Last of the Triple Crowns
It must be nice to be able to replace one Hall of Fame outfielder with another one. The Yankees did when Joe DiMaggio relinquished centerfield to Mickey Mantle. And the Red Sox followed suit a decade later, replacing the great Ted Williams, who retired at the end of the 1960 season, with a pure hitter named Carl Yastrzemski.
Yaz was the prototype for the complete ballplayer, hitting for power and average and playing left field superbly throughout his 23 major league seasons, all with the Red Sox. He was signed as a free agent in 1958 and debuted in left field for the Red Sox in 1961. He hit .266 as a rookie, driving in 80 runs. The next year he raised his batting average to .296, with 19 home runs and 94 RBIs. His offensive numbers would only get better.
In 1963, Yastrzemski hit .321 to win his first American League batting championship. That year, he also led the league in hits (183), doubles (40) and bases on balls (95). He continued hitting well over the next three years, leading the league in doubles in 1965 and 1966. He failed to repeat as doubles leader in 1967, but he compensated in other ways.
1967 was a miracle season for Yastrzemski and the Red Sox. The team won the American League pennant by one game in a three-team race that came down to the last day of the season. Yaz almost single-handedly carried the Red Sox to the pennant. In the last 12 games of the season, he hit 5 home runs, scored 14 runs and drove in 16. In the last two “must win” games against the Minnesota Twins, Yastrzemski went 7 for 8 with 6 RBIs.
When the regular season had ended, Yastrzemski was at the top of the league in nearly every offensive category: hits (189), runs (112), home runs (44, tied with Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew), RBIs (121), total bases (360), slugging percentage (.622) and batting average (.326). His Triple Crown leadership in home runs, RBIs and batting average earned Yaz the league’s Most Valuable Player award. During the 1967 World Series, which the St. Louis Cardinals won in 7 games, Yastrzemski continued his offensive onslaught, batting .400 with 3 home runs.
In 1968, Yastrzemski won his 3rd batting title with a .301 average – the league’s only .300 hitter that year and the lowest average ever for a batting champion. He closed out the 1960s with another superb year in 1969, hitting 40 home runs and driving in 111 runs, though he hit only .255. He won the Gold Glove for his consistent excellence in left field 5 times during the 1960s, and 6 times in all during his career.
Yastrzemski retired with 3,419 major league hits, #7 all time. He also hit over 400 home runs with more than 1,800 lifetime RBIs. The last of the Triple Crown winners was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
Carl Yastrzemski is one of the 1960s baseball stars featured in 60 From The ‘60s: 60 Players Who Made the 1960s Baseball’s Real Golden Age. It’s a great introduction to baseball the way the game was meant to be played … without free agents, designated hitters or advanced chemistry.