Today at Mitchell & Ness we pay tribute to Carl Yastrzemski, whose number eight was retired by the Boston Red Sox thirteen years ago today. "Yaz", as Yastrzemski is more commonly known, had a 23-year career entirely in Boston, where he is revered as one of the greatest players in Red Sox history.
Yaz was born August 22, 1939 in Southampton, New York. A prep star in baseball and basketball at Bridgehampton High, Yaz earned a scholarship to play both sports at Notre Dame. The Red Sox offered Yastrzemski a contract which he accepted after impressing in just a sole season with the Fighting Irish. Yastrzemski flew through the minors, making his major league debut in 1961.
A left fielder, Yaz was raised to replace the legendary Ted Williams, who had retired the year previous. Williams, now coaching, would act as a hitting mentor for the young outfielder. Yastrzemski began his Red Sox career in unspectactular offensive fashion, but won plaudits with his sterling defense. It would not be until 1963 that Yaz began to be renowned as a rising star, as he won the AL Batting title and earned his first All-Star appearance. That All-Star appearance would start off a chain of Yaz being chosen for 15 of the next 16 All-Star games.
Yaz's breakout season though came in 1967, a memorable year for all Red Sox fans. Yastrzemski took home the AL Triple Crown that year, with a .326 batting average, 44 home runs (tied with Harmon Killebrew) and 121 RBIs, along with the AL MVP. Yaz is still the last batter to win the Triple Crown. Coinciding with Yaz's star season was a Red Sox renaissance, as Boston reached the World Series for the first time since 1946. Yastrzemski was phenomenal in that series, batting .400 with three home runs, but the Red Sox fell to the Cardinals in seven games.
Yastrzemski continued to lead the Red Sox into the seventies, playing increased first base as well for the team. However, the Orioles and Athletics dynasties of the era kept the Red Sox from returning to the World Series. But Yaz and his Red Sox would have one more chance in 1975.
After winning the AL East, the Sox were able to take out the three-consecutive World Series winning A's in a three game sweep. But the World Series would prove fruitless again, as the Big Red Machine of the Cincinnati Reds won in seven games. Yaz, despite slowing down at this point in his career, came up big again in the postseason for the Red Sox, hitting .350 in that postseason. It would be his last trip to the Fall Classic.
Yastrzemski kept trucking for the Red Sox, playing until he was 43 after the 1983 season. His retirement was felt across baseball, but what he had accomplished throughout his career was staggering. No player has had a longer career with only one team, 23 seasons, a record which he shares with Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. His finished his career with 3,308 games played (second all-time and most with only one team).
Wearer of number eight for his entire career, Yaz's iconic number was retired by the Red Sox in 1989. A first ballot Hall of Fame induction came the same year. Known as one of the greatest all-around players of his era, Yaz stands as one of the most durable and likable players of his era.
Mitchell & Ness honors Yaz with three jerseys from throughout his legendary career, which you can check out here. Here's our jersey from Yaz's legendary 1967, where he won the Triple Crown: