Harvey Frommer / Players
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Remembering Yaz Part 2
REMEMBERING YAZ (Part I)
By Harvey Frommer
A statue honoring Carl Yazstremski will soon be part of the environment outside of Fenway Park and justifiably so. This piece and the one that will follow merge oral history with narrative to bring back some of the life and times of one of Bostons greatest ballplayers.
Ted Williams was gone but the talk was about the new Williams waiting in the wings and ready to become a new legend for the Boston Red Sox starting in 1961.
Back on November 28, 1958, two days after receiving a $125,000 offer from the Cincinnati Reds, he arrived with his father in Boston to negotiate with the Red Sox.
Scout Bots Nekola recalled the experience.
"They drove up to
The young prospect walked around the park while the veteran scout waited nervously. The youngster studied the fences; striding swiftly he came back to Nekola. I can hit in this park," he said.
Red Sox farm director Johnny Murphy offered the boy $100,000 plus college tuition. The father wanted $125,000 but dropped to $115,000.
"We'll give you $108,000 plus a two-year Triple-A farm contract, a year plus the rest of your college expenses," Murphy made a counter offer.
The contract was signed. They all went to meet general manager Joe Cronin who sized up the 5'11", 170-pound young man "He doesn't seem very big, was the baseball legends reaction.
"He walked out shaking his head like a man who had met a midget when he expected a giant," the youth recalled.
SPENCER: Over the winter the story was about Carl Yazstremski, the new Ted
Williams. Well, Im not going to miss this, I
said. I missed Williams
last game. Three guys in high school with me wanted to go, too. It was April
11th 1961, my 18th
birthday. I went down to
the basement ticket window in Remicks department store in
Yaz hit a bloop single to left field in his first at bat and went
1-5 that day. That first hit
came off A's hurler Ray Herbert. The Sox lost to
"I came to love Fenway, Yaz said. It was a place that rejuvenated me after a road trip; the fans right on top of you, the nutty angles. And the Wall. That was my baby, the left-field wall, the Green Monster."
JOHNNY PESKY: I think Yaz was as good as any outfielder that ever played there, and Im not taking anything away from Ted. Yaz was like an infielder from the outfield. He threw well; they couldnt run on him. And he knew how to play that Monster.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: Yaz could decoy better than any outfielder and routinely pretended he was ready to catch a ball that he knew was going to carom off the Wall. Sometimes this would make runners slow down or stop altogether.
DON ZIMMER: When Bucky Deny hit the ball, I said, That's an out. And usually you know when the ball hits the bat whether it's short, against the wall, in the net or over the net. I see Yaz backing up, and when he's looking up, I still think he's going to catch it. When I see him turn around, then I know he's going to catch it off the wall. Then the ball wound up in the net.
"I was so damn shocked," pitcher Mike Torrez said. "I thought maybe it was going to be off the wall. Damn, I did not think it was going to go out."
BUCKY DENT: When I hit the ball, I knew that I had hit it high enough to hit the wall. But there were shadows on the net behind the wall and I didn't see the ball land there. I was running from the plate because I thought I had a chance at a double. I didn't know it was a home run until the second-base umpire signaled it was a home run. It was an eerie feeling because the ballpark was dead silent.
STEVE RYDER: It was just a pop fly off Mike Torrez. It just made the netting. The crowd was just absolutely stunned, absolutely stunned.
Don Zimmer changed the Yankee shortstop's name to "Bucky F_____g Dent." Red Sox fans were even more vulgar in their language.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: I was covering for the Baltimore Eagle Sun in the second or third row. The old press box was down low. I was downstairs later in the stands when Gossage got Yaz to pop up because we were getting ready to go to the locker room and it looked like they were going down and that was interesting how Sox fans in those days had a sense of gloom, anticipating. Whatever happened, it wasnt going to end well.
DICK FLAVIN: I was in a box seat right behind the Red Sox dugout. You could put your beer right on the roof. So I had a great look of Yaz coming off the field right after he popped up. He had his head down, anguish.
STEVE RYDER: I saw that popup up close. It was a fairly high one, you could say it was a homerun in a silo. It just ended the game ,and the people left in kind of a dejected attitude and demeanor. Whipped.
DON ZIMMER: Instead of going into the clubhouse, I sat in the dugout and watched their team celebrate.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY: Yaz was crying in the trainers room. It was not as crushing for me because when youre 23 you think, well, well do it next year. We have such a good team. But if I knew what I know now, I would have been devastated. We never really got there again after that.
About the Author
Dr. Harvey Frommer received his Ph.D. from New York University. Professor Emeritus, Distinguished Professor nominee, Recipient of the "Salute to Scholars Award" at CUNY where he taught writing for many years, the prolific author was cited by the Congressional Record and the New York State Legislature as a sports historian and journalist.
His sports books include autobiographies of sports legends Nolan Ryan, Red Holzman and Tony Dorsett, the classics "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," "New York City Baseball: 1947-1957." The 1927 Yankees." His "Remembering Yankee Stadium" was published to acclaim in 2008. His latest book, a Boston Globe Best Seller, is "Remembering Fenway Park." Autographed and discounted copies of all Harvey Frommer books are available direct from the author. Please consult his home page: http://harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_fenway/