the postseason. In the playoffs he defeated the three-time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in a 7-1 three-hitter complete game, then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father and mother, having been allowed to visit from Cuba under a special visa, were in Fenway Park that game to watch their son defeat The Big Red Machine in a 6-0 five-hit shutout. All six Red Sox runs were scored in the seventh inning; Tiant led off that inning (the designated hitter was not yet in use in World Series play) with a base hit off Don Gullett and eventually scored on Carl Yastrzemski’s single for the first of those six runs. Tiant won Game 4 as well (throwing 163 pitches in his second complete game in the series) and had a no-decision in Game 6, which has been called the greatest game ever played, after Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning walk-off home run in the 12th inning. Tiant went 21-12 in 1976, 12-8 in 1977, and 13-8 in 1978. Tiant is only 1 of 5 pitchers to have pitched four or more straight shutouts in the 50-year expansion era, with Don Drysdale (six, 1968), Bob Gibson (five, 1968), Orel Hershiser (five, 1988) and Gaylord Perry (four, 1970) being the others. He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997. Jersey # 23
Dwight Evans nicknamed “Dewey”, started his career by winning International League MVP honors, but in his early major league career, he was primarily a defensive standout with a modest bat. In the second half of his career, he became a powerful batter. Evans made his Major League Baseball debut for the Boston Red Sox on September 16, 1972 in a game against the Cleveland Indians. The Red Sox won 10-0 behind the pitching of Luis Tiant who threw a 3-hit complete game. Evans pinch ran for Reggie Smith in the 6th but was stranded at 2B, he played in right field where he recorded 1 PO. Evans went 0-1 at the plate in his debut. Evans played in 18 games in 1972 for the Red Sox, and had 57 plate appearances (.263 BA, 15 H, 2 R, 6 RBI, 1 HR). Despite the strike-shortened 1981 season, Evans had his best all-around year. He paced the league in total bases (215), OPS (.937), walks (85), times on base (208), and tied Eddie Murray, Tony Armas and Bobby Grich for the home run title with 22. He also ranked second in runs scored (84) and on-base percentage (.415), and third in slugging percentage (.522). He added a .296 batting average with 71 runs batted in. In 1987, at age 35, Evans recorded career highs in batting average (.305), HRs (34) and RBI (123).
Evans was named an Outfielder on The Sporting News AL All-Star team in 1982, 1984 and 1987 and was also tabbed as an Outfielder on the AL Silver Slugger Team by The Sporting News in 1981 and 1987. Evans would win the Gold Glove award in 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985. In his 20-year career, Evans batted .272, with 385 home runs, 1384 RBI, 1470 runs, 2446 hits, 483 doubles, 73 triples, and 78 stolen bases in 2606 games. Only Carl Yastrzemski (3308) played more games for the Red Sox than Evans (2505). From 1980 through 1989, Evans hit more home runs (256) than any other player in the American League. He also led the A.L. in extra base hits over the same period of time. He is the only player to hit 20 or more home runs during every season of the 80’s (1980–1989). Evans hit a home run four times on Opening Day. On April 7, 1986, he set a major league record by hitting the first pitch of the season for a home run, eclipsing the mark held by the Chicago Cubs’ Bump Wills, who hit the second pitch for a home run on April 4, 1982. He spent his final season with the Orioles, batting .270 with six homers and drove in 38 runs in 101 games. In 2000, Dwight Evans was selected to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Originally Evans was assigned the uniform number 40 but quietly he wanted to wear number 24, the number of his idol Willie Mays. In 1973 Sox gave him number 24, the number he wore for the rest of his career in Boston and one year with Baltimore. Other Red Sox players to wear the same jersey number since Evans retired include Kevin Mitchell, Mike Stanley, Manny Ramírez, and Takashi Saito.
Wade Boggs hitting in the 1980s and 1990s made him a perennial contender for American League batting titles. Boggs was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. With 12 straight All-Star appearances, Boggs is third only to Brooks Robinson and George Brett in number of consecutive appearances as a third baseman. His finest season was 1987, when he set career highs in home runs (24), RBI (89), and slugging percentage (.588). He also batted .363 and had a .461 on-base percentage that year, leading the league in both statistics. In 1999, he ranked number 95 on the Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. A left-handed hitter, Boggs won five batting titles starting in 1983. He also batted .349 in his rookie year which would have won the batting title, but was 121 plate appearances short of the required minimum of 502. From 1982 to 1988, Boggs hit below .349 only once, hitting .325 in 1984. From 1983 to 1989, Boggs rattled off seven consecutive seasons in which he collected 200 or more hits, an American League record for consecutive 200-hit seasons that was later matched and surpassed by Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki. Boggs also had six seasons with 200 or more hits, 100+ runs and 40+ doubles. Although he would not win another batting title after 1988 (his batting title that year broke Bill Madlock’s Major League record of four by a third baseman), he regularly appeared among the league leaders in hitting.
In 1986, Boggs made it to the World Series with the Red Sox, but they lost to the New York Mets in seven games. The photo of him fighting back tears, taken by George Kalinsky, photographer for the Mets, emblemized the emotions of many Red Sox fans after their team’s loss at Shea Stadium. Jersey # 26
George Herman Ruth, Jr., best known as “Babe” Ruth and nicknamed “the Bambino” and “the Sultan of Swat“, originally broke into the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox as a starting pitcher, but after he was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919, he converted to a full-time right fielder and subsequently became one of the league’s most prolific hitters. After a short stint with the Boston Braves in 1935, Ruth retired. In 1936, Ruth became one of the first five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ruth appeared in five games for the Red Sox in 1914, pitching in four of them. He picked up the victory in his major league debut on July 11. The Red Sox had many star players in 1914, so Ruth was soon optioned to the minor league Providence Grays of Providence, Rhode Island for most of the remaining season. Behind Ruth and Carl Mays, the Grays won the International League pennant. During spring training in 1915, Ruth secured a spot in the Red Sox starting rotation. He joined a pitching staff that included Rube Foster, Dutch Leonard, and Smokey Joe Wood. Ruth won 18 games, lost eight, and helped himself by hitting .315. He also hit his first four home runs. The Red Sox won 101 games that year on their way to a victory in the World Series. Ruth did not pitch in the series, and grounded out in his only at-bat. In 1916, after a slightly shaky spring, he went 23–12, with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts, both of which led the league. On June 27, he struck out ten Philadelphia A’s, a career high. On July 11, he started both games of a doubleheader, but the feat was not what it seemed; he only pitched one-third of an inning in the opener because the scheduled starter, Foster, had trouble getting loose. Ruth then pitched a complete-game victory in the nightcap. Ruth had unusual success against Washington Senators star pitcher Walter Johnson, beating him four times in 1916 alone, by scores of 5–1, 1–0, 1–0 in 13 innings, and 2–1. Johnson finally outlasted Ruth for an extra-inning 4–3 victory on September 12; in the years to come, Ruth would hit ten home runs off Johnson, including the only two Johnson would allow in 1918–1919. Ruth’s nine shutouts in 1916 set an AL record for left-handers which would remain unmatched until Ron Guidry tied it in 1978. Despite a weak offense, hurt by the sale of Tris Speaker to the Indians, the Red Sox made it to the World Series. They defeated the Brooklyn Robins four games to one. This time Ruth made a major contribution, pitching a 14-inning complete-game victory in Game Two.
In the years 1915–1917, Ruth had been used in just 44 games in which he had not pitched. After the 1917 season, in which he hit .325, albeit with limited at bats, teammate Harry Hooper suggested that Ruth might be more valuable in the lineup as an everyday player. In 1918, he began playing in the outfield more and pitching less, making 75 hitting-only appearances. Former teammate Tris Speaker speculated that the move would shorten Ruth’s career, though Ruth himself wanted to hit more and pitch less. In 1918, Ruth batted .300 and led the A.L. in home runs with eleven despite having only 317 at-bats, well below the total for an everyday player. During the 1919 season, Ruth pitched in only 17 of his 130 games. He also set his first single-season home run record that year with 29 (passing Ned Williamson’s 27 in 1884), including a game-winning homer on a September “Babe Ruth Day” promotion. It was Babe Ruth’s last season with the Red Sox.
Denton True “Cy” Young, joined the American League’s Boston Americans in 1901 for a $3,500 contract ($92,092 in current dollar terms). Young would remain with the Boston team until 1909. In his first year in the American League, Young was dominant. Young led the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA, thus earning the colloquial AL Triple Crown for pitchers. Young won almost 42% of his team’s games in 1901, accounting for 33 of his team’s 79 wins. In February 1902, before the start of the baseball season, Young served as a pitching coach at Harvard University. The sixth-grade graduate instructing Harvard students delighted Boston newspapers. The Boston Americans played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first modern World Series in 1903. Young, who started Game One against the visiting Pirates, thus threw the first pitch in modern World Series history. The Pirates scored four runs in that first inning, and Young lost the game. Young performed better in subsequent games, winning his next two starts. He also drove in three runs in Game Five. Young finished the series with a 2–1 record and a 1.85 ERA in four appearances, and Boston defeated Pittsburgh, five games to three games.
After one-hitting Boston on May 2, 1904, Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Rube Waddell taunted Young to face him so that he could repeat his performance against Boston’s ace. Three days later, Young pitched a perfect game against Waddell and the Athletics. It was the first perfect game in American League history. Waddell was the 27th and last batter, and when he flied out, Young shouted, “How do you like that, you hayseed?” Waddell had picked an inauspicious time to issue his challenge. Young’s perfect game was the centerpiece of a pitching streak. Young set major league records for the most consecutive scoreless innings pitched and the most consecutive innings without allowing a hit; the latter record still stands at 24.1 innings, or 73 hitless batters. Even after allowing a hit, Young’s scoreless streak reached a then-record 45 shutout innings. Before Young, only two pitchers had thrown perfect games. Young’s perfect game was the first under the modern rules established in 1893. One year later, on July 4, 1905, Rube Waddell beat Young and the Americans, 4–2, in a 20-inning matchup. Young pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings before he gave up a pair of unearned runs in the final inning. Young did not walk a batter and was later quoted: “For my part, I think it was the greatest game of ball I ever took part in.” In 1907, Young and Waddell faced off in a scoreless 13-inning tie. In 1908, Young pitched the third no-hitter of his career. Three months past his 41st birthday, Cy Young was the oldest pitcher to record a no-hitter, a record which would stand 82 years until 43-year-old Nolan Ryan surpassed the feat. Only a walk kept Young from his second perfect game. After that runner was caught stealing, no other batter reached base. At this time, Young was the second-oldest player in either league. In another game one month before his no-hitter, he allowed just one single while facing 28 batters. On August 13, 1908, the league celebrated “Cy Young Day.” No American League games were played on that day, and a group of All-Stars from the league’s other teams gathered in Boston to play against Young and the Red Sox.
In 1956, about one year after Young’s death, the Cy Young Award was created. Originally, it was a single award covering the whole of baseball. The honor was divided into two Cy Young Awards in 1967, one for each league.
On September 23, 1993, a statue dedicated to him was unveiled by Northeastern University on the site of the Red Sox’s original stadium, the Huntington Avenue Grounds. It was there that Young had pitched the first game of the 1903 World Series, as well as the first perfect game in the modern era of baseball. A home plate-shaped plaque next to the statue reads:
“On October 1, 1903 the first modern World Series between the American League champion Boston Pilgrims (later known as the Red Sox) and the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates was played on this site. General admission tickets were fifty cents. The Pilgrims, led by twenty-eight game winner Cy Young, trailed the series three games to one but then swept four consecutive victories to win the championship five games to three.”